Richard Green

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A Darug perspective

Interviewee: Richard Green, born 1963

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 24 Oct, 2009

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Nov 2009

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee


My father's a Darug man, Walter William Green, son of Amy Webb, grandson of Eva Agnes Webb, Great Great Great Grandson of Yarramundi and Goomberry, and it's our history of our bloodline in Sydney that runs through the history... in the Mitchell Library the London Museum of Oriental and African Studies - we're registered there, we're recorded there. I was born in Katoomba, that's where our people were basically taking refuge from the invasion of Greater Sydney. Ah but the country itself is not owned by people, though. Katoomba was a place of power where people drew a source of power from song.

What's the name of your people, your clan?

Boorooberongal, we're the Boorooberongal. (Richmond clan)

Tell me more about that.

Our place is Burramatta. Our main Yulang, and area, was in Burramatta. The right side of the river is the men's side, the left-hand side of the river is the women's side, Wayun. The right-hand side of the river is Yulang. Wayun is the left-hand side of the river, they called it Burramatta.



And is that Parramatta?

Well the British called it Parramatta. It's Wayun, but it is Burramatta where the eels lay. It's not where they lay their eggs, otherwise that would be "Burramatta Gabin". OK, when you have a language and people constantly will tell you that Parramatta means "where the eels lay their eggs". No it doesn't. It means "where the eels are laying". If it was eggs, you'd have eggs in the language.

They must have caught the eels in those days, did they? From the river. Was it a source of food?

Oh yeah, of course it was. A staple diet. We were the healthiest race of Man on Earth before we were invaded. And quite seriously, I'm not using the word "colonise". We were invaded. They made out when they came through The Heads at Sydney that nobody was to be seen. They were surrounded by men in canoes, tapping on the sides of the ships with spears, asking in language what those poor devils were below... What is this big craft? My goodness, look at this big craft. Look at this, they've come again. You know what I mean? It was non-indigenous academics who espoused the ideal that Aboriginal people thought these white people were spirits. They did for the first couple of hours, then they realised very quickly that they were men because those that arrived were doing what men do - and I don't think we have to go any deeper there to insult the public, or even make people aware, you know.

They'd never seen white people before, had they?

Well they had. Mumbai and people like that would have seen the French, the Dutch. They would have seen Portuguese sailing in and out. They had an understanding of what ships were. And other cultures, but still very much in tradition of mythology and Dreaming.

Aboriginal drawings at Annangrove 1981

What sort of people were living in what is now called The Hills Shire?

They're my people. That's where I'm from. That's our people. The Hills Shire Burramattigal. Are you talking about Baulkham Hills and all this area?

All the way up to the Hawkesbury.

Yeah, they're all Darug people. It's the Darug Nation. There are 38 clans in the Darug Nation.

38 clans?

Yes. 38 clans of the Darug Nation.

Did they all speak the same language?

Dialects of the same language. Look, what is the difference in language? You've got someone here that speaks English... "I'll have a chips, peas and gravy, thank you very much!", alright but it's still going to take someone to understand that dialect's English. I just asked for a chips, peas and gravy. Alright, so what is a dialect? If people on the coastline say "wanana" for mother, and inland Darug people say "Wayanya", how much difference is that in phonetics? It's a semi-tone, you know, and it's a blessing to be able to do this interview, because our people are special. Our kids especially are something to be... Oh man, it's so incredible to watch them grow and learn. If we stop treating our kids like they're little people and we start treating them like human beings, they respond. So I say this for my brother, the gum tree... Kevin, long live bro'. I say this for my people... Mr Craigie, my fist is held high for you, man. I say this for my people... Oodgeroo Noonuccal, thank you mother. I say this for my people... Senator Bonner, god bless you, man. I say this for our people... Mr Rose, Tony Mundine, Anthony. I say this for our people, brother, because we are not inept, we are not silly people. We are very generous and full of spirit. And when people bring you up and tell you to go out and find it, you do...

Sings with sticks accompanying...

At birth we cried for the rope of our mother's navel. No steps towards the gallows. No rope placed about our legs, our hips, our wrists by the men with the hood, the gavel or the strangers. No proclamation as first born did we receive yet born unto Your Majesty. Though for when do we cry it is for our dignity, back, black and intact. No land for toil, and no space to bring billy to the boil, yet so much barren our eyes doth see. We know simple, know pagan, Man heathen should be. A distant rumbling of mountains weep, our kingdom removed as we sleep. Yet you might wake on the morrow 'cause your kingdom's burning and yae for the castle we sorrow. Though this be a proclamation we doth send by kookaburra, thine holy mail, our hearts are not red. They say we drink, we steal, we gamble. They curse when they bet. The distant rumbling of mountains weep, our kingdom removed as we slept.

Rock overhang at North Rocks 1982

Who wrote that?

I did.

It's wonderful.

Thank you.

Did you get it published?

No, I haven't got a publisher, but I've had Aunties like Oodgeroo Noonuccal tap me on the head and tell me that I was a poet. I'm just going through that constant lifestyle of reverse racism, sir. I'm not black enough to be full-blood and I'm too white to be otherwise, you know. When the truth is, this is my bloodline. This is my heritage. I'm not stolen, I'm not lost. I'm displaced and disenfranchised, but I'm not stolen, and I'm not lost. That's why I know. That's why I've been raised in listening, and using my good ear to listen, and using my head to take it all in, and remembering the name for possum, Burrumin, and Wuban for possum. To remember the name of Bulleda. To know the name of Wungarra, Malla. This is language. Our language is all fluid. Every time someone says Boomerang they're speaking our grandmother's tongue. And this is why it's so strong. My Great Grandmother Eva Agnes Webb was the last known speaker in Sydney. She passed away in 1970, people.

Tell me, how far can you take it back?

We can take it back to when they first started keeping records... from Governor Phillip, David Collins and Judge Atkins and Watkin Tench has recorded our family.

Rocky outcrop at Kenthurst 1982

Now tell me about Maria Locke. Who was she? What relation has she had with you?

She was my Great Great Great Grandmother.

Was she white or...

No, no, she was Aboriginal. She married twice. She was married to Colebee (she was actually married to Digidigi and was the sister of Colebee) and then she married Robert Locke a carpenter from Sydney Town. Robert Locke and his father were transported out here and they were builders, carpenters. They built the Hyde Park Barracks, and places like that. Robert Locke was brought out to the Native Institute at Burramatta to build the school and Goomberry and Yarramundi thought it was in the best interests that Maria go and receive an education - a non-indigenous education. And she was the most gifted young child in the colony - topped the state and everything in her studies. She went on to receive a parcel of land which they renigged on and took back. She married Robert Locke on the 26th of January, 1836 in St John's Church in Burramatta.

Now tell me about the name Green. That comes from your father Wal Green...

It comes from my Grandfather...

Tell me a bit about how the name Green originated. Who gave the name Green to you?

He married my Aboriginal grandmother.

But he must have been given the name Green by the whites, I suppose...

Yeah... he was a white man. He was Irish.

I see. So your mother's Irish too, isn't she?

Yeah. And her father. I've got one Aboriginal grandparent, one British and two Irish... a league of nations.

Now tell me about your father. What was he like? What do you remember about him?

My father was a dancer. My father was a song man. My father was an artist, a genius. I was kicked out of home at 14 and I went in search of my Dad. I didn't find him until I was nearly 20, alright, but I searched all up and down the East Coast for him. I went home... he wasn't at home in Katoomba. I went everywhere, and eventually some friends from Yagoona put us in contact... they knew him and I met up with him, and I spent the last 12 or 13 years of his life. That's my journey. Everyone else wants to talk about culture, I've gone in search of mine, mate, I have gone in search of it. And I have drawn all my people together - three different mobs of them.

Now tell me about the language. You teach it at schools around Sydney? What is your language, can you describe your language?

Darug dalang (tongue) - Burramatta, Boomerang, Waratah, Yagoona, Bondi, Boambee, Coogee.

Click HERE to access the notebooks of William Dawes. 

 What sort of structure does the language have?

Well the verbs come at the end, so it's an ergative language, so you're speaking very direct, there are no prepositions - if, when, but, why... "Why?" you ask that again and they'll hit you with a stick. I'm joking, obviously, but there're no prepositions and it's straight talk. It's older than English. It's been around a lot longer than Hebrew. It's been around a lot longer than Aramaic. Speaks an Aramaic phrase. That's Aramaic. Aboriginal's been around a lot longer than that. In fact we're older than the pyramids.

We're older than the Great Wall of China. We had fire before Man even woke up... before he came out of caves. We had law before they even know what day North and South were. And this is what people have to understand. Our songlines, Aboriginal while we walk when we sing - that's like a UBD, it's like a street directory. You walk your line, you sing your song, when your song changes you know which way you're turning. You know, this is how we lived. From the constant attitudes of the environment, where the language itself comes from. White Cockatoo? Garraway. What's its name? You ask it... Garraway. So what do we call a White Cockatoo? Garraway. The Black Cockatoo makes a different sound... garmat, garmat. So what do we call a Black Cockatoo? Garmat. The Crow? Wargan. Possum? Wuban, wuban... the sound of its feet. Black Swan, when it's drinking water... what we call water... badu, badu... Alright, so our language comes from the environment. It comes from the animals, the sounds and the sights that we see and hear.

Natural spring waterhole at Maroota 2005

Yeah, it's very interesting because it's down-to-earth, isn't it?

Yeah, totally... it's all about environment. Everything... it's either about environment, relationship, the family and friends, or weather. The most spoken topic on the planet is weather.

Tell me a little more about the Aboriginal concept of weather. You've got many descriptions of it, I believe?

Yes, well as you know yourself you can have a couple of seasons in one hour in Sydney. We're surrounded by ocean, you know. It's just that everything we use is from a Western paradigm and they seem to relate weather to the Northern Hemisphere - we're not even in the Northern Hemisphere. We're in the Southern Hemisphere and we're surrounded by water which is a huge conductor. So we've got all these different elements of weather running through our nation. So they didn't have days of the months and days of the week, although education and the government want us to create that now, which is a valid paradigm because once the kids hear the days of the week in language they've got something they can relate to, right, so it's very easy to teach them the seven days of the week in a lesson. So they've got the whole seven days of the week as relating to white history like where the days come from... Sunday obviously comes from the Sun. Monday comes from the Moon. Tuesday comes from spirit, Wednesday comes from stars, Thursday comes from thunder, Friday comes from cooking, and Saturday from Saturn. See, you get the kids and you teach it - every term of that in Darug language, so the Sun is Guyan, the moon is Yanadah, spirit is Ngaiyii, so then you add the suffix. So the day becomes Sunday, Gyunga; Monday, Yanadahga; Tuesday Ngaiyiga; Wednesday Birrunga; Thursday Murungugal; Friday Gunnamaga; Saturday, Murjal... Saturday for Saturn, but we use the word for red, so you've got a paradigm.

You teach that to the children here in Australia?

Totally. They use it in the Manifest.

So you're teaching them the Darug language, is it?

Yeah, I'm allowed to. I've been forced to. I've been brought up to.

Rock formation at Wisemans Ferry 1981

What do you mean when you say forced to?

I have no choice. I’ve loved the ideal of my people’s language ever since I can remember. Since I was a boy I heard it as a young boy as did other people out Western Sydney. Mark Hartley, Graham Annesley, dozens of other people that we’ve got on record who actually heard the language being spoken.

This is the Darug language? Is there one Darug language or are they many?

Its dialect mate I can speak to different mobs up and down the coast right now including the Wuradjeri. Maadam boong mon, I’ve already said hello to them. All right Bundjalung people yillai yamballai mulla. Gimedai gimedai mega. All right this is language that we know what is being said already amongst us.

So where is Darug spoken now? Who speaks it?

In Sydney, most people.

Most Aboriginal people?

No most white people.

How do your mean?

I live in Gunya Street, I live in Mulgoa Road, I live in Budawin, I live in Bunadoo. What do you think they’re speaking, brother?

They’re Aboriginal place names aren’t they?

Yes man, can I get a ticket to Parramatta? Can I get a ticket to Yagoona? You’ve already got it (Darug) in the vocabulary.

Now you’re teaching white kids aren’t you, your language as well?

Yeah they’re human.

What is their reaction to learning the language?

They love it mate. Seriously, boys that were stealing cars and had stopped going to school have stopped stealing cars and stopped wagging school to come along and listen to the classes. I treat children just like I’m treating you, brother, no different. All right and they respond, man. Kids are amazing mate.

Susan Milne and Greg Stonehouse beside the Water Wall

Now you’ve been involved with a new piece of art at the Castle Hill Library. The Water Wall, you’ve had some involvement with that, haven’t you?

Apparently yeah.

What can you tell me about that? They asked you for the Aboriginal meaning of…?

Some certain things, trees and water and sunshine just simple terms. But that’s what we’re trying to move on from simple terms. Those twenty letter words that you see written in Aboriginal that’s a full sentence. They’ve come out and put these twenty letter words there. People think that’s like these look at that. But it’s all got to broken down into the sentence.

Now they do want to know what these various words mean if you could explain white man?

Mulla, gubbana, tulla mulla, white is tulla, man is mulla, tulla mulla. Gubbana is also a white man but it’s a bad spirit too.

Oh really, now there is some other words. Aboriginal man, what is that?

Balgalman, dullai, daryarn, all in Darug the words used. Daryarn, daioo, duru.

"Let’s talk" - what does that mean?


Cave at Glenhaven 1981

Now tell me a bit about the way of life your people would have lived before white settlement came? Let’s say if you think of a group of your people in The Hills Shire area. How would they have lived there? Would they have hunted and fished?

Of course, brother everything that’s known is what would have gone on. They would have roamed all throughout the area. Sharing, trading with each other. Dancing ceremony, teaching, passing on ceremonies law of their own. You know it was just a utopian society brother. Please Frank, Aboriginal people could run as fast as you saying Bolt, before the British arrived here mate. They ran down emus, ran faster than kangaroos. Olympic standards today for what some of the times these people were doing. You know barefoot and all brother you know. I don’t want to give too much away you know what I mean. I’ve got a lot of people that I’m responsible for and a culture to protect. How long have we been getting sucked from it all. Are there sites? Yes man and there’s no way we’re going tell you where they are.

Tell me a bit about your career as a playwright and acting and producing? How did that all start?

I’ve been writing my whole life mate. I wrote Mad Dog Morgan when I was nineteen years old. I wrote this film called Boxing Day and a friend of mine Kriv Stenders he directed it and co wrote it with myself. He co wrote it some of it and embellished it. We put it to film and I won the Best Film in Canada at the Montreal Film Festival and I won Best Actor same year. It was nominated on the IF Awards on the Gold Coast and a lot more of our people are starting to see it as well. All of our people that have seen it love it. It’s quite an incredibly shot film. It does not seem like there are any cuts in it at all. It seems like a two hour play. Real time so each scene like painstaking. From then I’ve gone on and made about twelve other films since 2007.

So what other films have you been involved with?

Little FishJewboyTwo OutThe ColonyThe First AustraliansRevolutionValhalla. We just shot ValhallaCairo we just shot Cairo at Bourke. The Yarramundi Kids -I’m the voices of some of the puppets and some of the animals from the show. You know I’ve been digging away for twenty years bro. As I said it's pretty difficult to be cast in a black production when you look like me.

Well you’re a very versatile person aren’t you? You’ve done so many things?

Yeah but they’re only just starting to realise it. Who cares I’d been doing it regardless. If it’s versatile then I suppose it’s alright. I want to make my epic.

What’s that going to be?

I don’t know I have to write it.

What sort of things do you get asked to do for people like you know for The Hills Council you gave them the right place names. What kind of other services do you provide?

I’m a musician, actor, playwright, and comedian.

Which way do you use your language to teach?


Is it only school children or is it other people too?

No, no it’s adults too.

Do you have classes?

Yes but they’re not starting back until next year now because we’ve got the last term. We’re pretty busy there’s a lot going from the new year we’ll have Monday class for community elders and people. Yeah that’s been going really well.