News

Aunty Bertha tells inside story

ABORIGINAL HERSTORY: Mick O’Regan and his interview subject Aunty Bertha Kapeen at the Bangalow Museum.
ABORIGINAL HERSTORY: Mick O’Regan and his interview subject Aunty Bertha Kapeen at the Bangalow Museum. Digby Hildreth

BERTHA Kapeen's mum used to have to stand outside her Cabbage Tree Island home with her children every Friday while the reserve manager's wife inspected the place, wiping the surfaces with her finger.

If she found dust, it meant a black mark: several black marks led to the children being taken away by the Welfare Board.

When Bertha went to the pictures with her best friend, a white girl named Ruby, they weren't allowed to sit together.

On public transport, it was "if you're black, sit down the back".

Aunty Bertha, now 77 and a Bundjalung Elder, shared these and other painful memories with Bangalow journalist Mick O'Regan in the latest of the Bangalow Historical Society's "Inside Story" series on Sunday.

The Tea Rooms were filled with people keen to hear about the Aboriginal experience from one who had lived through it.

Taking her lead from her strict and hard-working parents, Aunty Bertha raised her eight children to focus on their education and to take pride in their ethnicity.

They all finished Year 12 and got jobs, she said.

Life wasn't easy, even after 1967 when Aborigines gained the vote, and Aunty Bertha obtained an "exemption certificate", permitting her to move next to whites - a move recommended by the Welfare Board so she could "learn how to live".

Despite such humiliations, and a fierce loyalty to her people, Aunty Bertha taught her children that white people were here "for ever" now.

She was "still a bit sad and angry" about the abuses suffered by Aborigines, she said.

"But I wanted to do something with that anger, so I made it my business to talk about Aboriginal history," she said.

She joined every school council and committee she could, and eventually, through sheer force of personality and familiarity came to be accepted by the white community.

But, she said, while there were "a lot of good people in the white world", racism still existed and she experienced it personally on the streets of Ballina.

And Aborigines were still classified as "flora and fauna" under the Constitution, she said.

Until that changed, and Kevin Rudd's apology translated into real action, Aunty Bertha said she would continue her fight to have her people get the acknowledgment and respect they deserve.



Surfer's shark tale: 'That's when it's come straight at me'

Pictured at Kingscliff this morning Rodney Clark has survived a Great White encounter.

"I lost sight of my son because a wave hit him"

Sleeping rough for Fred's Place

ALL RUGGED UP: From left, Lenny McLennan, Jason McDonald, Gerard Robinson, Gordon Rhodes and Stuart Burrows prepare for Fred's Place Sleep Out.

Tweed locals show support for homeless by sleeping outside in boxes.

Latest deals and offers

Talking whiskey with Jack Daniel’s master distiller

It all comes down to the distillery

SIXTY MILES AHEAD sign with Eclipse Records, prepare new album 'Insanity'

Sixty Miles Ahead sign with Eclipse. Photo Contributed

Sixty Miles Ahead to release new album on Eclipse

Thy Art Is Murder are killing it

See Thy Art is Murder on their killer tour happening right now. Photo Contributed

We talk with Thy Art is Murder about touring, babies, and new music

Date announced for Prince tribute concert

A Prince tribute concert will take place later this year

Matt Damon is taking a break from acting

Matt Damon is taking a break to spend time with his family

Police foiled terrifying 1m plot to kidnap Katie Price

Police foiled a £1 million plot to kidnap Katie Price and her family

Queensland's $1 town goes under the hammer today

The township of Yelarbon is up for sale.

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

Plans revealed for 1500-lot 'master-planned community'

Precinct will be bounded by Boundary St and Shoesmith Rd

Ecco Ripley sales run sparks prime release

MOVING IN: Sekisui House has announced the release of more residential blocks at Ecco Ripley.

Sekisui House is preparing to unveil more land at Ecco Ripley

Massive residential 9-storey high-rise hit by delays

An artist’s impression of the eight-storey-high apartment complex that Bernoth Holdings wants to build in South Toowoomba, next to the City Golf Club.

Developer struggles to get approved high-rise development started