UQ gains anthropological research
A FORMER Kyogle man’s friendship with an elderly client has led to the University of Queensland gaining valuable anthropological research.
Grahame Gooding was a Kyogle resident in 1987 and worked for Elders Real Estate in the town when he was given the task of finding a small property for near 90-year-old Caroline Tennant-Kelly.
“She wanted to grow some herbs in her garden,” he said.
“So we found a house on an acre at Ettrick for her.”
During the next couple of years, Mr Gooding did small jobs for Ms Tennant-Kelly and listened to her stories about her life.
“She was born in England and her family came to Australia when she was young,” he recounted.
“She studied music in Bundaberg and then moved to Sydney and the theatre world where she was a playwright.”
Ms Tennant-Kelly went on to become a leading anthropologist, living among Aborigines, with her work spanning the years from 1932 to 1970.
“She was an amazing person for her time,” Mr Gooding said.
“She was a single white woman on her own living with the Aborigines.”
In 1989, Ms Tennant-Kelly died, leaving all her work, notes, photographs and slides in six filing boxes and a large fruit box.
“Her family took her personal possessions and the executor asked me to sell the house,” Mr Gooding said.
“I was left with the boxes.
“I am not trained in that field, but thought there were things in there that would be of interest to people – I just didn’t know who.”
Even after Mr Gooding and his wife Stephanie sold up in Kyogle and moved to Fernleigh the boxes went with them.
“There were 40 to 45 glass slides from the 1930s in the box, along with lots of notes about early Aborigines,” he said. “I knew it had important historical significance.”
Then, nearly 20 years later, Kim de Rijke, a University of Queensland PhD student in anthropology, wrote to The Northern Star asking for anyone who had any information on Ms Tennant-Kelly.
“It was a joyful and exciting day, for the Goodings and us,” Mr de Rijke said.
“We’ve worked in native title in Central Queensland and are acutely aware of the lack of historical Australian Aboriginal ethnographic material for the region.
“We could hardly contain our excitement at the quantum leap this material represents.”
The collection details daily Aboriginal life at Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement in Queensland in 1934.
“Ms Tennant-Kelly recorded kinship practices, traditional ceremonies, language, territorial knowledge and genealogies,” Mr De Rijke said.
“Her research fills large holes for today’s anthropological study.”
The unique collection has been catalogued and recorded and will be donated to the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland.