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Published on Jul 7, 2009
We caught up with Uncle Bob in May'09 while he was in Melbourne and took the opportunity to chat with him and ask him 3 questions:
1. Have you seen any improvements since the Australian Government's Apology (to the Stolen Generations)? 2. What do yo do to maintain your culture; and how can people become part of indigenous culture? 3. In light of the current crises we face - environmental, financial etc - how do you see us progressing into the future?
Filmed by Sheryl and Felipe of PluginTV with TheJuiceMedia. The video is split into two parts for YouTube.
Bob Randall was born in 1934 at Middleton Pond on Tempe Station in the Central Desert region of the Northern Territory. He is a member of the Yankunytjatjara people and one of the listed traditional owners of Uluru. His mother, Tanguawa worked as a housemaid at Angus Downs cattle station for Bob's father, station owner, Bill Liddle. At a young age, Bob was taken away from his mother under government policy, whom he never saw again.
Bob: 'I was institutionalised because I didn't wear clothes or live in a house. In that natural way of living, there was no need for me to have anything other than what I had.'
Bob was sent to the Bungalow Telegraph Station in Alice Springs, which was the receiving home for Indigenous children from Central Australia. Bob: 'They gave me clothes to wear and put me in a house - I didn't like it.'
As a young child, Bob was moved north to the Croker Island Reservation in Arnhem Land. He remained at the reservation until he was 20, working at various jobs, including as a carpenter, stockman and crocodile hunter. While still a teenager, he married Amy, a member of the Amadjera Tribe who had also been stolen from her family.
In the mid-1960s, the family moved to Adelaide, where Bob completed a welfare residential worker's course. Bob: 'A lot of our kids were being locked up in jail at this stage and I thought I would like to help them.'
In 1970, Bob helped establish the Adelaide Community College for Aboriginal people and lectured at the college on Aboriginal cultures. He began to gain recognition for his songwriting in the early 1970s, when his song, 'My Brown Skin Baby [They Took Him Away]' caught the attention of an ABC journalist, David Roberts. This led to the ground-breaking ABC documentary of the same name, which won the Bronze Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and focused national and international attention on the issue of separation. Bob also appeared in the documentary films Buried Country (produced by Film Australia) and Secret Country by John Pilger.
His work with Aboriginal communities has taken many forms. He served as the Director of the Northern Australia Legal Aid Service and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander centres at the Australian National University, University of Canberra and University of Wollongong. He continues to present his cultural awareness programs at schools and other institutions and in workplaces. His life-long efforts were recognised in 1999 when he was named 'Indigenous Person of the Year' at the 1999 National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Celebration (NAIDOC) awards.
In 2004 Bob was inducted in the NT music hall of fame for having written such classic songs as Brown Skin Baby and Red Sun, Black Moon about the Coniston massacre. Bob is also the author of two books: his autobiography "Songman" and a children's book 'Tracker Tjginji" which was part of the 2004 Sydney Writer's Festival.