Interview with Karen Egan

Morawa District High School Centenary

Celebrating the past, present and future.


Karen Egan

I started school in 1978, I came from the Pallottine Mission.  Mum and Dad lived out at Billabalong Station. The whole family were out a Pallottine, we came in on the bus every day.  We had to be at breakfast by 7, the bus would arrive in town by 8.30.

“We would pick the farm kids up along the way, about ten families we picked up – the bus was really packed, there were three to a seat.”

All the ‘mish’ kids would meet out at the fish pond when they got off the bus.  There were lots of Mission kids – it went up to year 7.  Some kids went to the Mission before they were in year 1.

We had a good community, we had to be. We only had May, August and Christmas school holiday to go home.  When Dad went there, there was only Christmas holidays apparently, and one in between.

“When we went home for the holidays, we would climb up the windmill and see if the bus was coming.  They would bring lunch for us.  There were other station kids there from, Wooleen, Twin Peaks, New Forrest, Bullado, all the stations along the Murchison.  We would have lunch out at the bridge, which is called Balinyoo Bridge.”

Social Studies was my favourite subject, I wanted to know about what was going on in the world.  And I quite like Science.  With Maths I would just stare at the teachers in High School.

My favourite teacher in Primary school was Mr Gary Stenhouse, he taught 3, 4 and 5.

“We had all the kids (on the bus), we looked after the farm kids that came on the bus.  If they go into trouble here (at school) we would check out who was picking on who.”

There was the Elyward, Bowey, Kowalds, two sets of Kowalds,  Olivers, the Walters, Croots, Tubbys, Barnes for a while, Mickies, Lanagan, they lived in Canna.

We played football and basketball (when we got to school).  One class we did was Outdoor Education, we went down to where the museum is, there was a house there we went to, some of us that were the naughty kids.

We had little $5 and $2 back in the days, and we use to get beautiful lunches from the Wilsons bakery.  And that was on a Monday,  because they didn’t bake bread until the Monday, while we were at school, and then they would give us (food).  A roll, and we would make that last for the trip home.

I use to get on with Wendy Hutton, Teena Payne and Sue Baxter, and I got on with Suzanne Tropiano and I’m really good friends with Peter Reynolds. I always keep in contact. Always.

“I was Champion Girl for three years 81, 82, 83.  I give everything a go, but I didn’t like swimming, but I went in the diving competition and came third when they had the big board.  Moira Erskine beat me in that.”

Sports Carnival were down at the oval. They had all the big trucks, I can still see them  with streamers and stuff. They had four teams, Karrakarook, Undanooka, Oranga and  Bellaranga.

Then they changed the names when I was in year 12, and I don’t know why.  They should go back to the original faction names.

My favourite sport was athletics, running, shot put – I was good at all them. I held the record in javelin.

“Jenny Butler tried to beat me (in running), but when I come around that top corner – straight down that hill, she had longer legs than me but I said nuh I’m not letting you beat me.”

Frances was a good swimmer and netball. She went to Countryweek for the school.  I went to Countryweek for Basketball. I was the captain of the first Basketball team that went to Countryweek.  Grace Genomi was our coach.

“I still remember Linda (Oliver)in her little grey skirt.  We use to try and beat their bus, where you come past Phil Norths and Evaside Road, their bus would be coming along the railway line, and the mission bus would be coming along (the main road) and we’d watch and say  “quick, quick Mr Terry (Wolfe)“ and we’d just give a wave to them.”

Terry Wolfe was our bus driver, and Mr Bill and sometimes Father Eddy, when it was naughty week. If we had been naughty at school, he’d come along to make sure we were good. We were a bit cheeky and fighting sometimes.

We followed the Melbourne Cup at school with the newspapers. And out at the mission we would have our own little thing – I won in  1975 with  Gold and Black.

We went to Kalbarri for an outdoor education camp.

I went away to school in Perth in 1979 to St. Norbets in Queens Park. I was naughty her so Dad so you’re going to boarding school in Perth.  I was naught down there so Dad said your working out the station, in 1980.  I had to board at Pallotine Training Centre in Rossmoyne.

“I was the only person at Pallotine Mission to do year 12, and graduate , that was in  1983, dad was one of the first students out there and I was the first students here.  It was a bit emotional at the graduation.  It was at the Town Hall (Morawa) I had a black Dress with silver on it, I can still see that dress.”

We use to play sport against Geraldton, Hockey, Volley ball and Football. They would come and stay the night .

“I loved coming to school. It was really good we had interaction. There was indigenous and non-indigenous that stuck together. And as we got older, I realised there was another colour and at first, I thought ‘oh nuh’ but Dad said ‘no you don’t think like that because  there are more colours to a rainbow than black and white’. So, you had to do interaction. In those days you had to get on in life.”

We bought culture with us too in that time, cultural education with indigenous and non-indigenous, to get on. I Interacted a lot with non-indigenous.

“I enjoyed my time here.  You come here to learn. Education is most important, good life skills.  If you don’t have good life skills you going to fall flat on your face.  That’s what I tell my nieces and nephews.  If I see them messing around town I give them that whistle and they are gone,  oh look out I can see Nana Karen watching over there, I’m going.”

When I go to Geraldton I see people from the mission.  I see Leonie (Boddington), me and her are good friends.  I keep in contact, we speak in language, sometimes the language she speaks in is different.  Frances and I (and Mum and Dad)  know about four languages.

I got to speak my language here at school once when I was here teaching, I did my first year prac here.  I speak Wajarri, and my Mums language Ingarda, from the Gascoyne, my Mums one of the traditional owners of Mount Augustus.  And I speak some of the Kimberlys and the Pilbara.

We didn’t go home on weekends, only if mum and dad rang up and came around to get us.

“On the weekends we had to wash the pots, Friday afternoon we had to do the laundry, but it was really good because we had boyfriends and we got notes from the ag schoolboys (Tardun) in their laundry.

Saturday, we had to help in the kitchen.  You only slept in if you were sick. On Sundays we had picnics, we use to go to Dongara, Tallering Peak, Coalseam, Melara , Lake Indoon.  We use to hate the boys coming on the bus.

We had double bunks, three dormitories, junior girls, little girls, middle girls and then we had the highschoolers. Kids from the Kimberley’s, Wiluna, Carnarvon.

We came into Morawa for socials, we had a band from Perenjori.  We had a social every term. When we had the church opening, we had to learn the dances , the Pride of Erin and all those.  We use to have Christmas plays.

The staff (from the DHS) use to come out for Aboriginal week, kids, we were in class with use to come out there (to the mission) too.  We use to have a big cook out, veggies and everything.  They would come in on the bus.  We would come into town on the bus for school and then they (the staff) would come back out with us on the bus.

When Dad got the job at the Ag College, we were at Twin Peaks, Dad came in on the mail truck from Mullewa. Mr Glassford had a green truck, and he came and picked up all our stuff and took us down at the oval house.

Mr Browne was my headmaster, Peter and Barabara use to live across the road here.  Robin (and Maureen) Clark was my principal.

“We use to play soft ball out on the oval, it was gravel, we use to win all the time Undanooka, we were pretty good all us black girls. I love softball, I played it in Tom Price.  The dust was flying up there!”


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