Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Tucked away at the bottom  of  P5  in this  slim 1965  edition of Expression, magazine of the  Writers' Guild   of Queensland  and  the Guild of  Academy of Art, is  a small  item , easy to overlook, except for the heading ,  THE  LAST  OF   HIS  TRIBE .

It informed members  that  next month  " Uncle Willie McKenzie  " , 84,  last surviving  member  of the Stanley River  tribe  of Aborigines , would be  the guest at the  Writers'  Circle . He would sing  corroboree  songs  and  tell  folk   tales . It went on to say that not only was he  an expert with boomerang, but skilled at whistling  fish   to  call  them to  the  surface to be speared.

Uncle  Willie  would answer  questions  and a    most interesting   evening was   assured . The year  after , he  died . He was  described as the last   fullblood   surviving  member of the  Darwarbada  tribe  of the Caboolture  district, tribal  name  Geerbo, his totem the native bee . McKenzie  came from his  family's first "white boss " ,  a selector , there  being at least   three variations in  the  spelling over  the   years.    
 Aboriginal poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal , Kath Walker,  in her book ,  The Dawn Is  At  Hand ,    ran   a  poem  for  him ,  Dispossessed ;  in   Last Of  His Tribe,  she told   of   the  plight of    "Willie  McKenzie" , a singer of  ancient tribal songs , lead dancer of  corroborees,   who had   taken part in  two tribal   fights against invaders ,   living  in a Salvation Army home , a displaced  person in  his  own  country .

Jacaranda Press , Brisbane , in 1960  published  Legends of the Goundirs , by Uncle Willie Mackenzie ,  told  to his  niece ,  Sylvia  Cairns , illustrated  by Fred   Cobbo , a  children's Dreaming  story .   In  1971  it  was  produced  in  braille. 

Expression's patron  was   Sir  Raphael W. Cilento , father of actress  and  author  Diane Cilento  who  at one stage was   married to  Sean Connery (James Bond  ) . In the  1980s she   settled  at Mossman , north  of Cairns , where she opened an outdoor theatre named  Karnak  for experimental  drama .