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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

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Glenyse Ward (1949–)

PUBLICATION: Glenyse Ward, Unna You Fullas, Broome, Magabala Books, 1991

SEX: Female





  • Wandering Mission (St Xaviers Native Mission): A Catholic mission, run by nun and priests of Germans descent.


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  • Sister Petra was Glenyse Spratts’s first teacher at the Wandering Mission. She was unqualified, but she was very dedicated to raising the children’s reading levels to the state average, so that they could attend school in Perth. (p.108)
  • In the 1960s, the first qualified teachers arrived at Wandering Mission. Glenyse had no experience with “whitemen teachers”, and was at first hesitant to attend school.  (p.98) The new teachers introduced assemblies and insisted that pupils ‘speak proper English’. (p.114)
  • Glenyse’s first teacher was Mr Foley. (p.110) He was very strict and stern, and frequently resorted to corporal punishment. (pp.110-112) Glenyse also suspected that Mr Foley was a sexual predator. (pp.120-123)
  • After a year with Mr Foley, Glenyse moved to Mr Pitts’ class. (p.124) Mr Pitts held strong views about the racial inferiority of Aboriginal people, which Glenyse claims were internalized by many of children at Wandering mission. (p.132-134) As a form of punishment, he frequently threw dusters at the students and often made them cry. (p.153)
  • Glenyse enjoyed reading, particularly adventure stories like Robin Hood and Treasure Island.  She liked to read aloud, and took any chance she got to read to the class. (p.130) On one occasion, Mr Pitts ridiculed her when she read aloud a story ‘about my people’, as he was trying to get the children to admire the ‘white explorers’. (pp.155-156)
    Mr Pitts: “Don’t you ever take any notice of what I am trying to teach you? We’re talking about the white explored who gave a great service to this country of our, not those people you are writing about.”(p.156
  • Glenyse’s least favourite subject was maths. She struggled with addition and subtraction, and was too afraid of ridicule to ask Mr Pitts for assistance. (p.153)
  • Towards the end of her schooling, Mr Pitts asked Glenyse what she wanted to do when she graduated. She responded that she enjoyed reading and writing. (p.158) Mr Pitts dismissed her aspirations, and told his students that they had no career ahead of them and would all end up living in Aboriginal camps. (p.159) Glenyse was confused because she didn’t know what an Aboriginal camp was, and had never visited one. (p.159)
  • Glenyse claims that Mr Pitt – like Mr Foley – had inappropriate relations with female students. (p.160) Glenyse and some other girls witnessed him kissing a 16-year-old from the mission in the dining room at night. (p.161) Mr Pitt caught the children spying on him, and they were punished. This incident made Glenyse’s last few months of school particularly unpleasant. (p.162)


  • From a young age, Glenyse and the other girls at Wandering Mission had a number of domestic duties, and also helped out on the mission farm. (p.20) They were each appointed tasks at a sessions held at the end of every month. (p.34) Whenever they had finished a task, the nuns would inspect their work. (p.59)
  • Glenyse’s least favourite task was picking up cow dung for the mission garden, (p.20) and cleaning out the drains. (pp.58-59) Her favourite job was baking. (p.30)
  • On one occasion, Glenyse was banned from the kitchen after Sister Gertrude caught her licking the cake bowl. (p.35) She was sent to work in the laundry. (p.35)
  • Glenyse’s only relief was that she was working alongside her friend Banner. (p.38) Banner and Glenyse made the laundry work more enjoyable by having water fights. (p.38) They also laughed at the Nun’s strange underwear. (p.39)
  • When she was older, Glenyse and her friends had to work in the dairy with the Brothers. (p.93) They milked cows and cleaned up manure. (p.94) When more boys arrived at Wandering Mission, they took responsibility for the dairy, and the girls were sent back to the laundry. (pp.96-97)


  • St John of God’s Orphanage: An orphanage where Glenyse was placed when she was a child, before she was admitted to Wandering Mission. (p.1)


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  • Glenyse never met her parents. While they were living at Wandering Mission, she and her sisters were informed that their father had died when a water tank fell off the back of a truck and crushed him. (p.48) Glenyse was confused by the announcement, because up until that point she wasn’t aware of his existence. (p.48)


  • Nita and Sally: Glenyse met her sisters Nita and Sally for the first time at the Wandering Mission when she was five. (pp.1-2) At the time, she didn’t know that she was related to the two girls, and was overwhelmed by their displays of emotion. (p.2)
  • Nita, who was then 14, had grown up at Moore River Settlement. She used to ‘mother’ Glenyse: carrying her around during the day, and tucking her into bed at night. (p.2) After two years together, Nita left the Wandering Mission to go and work as a domestic. (p.2) On the night she left, Glenyse cried herself to sleep. (p.7)
  • Glenyse spent more time at the Mission with Sally, who was then seven. (p.2) She recalls one incident, when Banner and her sister Sally got lost in a rainstorm while bushwalking. (p.28) Glenyse prayed for the girls to return, and were greatly relieved when they woke her up in the morning. (p.29)
  • Sally left the mission at the same time as Banner, which compounded Glenyse’s feeling of loss and loneliness. (p.171)
  • While living at the Wandering Mission, Glenyse and Sally wished that they had a brother. (p.45) Later on in life, Glenyse learnt that they did in fact have a brother, who as ‘growing up in another Home far away.’ (p.45)


  • When she was young, Glenyse and the girls at Wandering Mission never set eyes on boys. (p.46) As they grew older, more boys arrived at the Mission: but they were strictly segregated, and she remained ‘naïve about many things’. (p.119)
  • When Glenyse was in Mr Pitts’ class, he made the students to pair up with partners of the opposite sex for a barn dance. (p.126) This was the first time that Glenyse had held hands with a boy, and the experience made her very uncomfortable. (p.126)
  • One of the boys in Glenyse’s class, Billy Rice, was very fond of her: but the feelings were not mutual. She was mortified when Mr Pitts read aloud a love note that Billy had written her, and then publicly chastised them both. (p.142)


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  • Poppy: One of the girls who grew up in the dormitories of Wandering Mission. Glenyse recalls that Poppy used to make a lot a noise before she went to sleep. (p.5)
  • At about the age of eight or nine, Poppy became Glenyse’s closest confidante. They shared their “secrets”: the places where they hid the “treasures” they had collected from around the Mission. (pp.49-50)
  • Florry: Florry, and her sister Thelma and Meryl, all grew up with Glenyse at the Wandering Mission. (p.5) Initially, Florry and Glenyse didn’t get along. (p.5)
  • Glenyse found Florry’s habit of wetting her pants to be particularly annoying. (p.6) Florry also smashed Glenyse’s teapot: her most beloved “secret”. (p.55) As payback, Glenyse knocked Florry’s soup off the table at dinner. (p.55)
  • Even though Glenyse was taught in Church to “love your enemies”, she found it difficult to love Florry after this painful incident. (p.56)
  • Later in life, Florry became one of Glenyse’s best friends. (p.6)
  • Meryl: Meryl was the older sister of Glenyse’s friends Thelma and Florry. (p.15) Glenyse liked Meryl because she used to give her treats, like extra sandwiches that she took from the kitchen. (p.5)
  • Like her older sister Nita, Meryl was a “working girl”. (p.5) On one occasion, she told Glenyse that if she rubbed cow dungs in her hair, she would “become a big girl and grow up fast”. (p.20) Glenyse followed her advice, and had to be painfully scrubbed clean by one of the sisters. (p.21)
  • Banner: Banner was a girl of Aboriginal and African American descent, who was also taken to the St John of Gods orphanage. Banner was a key figure in Glenyse’s friendship group at the Wandering Mission. (p.8) Because she was “built like a man”, Glenyse claims that she had a “commanding influence” over her friends. (p.8)
  • When Glenyse was transferred to laundry duty, after getting caught licking a bowl in the kitchen, her one relief was that she was working alongside Banner. (p.38) They made their work more enjoyable by having water fights. (p.38)
  • Sometimes Banner made light of situations that upset Glenyse. For example, Banner laughed when Florry smashed Glenyse’s teapot: her most beloved “treasure”. (p.54)
  • Banner later encouraged Thelma and Zelda to escape from Wandering Mission with Nicky and Bella, who wanted to return to their family. (p.71) The runaways were caught and returned to the mission. Banner was identified as a ringleader and publicly beaten by Father Albertus. (p.85)
  • Glenyse and her friends were heartbroken when Banner was sent away from Wandering Mission to work. (p.171)
  • Lola Neal: Lola was one of older the girls in Glenyse’s friendship group at Wandering Mission.(p.9) She and the other girls didn’t like Lola, because she “used to think she was a nun.” (p.9) Glenyse recalls times when Lola got them in trouble for swearing (p.9), and for talking after lights out. (p.22)
  • The Nuns sometimes made Lola supervise Glenyse and the other girls while they worked. Glenyse describes being supervised by Lola as a “sickening prospect”. (p.60)
  • Glenyse recalls that she and the younger girls discovered Lola’s bathers in the grass: and she was forced to admit that she and the older girls hid them there, so that they could go swimming in the dam. (p.62) Banner then told Lola that the next time she reported them, they would tell the Nuns about her bathers. (p.62)
  • Mother Superior: Mother Superior was the manager of the girls’ dorm at Wandering Mission. She spoke with a strong German accent. (p.13)
  • Mother Superior used to make the girls exercise every morning, even in winter. (p.14)
  • Brother Roland: Brother Roland brought Glenyse to Wandering Mission when she was five. (p.1) She describes his as a cheerful, comical and chubby man. (p.16)
  • Brother Victor: Brother Victor was another staff at Wandering Mission. (p.16) The children at the mission adored Brother Victor, because he was always kind and let them play and hang off him. (p.16-17)
  • Father Albertus (Father Superior or Rector): Father Albertus was the Priest in charge of Wandering Mission. Every so often, the girls helped Father Albertus in the garden, for which they received a “special reward.” (p.42)
  • Glenyse’s attitude toward Father Albertus changed when he publicly beat Banner for attempting to escape from the mission. (p.87)
  • Regardless of this incident, Glenyse still considered Father Albertus her “favourite priest”; and was saddened when Sister Ursula announced his imminent departure from the Mission.
  • Sister Ericka: Sister Ericka was the Swiss singing teacher at the Wandering Mission. (p.18) She made Glenyse and the other girls to sing hymns Latin, and whenever they made a mistake she made them repeat the entire verse. (p.18) Glenyse found Sister Ericka perfectionism and authoritarianism so “boring and frustrating” that she was put off music altogether. (p.18)
  • The only time that Glenyse enjoyed Sister Ericka’s singing was when they went for bushwalks, and she used to yodel. (p.19)
  • Sister Gertrude: Sister Ericka was a “fat and short” nun with golden blonde hair. (p.18) Glenyse was very fond of Sister Gertrude, despite the fact that she was a harsh woman. (p.30) She presumes that this was because Sister Gertrude looked after her when she first arrived at Wandering Mission. (p.30)
  • Glenyse claims that it didn’t bother her when the other nuns beat her: she would cry and first, but then quickly recover. (p.30) But if Sister Gertrude ever hit her, she would be deeply upset. (p.30)
  • Nicky and Bella: Two sisters who arrived at Wandering Mission in the 1960s. (p.64) On one occasion, Nicky and Bella got very homesick after they told a story about their cousin Clinton. (p.65-69) Glenyse and her friends tried to comfort them, but Nicky and Bella decided they would escape from Wandering Mission to be with their family. (p.69)
  • Banner, Thelma and Zelda offered to join them. Glenyse declined, because she felt Wandering Mission was her real home. (p.70) Bella lamented Glenyse’s lack of real family ties and a connection to country. (p.70, 78)
  • When hunger struck, the runaways presented themselves to a neighbouring farmer. His wife feed them bacon and eggs, and then called the Wandering Mission staff to collect them. (p.79-82)
  • Banner was identified as the ringleader, and was publicly punished and humiliated. (p.85) Bella and Nicky felt guilty because they knew that they were ultimately responsible for the abortive escape. (p.87)
  • Mr Foley: One of the teachers who arrived at Wandering Mission in the 1960s. Glenyse describes Mr Foley was an authoritarian man, who made the girls in his care feel uncomfortable because he gave them “sickly looks”. (p.119) He also caused a stir by walking into the girl’s bathroom to collect Glenyse for class. (p.122)
  • Father Maxwell: A priest who arrived at the Wandering Mission in the 1960s. Unlike the other priests and nuns, who were German, Father Maxwell was an Australian. (p.167) While the others wore long pants and habits, he wore shorts, which made Glenyse think he was “half undressed”. (p.166)
  • Father Maxwell changed the children uniforms from long dresses to shirts, shorts and tops. (p.168)
  • Glenyse was sent to confess to Father Maxwell after she was caught singing a love song by The Beatles. (p.174) He told her that songs of this sort would lead to immorality. (p.175)
  • Father Maxwell also informed the nuns that Glenyse and the other teenage girls should now take sexual education classes, to prevent them from engaging in unwanted liaisons. (p.176)
  • Later in life, Father Maxwell told Glenyse that he thought many of the ideas and practices being perpetuated by the staff at the Wandering Mission were outdated.


  • Religion dominated Glenyse’s life at the Wandering Mission. The residents prayed before and after every meal, and before and after classes. (p.106) They attended Mass every week, which were conducted in Latin and very dull. (p.104)
  • Glenyse felt contempt for many of the Nuns at the mission, but she never criticized them because of her religious upbringing. (p.23)
  • When she was young, Glenyse used to pray to God to save her from “mumaries”: the hairy men who the girls in the dormitory told her lived in caves near the mission. (p.12) Christianity did not provide her consolation when she was scared at night. (p.12)
  • The girls at the Wandering Mission didn’t like going to confession, and would often lie about their sins. (p.57) They were taught to be very modest, and so felt compelled to confess when they saw cows mating (p.58); and when they saw Glenyse’s bottom after her bathers were ripped. (p.63)
  • Glenyse also believed in supernatural forces such as ghosts. (p.24) She recalls being visited by a ghost by the mission laundry, when she was punished for talking after lights out by being made to darn socks until 2am. (p.24)


Life at Wandering Mission:

  • Glenyse recalls being brought to the Wandering Mission in 1954, when she was five. (p.1)
  • Glenyse claims that she and other girls at Wandering Mission grew up “amongst many German influences in a very military-style fashion.” (p.3) She describes their sparse accommodation; matching khaki dresses and woolen jumpers; the strict routines and duties; the morning exercise routines; the bland food; and the emphasis on cleanliness and modesty. (p.4, 14,15, 58)
  • Glenyse recalls that the Nuns beat them when they did something wrong. (p.40)
  • Glenyse describes the ongoing effects of missionisation on herself and the other girls from Wandering Mission: claiming that it left them unprepared for the challenges of employed life. (p.180)

Racial discrimination

  • Growing up on the mission also meant that Glenyse was not aware of common forms of racial discrimination. She did not, for example, know what the derogatory terms “niggers and boongs” meant. (p.99)
  • This changed when Mr Pitts began teaching at the Mission. Glenyse recalls that he separated the class into darker and fairer-skinned children, because he believed that the former group was incapable of learning and he had “wasted enough time” on them. (p.133) Glenyse and all her friends were in the darker group. (p.133) She claims that Mr Pitts’ intervention created a caste system at the Wandering Mission, and led to fights between the groups.
  • Glenyse got into a fight when one of the lighter girls – Megsy – called her a “darky”, and claimed her skin was “purple.” (p.134) Glenyse kicked Megsy in the shin, and she retaliated by throwing a fork at her head, which broke the skin. (p.134) Glenyse then threw a cup of sugar at Megsy and split her forehead. (p.134)
  • When she was apprehended, Glenyse explained to Sister Ursula what Mr Pitt and Megsy had been saying. As a result, she was not punished, and the nun’s became more sensitive to the tensions that had emerged. (p.136)

MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION: Unna You Fellas is the second autobiographical book written by Glenyse Ward.

Original Publication

Other Biographies for Glenyse Ward

Additional Resources

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Citation details

'Ward, Glenyse (1949–)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 3 October 2023.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]



Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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