As I write Berenice Walters’ biography I am finding it an interesting study on how people’s attitudes and personalities change throughout their life.
Not only did she go from a shy, insecure young woman to one of strength and forthrightness when it involved her beloved Dingo, but her story is also one of changing attitudes to the Australian Aboriginal people.
An example of how her attitude, based on society’s thinking changed to one based on learning, is demonstrated at first in a letter to her mother and later a paper she wrote following her research on the history of the dingo.
The letter is dated 12th March 1957. She is telling her mother about a group of aborigines staying with them while doing boomerang throwing demonstrations and selling crafts at the local show.
As was the way in the 1950s, she refers to them as ‘darks’ and is critical of them for not pushing themselves with their craft work.
Nearly two decades later, while researching the history of the Dingo, a new respect for the Aboriginal people and the treatment meted out by the white settlers grew with earnest.
Her research included studying the original diaries of governors and explorers. The horror of the thoughtlessness of the Europeans was the driving force behind many of her papers. In one she wrote:
I felt unutterable shame on learning of the atrocities to which the Aborigines were subjected; the poisoning of their flour and water, the callousness in dispossessing them of their land, their life blood; the wanton murder of whole tribes that had no weapons to compare with guns; and the ignorance, self-righteousness and greed of the Europeans generally which blinded them to the needs of the former owners.
A one stage she commented on the need to have this history included in school curriculums. I agree with her views totally.