Stories and characters

Aboriginal people from this Country thrived within a complex cultural and lore structure, integrating with the environment.

The advent of the gold rush in the far western region of NSW during the latter part of the 19th century brought new settlers including the pastoralists who established their territory. They culled the Aborigine’s hunting dogs, the dingo, and also their mainstay meat, the kangaroo. Their stock quickly consumed the native grasses, yams and herbs.

Aboriginal people drifted into station camps as their food sources and ability to hunt on traditional lands diminished. They proved to be naturals on horseback, tending and driving sheep. The settlers benefited from their labour in building their stations and knowledge of Country in locating water, in return for a safe haven with supplied rations.

The introduction of Government policy dictated the end of practising traditional customs, lore and language. The last corroboree at Wonnaminta was recorded in 1888. Eventually the people no longer gathered for initiations, traditional unions, story-telling and trade.

Mixed race unions were inevitable. Aboriginal children living on the stations took on the anglicised names of the station managers and workers, usually their fathers. Though the Aboriginal population were only head counted in the census around the turn of the 20th century and births not officially recorded, many were baptised by travelling clergy.

The surnames of Bates, Barlow, Crowe, Dutton, Gilby and Quayle Aboriginal families remain synonymous with stories from the Corner Country; from Milparinka to surrounding stations of Yandama, Cobham, Yancannia, and over to Wonnaminta and Morden. While the colonials may have moved on to other enterprise, many of their Aboriginal namesakes stayed.

But with the automation in the pastoral industry, manual labour employment opportunities diminished. Those who couldn’t find work here or elsewhere, sought refuge on government reserves and welfare dependency. While displaced, these families retain a heartfelt connection to their traditional lands.

These are some of the stories of those people and the events that shaped their lives.

The Relocation

During the 1930s, the government was a party to a sinister move that was taking place. The New South Wales government had introduced the Aborigines Protection Act in 1909, which resulted in an Aborigines Welfare Board.

This ‘protection’ board had organised the transport of all those living on their traditional homeland at Tibooburra to Brewarrina Mission Station.

They forced women, children and the elderly to get onto trucks with nothing more than a blanket.

Harold Hunt recounts. “The first we heard of this forced relocation was when trucks rumbled across the loose planks on the river bridge near our place. There emerged two of the biggest motor trucks we had ever seen.

Two Aboriginal men came over and were met by May (Hunt). One of them she had known as a child. He recognised May and greeted her. He explained that they were taking the Tibooburra mob to Brewarrina Mission on the Darling River.

May was aghast. She knew that it could easily have been us if we had still lived in Tibooburra. Because our father was white we were not able to live among our own extended family and that may have saved us from this trauma. Eventually the bewildered group began the long journey into country they had never been to.

While some families did find their way back none of their lives were ever the same again.

The regulations of the board were presided over by police in country towns and those officers were always supported by the local white majority. The laws made life very difficult for all Aboriginal people and particularly for those in mixed marriages. They governed people’s lives and no Aboriginal person was unaffected.

They were told that if they didn’t do this then their children would be taken away to children’s homes, which left the families with no option.

Source:  Harold Hunt, Memoirs of the Corner Country. Gail Hunt

Aboriginal Servicemen

Walter Newton (c. 1889 – 1963)

Walter Newton was born at Tarella around 1889-90, and grew up at Yancannia station. His mother moved away when he was about ten and he remained at

Yancannia in the care of the manager, Edward Peter Tapp, employed on various jobs around the station, including as a “buggy boy”. He was listed as living at the station in 1914

His relationship with Tapp was to become a lifelong friendship. In February 1917, he and E. P. Tapp enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and were allocated to the 9th Light Horse Regiment. Walter married Emma (or Emily) Pantoney (or Pantoni) from Milang in South Australia at Broken Hill in April 1917 (MC, Berndt & Berndt 1993).

Emma is described as doing domestic duties at Tarrawingee, the limestone mining town on Poolamacca. It appears that Walter and Emma separated early and

had no children. Emma stayed in the area and was at Menindee Mission for a period of time where she died in 1937 (DC).

In June 1917, Walter and E.P. Tapp left Australia to serve with the Light Horse in Palestine; Walter was one of only some 400 Aboriginal servicemen accepted by the AIF. After he returned from World War I and was discharged from the army in 1919, he found work in the Broken Hill mines. Although these jobs were normally reserved for sons of miners, after the war returned servicemen were given a chance to work in the mines, however as he told Beckett, he only stayed for a short period because he “got tired of it”. Walter Newton went back to work for E. P. Tapp, who by then was in partnership with Sidney Kidman and a co-owner of Yancannia and other stations, and looked after the important place Peak Tank on Nuntherungie station (now part of Mutawintji National Park), probably around 1920 or shortly after (Beckett 1993).

Gilbert Williams (Barrier Miner 15/9/1973).

Gilbert Williams (c. 1884 or 1892 – 1937)

Gilbert Williams was also known as Thintyu (Martin Notes, Thompson 1997), as was his mother’s brother (Hercus Tape 1963). His DC indicates he was born around 1884 at Bulla Downs station and was a drover, but his 1917 World War I enlistment indicates he was born around 1892 at Gonelie station (a mistake, made clearer on his WWI medical history as Connulpie station). Bulla Downs and Connulpie stations are close together on either side of the Queensland border.

Gilbert enlisted in the Light Horse Regiment at Broken Hill on 3 April 1917, listing his next of kin as Mrs Quail of Yancanyer [Yancannia] station, and a son, Allan. He was described as physically fit and a “bushman” and went on to Adelaide, but was discharged there in September 1917 on the grounds of being “Aboriginal, deficient physique” (NAA item 1807866).

By this time, Gilbert was a widower, as shown on his army discharge. His first marriage was at Broken

Hill in 1916. His wife Leata (or Leta) McCulloch (or McCullough) was born at Poolamacca station in about 1895 (DC and MC). Their son, Allan Williams was born 15 March 1912 at Tarrawingee, a small village on Poolamacca station. Leata passed away in Broken Hill from tuberculosis in 1917.

Allan went on to enlist in the Australian military in 1940 and died in action during World War II. His enlistment noted his next of kin as his “auntie” Mrs M. Bates (Minnie Bates nee Williams). Allan may have been brought up by Minnie after his mother died and his father enlisted. Allan fought in the Middle East and

then New Guinea, where he was promoted to corporal in January 1943. Two weeks later he was killed in action (NAA Series B883 item number SX10789) and is listed on Panel 3 of the Port Moresby Memorial (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) and on the Menindee war memorial, where some of his surviving soldier “mates” honoured him.

Gilbert’s second marriage was at Mildura to Daisy Robinson. They had four sons, James F. (Jimmy), Johnny, Georgy and Stanley T., a daughter who had already passed away when Gilbert died (Gilbert’s DC), and another baby daughter, Christina, who was born at Menindee Mission and died at Broken Hill hospital in 1938 aged 7 months (Christina’s DC).

Gilbert died at Broken Hill hospital in 1937, one of the many people living at Menindee Mission who were victims of the epidemic of tuberculosis among the people there (Martin 2001). Daisy also died from tuberculosis in 1938 (DC with little detail) just a few days after her baby daughter Christina had died of pneumonia and malnutrition (almost definitely a result of the mother’s illness).

Three of the boys, Jimmy, Johnny and Georgy were sent to Kinchela Boys home. It is not known whether Stanley was also sent there. Willy Riley remembers they came back to Wilcannia in the 1940s and were widely known as boxers. Georgy died in 1999 and was buried in Wilcannia with his people.

Johnny Williams was living in White Cliffs in 1973


Jack and Hannah Quayle

‘Big Jack’ John Quayle was born on Momba Station around 1873. His father had emigrated from the Isle of Man and through a union with an Aboriginal woman known as Judy had three sons; John, William and James. Judy returned to her people and the three boys grew up with their father. They earned a living sinking bores throughout the far west until their father died and the plant was relinquished to a local station owner.

Hannah ‘Malyarya’ Hamilton was born on Morden Station around 1880 (TBC). Hannah’s father, W.F Hamilton, left Morden following a severe drought and Hannah grew up with her mother, Buugali, who returned to live among her Malyangapa people and had two sons, Gilbert ‘Thinju’ and George Williams. Hannah and her family had learned the domestic ways of the white settlers and they continued to work the surrounding properties.

Hannah and her brothers retained as much of their custom and language as they were able, though they weren’t allowed to practice in their new world. Jack Quayle and Hannah married in Milparinka in 1895. They had fourteen children, though only seven survived past childhood.

The children were raised with a combination of ‘white man’s’ ways and traditional skills learned from both parents. Certainly Hannah passed as much traditional language and culture onto her children as she was able, but their world was changed.

They led an itinerant lifestyle, traveling by horse and buggy to wherever work was found on stations, building fences and breaking in horses. They had their own traveling stock of horses, camels and goats, living independent of the welfare system and largely outside the government dictations which forbad Aboriginal customs and language.

They realised they had to adapt to survive and although their children had no formal education they were taught to read and write in English and basic mathematics.

John and Hannah eventually moved to White Cliffs, carting wood and doing odd jobs. John passed away from pneumonia in 1934, at the age of 61. Hannah ‘Granny’ Quayle moved on to Wilcannia, to be near her brother and other relations who had been relocated many years before. She died in 1964. Despite being restricted by government policy in language and custom, Jack and Hannah passed on important beliefs and values through the generations.

Gail Hunt

May Hunt 

May Quayle was born at Milparinka in May 1900. She was the eldest of fourteen children of ‘half-castes’ born to John Quayle and Hannah Hamilton. Only seven survived childhood.

John was raised by his English father and Hannah was raised by her Malyangapa people, together they brought the best of both cultures in raising their children.

May could ride, shoot and hunt with the best of her brothers, she was also adept at the finest embroidery.

In the 1930’s May and her husband, Bill Hunt took up the lease at nearby Coally Bore, with six children and her orphaned niece. They were often alone as her husband sought medical treatment in Sydney. Isolated life at Coally Bore presented numerous challenges for a single woman and children but they subsisted on a vegetable garden, herd of goats and occasional hunting parties when her family passed through.

After the birth of her seventh child, May and her children left Coally Bore, sadly her baby died a short time later.

More on the Quayle family can be found in the Aboriginal rooms of the museum. May’s biography is recorded in ‘Memoirs from the Corner Country’, written by her son, Harold Hunt.

George Dutton

At best guess, GEORGE DUTTON was born around 1886, at Yancannia Station.

He took the surname of his white father but was raised by his mother, a traditional woman and his stepfather, a Malyangapa man named Jeremy Tu:pi, who took young George through the milia initiation ritual.

As a stockman and drover, George became a vital part of the growing pastoralism industry sweeping the far west in the early 1900’s. The freedom afforded by the travelling life of a drover suited George, and he used his knowledge of the Country and the seasons to the benefit of his ‘bosses’, one of whom was Sidney Kidman. He knew where the vital waterholes were located, and he passed this knowledge onto the younger drovers. He was fluent in the Aboriginal languages of far western NSW and held onto the stories and songs. His travels took him into South Australia and wherever he travelled, he always immersed himself in the culture of that Country and people. At Finniss Springs, some Arabana friends put him through the wilyaru, a form of which had also been practised in his home Country. This rite made him an Aboriginal man of ‘high degree’ and his own people believed him to be ‘clever’. George attended his last corroboree ‘dulbiri mura’ at Yandama Station in 1925. [J Beckett, 1978]

George was called home by his elders to an arranged marriage to a widow until she found a more suited husband and George set off on his travels again. He later married Alice Bates and they had six children, two of whom died at a young age as so often happened in their day. He and Alice settled in Tibooburra as he worked on nearby stations. He was a skilled horseman and drover, well respected by his Aboriginal teachers and European settlers.

In 1938, the men were working on the outstations and received word to come home urgently. When they arrived, they found that the Aboriginal women, children and elders had been loaded onto trucks, without notice, and transported to a mission reserve at Brewarrina, 540kms away.

George rebelled against the authorities and took his wife and children back home. He continued working on stations until retiring to Wilcannia in the 1950s.

George Dutton was an ambassador of traditional Aboriginal culture and traditions, always wanting to share his extensive knowledge, to keep the beliefs alive and is widely recognised as an invaluable informant to linguists, historians and anthropologists who ensured George’s stories were recorded and saved for posterity.

King Millar

Frank “King” Millar was a Wangkumara man born around 1879 on the original Mount Margaret station east of Eromanga in Queensland. 

It is assumed that Frank worked cattle stations in south west Queensland where he became a good horseman.  In 1912 he was hired as a Tracker at the Noccundra police station.

In March 1919 Frank left Noccundra and headed to Thargomindah Police Station where he reported he would not be returning to Noccundra. A letter from the police officer at Thargomindah states “Tracker “Miller” reports that he had deserted from Nocundra Police on Saturday the 22nd of March last owing to Constable and Mrs.Gray ill-treating him and having to work all day doing other work which was not a trackers duty. 

Further correspondence was written on the 24th June 1919 instructing that Tracker Miller be discharged from his employment with the Queensland Police Force.

From then on it seems that Frank travelled and worked on cattle and sheep stations within the channel country region, last working on Nockatunga Station. 

In 1937 he was acknowledged with the presentation of a “king” or “breast plate” that he proudly wore. .Such plates were presented not only to perceived ‘chiefs’ but to faithful servants and to the specially courageous. nma.gov.au

Frank’s plate was inscribed “ Millar. “King of the Wilson. 1st September 1937”.

While Frank was at Nockatunga he fell in love with Alice Booth, a Yandruwandah woman.  Alice was still married to an Aboriginal gentleman named Dick Reid and it is believed that fearing retribution the pair left Nockatunga heading for Tibooburra.

Former Tibooburra resident John Norris tells the story of how his father Walter “Watty” Norris was up at Noccundra at the time and he brought Frank and Alice down to Tibooburra on the back of his Blitz Ford truck (circa 1954).   

Frank and Alice lived in Tibooburra until his death in 1964.  They are fondly remembered by the people of Tibooburra as having been a friendly gentle couple who were active within the Tibooburra community.  They were known to do odd jobs, such as wood cutting or laundry in exchange for supplies.

John Norris stated that he remembers that they had two camps, the first was near “Blakes” airstrip and the second one where most people remember them being at “as you come into town you turn right”. 

In July 1964 Frank took ill and was flown into Broken Hill by the flying doctor where he passed away. He was so well respected and loved by the community that the hat was passed around and money raised to have his body flown back to Tibooburra for burial. 

Alice remained in Tibooburra for some time and then returned to Nockatunga Station where she lived until she fell ill and was taken into the Broken Hill Base Hospital.  Alice passed away on the 8th of April 1970.  She was approximately 94 years old.  

Albert (Albie) Bates Junior (c. 1912-14 – )

Albert (Albie) Bates junior was born around 1912 at Milparinka (MC) and married Ivy Quimby, a Paaruntyi woman from Wanaaring, at Tibooburra on 28 December 1937.

 Ivy and Albie had five children (Alice, Malcolm [Johnny], Peggy [Margaret Joan], Albert Rex and Thelma Joyce). The family was forcibly taken to Brewarrina Mission in 1938 but later returned to Tibooburra. The couple separated and Ivy later married Bill Gorringe and moved to Western Queensland where Ivy and Bill had more children.

Ivy and Albie’s family are mainly based in western Queensland but they retain strong ties with the family and regularly make the long trip back to visit the rest of the Bates family.

People and

William Bates (1915 – 1943)

William (Muka) Bates was born in 1915 at Yandama (BC) and married Eileen Veronica Quayle. Tragically, Eileen and her baby died in 1939; William hung

himself at Momba four years later, on the anniversary of his wife’s death.

James Bates (1917 – 198?)

James (Jim) Bates was born in 1917 at Tibooburra and married Edith Quayle at Wilcannia on 24 December 1941. Jim and Edie had a very large family of 14 children. 

Elsie Coombes (nee Bates) (c. 1920 – )

Elsie (Parm) Bates was born at Yandama around 1920-22 and grew up living in a tent near Milparinka:

…at Milparinka where an old couple had a big humpy, caught on fire and 2 dogs burnt in it. I remember living there. I was blind: we used to get grubs for the old people and a boy hit me in the eye with wire – got marrow out of bullock and put on my eye. We had a tent.

Elsie married Albert Ebsworth Junior and had two children, Hector, then Violet. Hector was born in 1937 at Tibooburra and in 1938 they were forced to leave everything and get on trucks which took them to Brewarrina Mission. Research by Sarah Martin

Snider Brown

Schneider (Snider) Brown was born in the Finke area around 1901 and went to school at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission.  He was an Arrente tribesman of Central Australia.

In the 1920s he began work appeared in the channel country in Queensland as a stockman and in 1939he married Mabel Harrison from Innamincka, South Australia.  They had nine children; Mary, Schneider Junior, Betty, Freddie, Fay, Rene, Harold, Lorraine and Colleen

From 1947 Snider worked as an overseer at Binerah Well, an outstation of Olive Downs.  During the 1950s he was a stockman on Olive Downs, and in the 1960s worked on the dog fence.

Snider’s daughter Fay told some of his story:

“He (Dad) came down from Innamincka, him and Mum, and the three boys, and first he got a job at Mt Sturt and then he went from Mt Sturt to Olive Downs. They were the only two stations he more or less worked on”.

“Binerah Wells had an old cane shed and old cemented home -it was a home to us. Lovely old place there. And it had a big bough shed -that used to be our bedroom –it was timber that held it up but they had the mesh and then they got the cane grass from Frome Creek Used to eat out there in summer time – lovely and cool”.

“We used to go into town [by camel] and it’d take a week or fortnight to get into Tibooburra. We had 8 camels, and all the kids ‘d be in the cart and that.” Fay Nicholls quoted from Aboriginal History of Olive Downs ( Sarah Martin 2004)

In 1972 Snider appeared in the movie “Where Dead Men Lie” which told the story of a drover.

Snider was also a well-known tracker, “.. and there are people including one woman whom he tracked for 45 miles, who readily admitted that she would not be alive today but for Schneider Brown.  The Australian Inlander, April 1974

When Snider died in 1974 his friend, pilot Howie Debney, “flew his body back to Tibooburra where the people from the surrounding town and area turned out in force to pay homage. 

Source Fay Nicholls quoted from Aboriginal History of Olive Downs (Sarah Martin 2004)

The Gilby Family

The Gilby family have had a presence in the far west since the 1880s when Richard Henry Gilby and his wife Mary McGivern relocated to Wilcannia from the Murrumbidgee area. A short time later they moved on to Milparinka. It is thought that they had ten children although not all survived. Mary died in 1906 and is buried in Milparinka.

Richard William Gilby (known as William) was born in 1881 while the family still lived in Wilcannia. In 1904 he married Alice Williams of Mount Arrowsmith. William very likely worked on the goldfields, tank-sinking as well station work for Sidney Kidman at Wonga Station near Wanaaring. Ownership of Wonga passed to William and Alice and they remained on the property until they retired and moved to Wilcannia.

Alice was born on Mount Arrowsmith Station in 1878. Her family were of the Malyangapa tribe, and as many Aboriginal girls did at the time, she went to work on Yandama Station as a cook and laundry maid at the age of 12. Later, with her family, Alice worked around Cobham and Mount Arrowsmith as well as the Packsaddle Hotel.

William and Alice’s children were Arthur, Bert, Harry, Tom, Ellen, Ada (known as Aileen), Flo, Alice, and Norman who died at twelve months as well as an infant daughter.

Alice died on the 31st of May 1952 aged 73, William Gilby died on the 1st of May 1953 aged 73. They are buried together at Wilcannia.

Arthur Gilby met his wife Heather Lord from Silverton when she worked at Wonga Station. They married and went on to have ten children.

The family moved to Tibooburra in 1947 with eight of their children, Iris, Norman, Kevin, Vivianne, Tom, Marlene, Trevor, Helen and Regan. Ricky came after the move. All ten children attended the Tibooburra school.

Upon moving to Tibooburra, Arthur and Heather first lived in the house known as Wally and Doll Kings, then later purchased the property known as Alma House, which then became the Gilby family home.

Arthur worked as a shearer and fencer and did a small stint on the Department of Main Roads. He then went on to become the camp cook at Naryilco and other stations for a time. He later retired to Broken Hill and in his 95th year he passed away at St Annes nursing home on the 26th of Dec 2011.

Heather worked in Tibooburra at the hospital as a domestic and cook, later taking on cooking in sheds. Heather also retired to Broken Hill and passed away on the 6th of April 2001.