White Woman Black Heart

I want to honour a very special woman, Marjorie Wymarra.  I didn’t get a photo of her in time for my memoir but I thank her daughter Pearl Wymarra for this one. Mrs Wymarra, as I called her then, was very keen to help me to help the Mapoon people return to their land from which they had been forcibly removed to make way for mining. She held a meeting of Mapoon people in her home on Thursday Island when I visited her in 1974. She decided to accompany me to Bamaga on the mainland to visit those removed from Mapoon to Hidden Valley or New Mapoon. I had a permit to visit as you couldn’t visit an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander reserve without one as it was the days of the apartheid-like Queensland Act.

Despite this, I was considered a trouble maker and put under house arrest in the Bamaga hostel. Mrs Wymarra was also not allowed to leave the hostel though she was Aboriginal and had friends on the reserve and possibly relatives. I will leave the rest of the story for you to read my memoir – “White Woman Black Heart: Journey Home to Old Mapoon, A Memoir.” The ebook version is an instant download at an introductory low price. Get it before the price goes up – https://www.amazon.com/dp/198670601X

In the photo from left to right front row are Marjorie Wymarra, Leo Umdamun and Cheryl Mayor. In the back row left to right is Pearl’s daughter Cheryl Bridger, Toni Ann Mayor and Herbert Wymarra holding Pearl’s sister Maryanne’s daughter. This photo records an interesting story in itself. Pearl tells me there was a storm on Thursday Island and a group of Austrians and Germans who were crocodile hunting had their boat destroyed.  It sunk near the engineers or navy wharf having smashed up against it. Mrs Wymarra’s husband Nicholas had sympathy for the 5 men and went home and asked her if they could shelter them. She agreed and the family looked after them for some time. Their interesting adventure continued. Leo, pictured, is one of the croc hunters. The photo was taken in 1975, the year after I was there.

Ties That Bind – New Film

Artist: Joshua Birtwistle

Over 250 people attended the launch of a documentary that captures the heart. Called “Ties That Bind, From Auschwitz to Cummeragunja” and directed by Viv Parry, it features interviews with and discussion between Holocaust survivor Moshe Fiszman (95 years) and Uncle Boydie (Alf Turner, 89 years), grandson of William Cooper. It is produced and edited by international award winning screen play  writer/ director Justin Olstein. Stan Yarramunua played the didjeridoo. Holocaust inspired art by Galiamble Aboriginal men added to the occasion. The launch was held at the Jewish Holocaust Centre at Elsternwick.

Here is Viv Parry’s  intro for Uncle Boydie:

” Barbara Miller called her biography of William Cooper, Gentle Warrior, the same could be said of Uncle Boydie.   Uncle Boydie leaves an indelible mark on your heart and mind as he expresses with great honesty the things that matter most to him. You witnessed Uncle saying “ sorry “ to Moshe, this from a man who stills hold out hope for more than just a passing apology to his people. Uncle Boydie has dedicated a huge part of his life to continuing the legacy of his late grandfather Mr. William Cooper. His   passion to complete the   dreams and aspirations of his grandfather’s work as he approaches his 89th year, is truly inspirational and selfless.

Assisting to break down the walls and barriers to such an achievement is Uncle Boydie ‘s right hand man the undeniably passionate Abe Schwartz, Anyone who would like to learn more , please don’t hesitate to speak with Abe. ”     

Barbara you were with us in spirit and in words, and  now have the opportunity to share my film on your website.

I am so grateful for your support , your advice and knowledge of the Family made all the difference. I am truly grateful.”

Viv’s enthusiastic steering of this project which was her vision is inspiring too. She says:

“I brought the men together to share with each other the story of their early years. Uncle Boydie narrowly avoiding being part of the Stolen Generation  on  Cummeragunja Mission,  Moshe existing on starvation rations in the Radom Ghetto, Poland , eventually  transported to Auschwitz.
The film covers Krystallnacht, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, William Cooper’s part in the Aboriginal Advancement League , the recreation of William Cooper’s brave protest December 6th, 1938 to the German Consulate, the Stolen Generation and the plight of  Aboriginal children and their families.
Both men show empathy, respect and compassion to  each other , William Cooper is the tie that binds the two communities.
Austrian Composer Mordechai Gebirtig, (murdered by the Nazis in 1942, ) composition KINDER YORN, concludes the film. International Virtuoso soloist Violinist, Mr. Boris Savchuk who resides in Israel, generously  re-recorded his rendition for the film as his contribution,  in memory of his own  Holocaust  history.
The program includes, Stan Yarramunua outstanding Didgeridoo player, Uncle Boydie and Moshe Fiszman and Holocaust inspired art work  created  by the Aboriginal men who visit the Holocaust Centre to learn about Uncle William Cooper and the fate of the Jewish people 1930s to 1945.”




Orwell’s book “1984” introduced the term “Big Brother” for the kind of control and scrutiny the government held over the lives of people in his novel. It is striking that in Queensland, it is 1984 when this kind of Orwellian Big Brother relationship of the state to Indigenous people came to an end with the abolition of the Queensland Aborigines Act and its counterpart, the Torres Strait Islanders Act. “The Acts” had existed for nearly 90 years. I should say segregation legally came to an end as it dragged on for a few more years as my book “The Dying Days of Segregation in Australia: Case Study Yarrabah” shows.

I cannot overstate, however, the turning point that occurred in 1984, which is why, I believe, this book is so important.

It is written, primarily, at a time when one era came to an end and another era began and we see the emergence of a measure of local government and a measure of land ownership on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland. We also see the gradual whittling away of human rights abuses. My writing on this issue at the time was so hot and controversial that it was not published until 1986 lest it raise the ire of the Queensland government.


The Dying Days of Segregation in Australia: Case Study Yarrabah

By Barbara Miller 2.10.16

Published in First Nations Telegraph

Author Barbara Miller is launching her latest book at Yarrabah near Cairns on 31.10.16 at the invitation of the Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council. It is called The Dying Days of Segregation in Australia: Case Study Yarrabah. Mayor Ross Andrews says,

“The book offers an important contribution to recognising how important the legacy of leadership has been to my community. The leadership of the past and present has led Yarrabah to being in the unique position it is today.

“We’ve gone from our mission days, DOGIT handover in 1986, Indigenous Local Government 2004 to the handing over of our land under the Federal Court’s Native Title Determination 2015/2016.

“This book recognises the important struggle of the Indigenous leadership from ‘agitators/stirrers’ and ‘bridge builders’ and we are fortunate to be in this position because of the legacy that they have set. The struggle for Indigenous rights in this country must continue.”

The launch will be held on 31 October as it is the anniversary of Yarrabah receiving its DOGIT and is known as DOGIT Day. “It will be even more historic to launch the book on this occasion said Mrs Miller as it is the 20th anniversary this year.” The launch will be at the Knowledge Centre at 10am with refreshments and entertainment provided. It is necessary to RSVP Barbara Miller on 0466076020 for catering purposes.

Miller says that the book will be a local history for the people and school children at Yarrabah. “It will also interest history buffs, politics and Aboriginal affairs enthusiasts as it is an eye-opening look at Aboriginal Affairs in Australia and in the biggest former reserve in Queensland – Yarrabah.

“What is different about it,” she says “is that you hear from the voices of the Yarrabah people themselves, their worries, their hopes and dreams and their reaction to the crushing legislation that has affected their lives. It has been described as an amazing insider view from a writer that is close to the action.
“I interviewed Yarrabah people at a time of historic change in Queensland, the far north of Australia, which in times past was likened to the deep south of the USA. Indigenous people had been segregated on reserves for nearly 100 years ostensibly to protect them from white settlement which was wiping them out. Indigenous people had to have permits to live on, leave or visit a reserve and could be removed to another reserve at the will of the white manager or police. They had to have permission to marry or work,” said Miller.
“Despite the federal government passing the Racial Discrimination Act in 1975,” said Miller “the Queensland government refused to change. Even within Yarrabah there were white only and black only sections of the town. However in 1984, a near-fatal blow to segregation was struck and the Yarrabah reserve started on its way to self-government, still a long tortuous process.

“Indigenous peoples were not allowed to have ownership to the reserve areas. That too started to change in 1982-84 with the Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) legislation. This book examines the human rights abuses of the Queensland Aborigines Act and the legislation of 1984 that replaced it,” said Miller.

“Now I have returned to my subject and examined the last 30 years as I bring the topics of segregation, self-determination, local government and land rights up to date in 2016, visiting the historic Mabo and Wik native title cases and their aftermath. The case of Yarrabah is put into national context as I examine the dying days of segregation in Australia. It is painstakingly researched and has been endorsed by a litany of voices – Indigenous and academic,” she said.
Here is what others are saying:

This is an excellent coverage of the milestones in the contemporary historical coverage of our Indigenous Queenslander’s struggle for land rights and freedom from the autocratic control of government. 
Dr Timothy Bottoms, historian, author of Conspiracy of Silence and A History of Cairns

I strongly recommend this book. I can testify that I have lived in this era, when segregation was in its dying days … with white only and black only sections of the town at Yarrabah. 
Les Baird, founding Health Manager Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service

By shining a light on the political and policy landscape of the last forty years that has shaped the Yarrabah of today, this book offers much to ponder when considering Yarrabah’s prospects for the future… 
Henrietta Marrie, Associate Professor, Office of Indigenous Engagement, CQUniversity Cairns

It is entirely appropriate that Barbara Miller is the one to write an update on Yarrabah’s efforts at self-determination and land rights as … we contend with the “hydra- like monster” that she calls segregation.
Rev Michael Connolly, Former Chairman of Yarrabah

The Yarrabah mission was one of the first to have its Aboriginal hostages aired in the Australian High Court in Neal v R 149 CLR 305 (the spitting case)… This book should be a standard school text book.
George Villaflor, CEO of first Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal legal service

As a 71 year old survivor of the Yarrabah experiences, I am now finding peace for myself … as we learn not to be governed by other hurtful narcissist human beings. 
Roy Gray, former Chairman Aboriginal Coordinating Council and former Chairman of Yarrabah



Mapoon people continue to return home to country

By Barbara Miller 24.9.16

Published in First Nations Telegraph

A recent visit to Mapoon by author Barbara Miller and her husband Norman found that people are still returning to Mapoon, 42 years since she helped them move back and rebuild the community that they had been forcibly moved from by police in 1963 because of mining leases.

Mapoon Mayor Aileen Addo centre with Barbara and Norman Miller on each side. Image supplied

Mrs Miller said, “In fact it was this month, on 19 September 1974, that they moved back with the help of the Aboriginal legal service, Mick Miller and International Development Action, the group I was working for.”

“Ray Harding of the ABC, photographed the move back from a light plane as he followed our convoy. I would love to find a copy of this footage as I’m writing my memoir,” said Miller.

“It was the most unusual looking convoy. Cec and Rosena Toumese left first in an army truck towing a railmotor converted to a caravan. It was carrying the cattle equipment of the Marpuna Company – saddles, bridles etc. Peter Noble and Peter White traveled with them. Next was the landrover, owned and driven by Tommy Hudson, followed by the car owned by Ces Toumese and driven by Alan Bourke, then the truck driven by Clarrie Grogan loaded up with the Wheeler and Miller families, solicitor Bruce Johnston, myself and a pile of gear.”

Miller continued, “For 11 years, the Mapoon people had been wanting to return and Jean Jimmy had been attending FCAATSI conferences, gathering support,” said Miller.

“Jerry and Ina Hudson led the move back. These heroes are no longer with us but today Mapoon is a thriving community and it honours them with buildings named after them.”

“Amazingly it only took me 6 months to do the organising to get the people back where they wanted to be. However, our support continued for some time afterwards and the pioneers of the move back did it tough for quite some time,” said Miller.

“As the infrastructure was built over the years, more people have moved back and the community have had their rights to local government and land recognized. It is now in many ways a model community and that is due to the many people who have rebuilt it over the years,” said Miller.

“One of the things I enjoyed on my visit was speaking to the adult grandchildren of the people I worked with long ago and they love Mapoon for its lifestyle of fishing, crabbing and hunting and so do not want the city lights. They love the bush and the sea. They are truly at home,”said Miller “and would make their grandparents proud.”