Uncle Les Townsend, Aniwan Elder of the Uralla District

An Account from Les Townsend, Aniwan Aboriginal Elder of the Uralla District

According to the book titled “Everywhere I Go” written by Myles Lalor and Jeremy Beckett (2000), Myles claims that his Great Great Grandfather was named King Billy (Aniwan Aboriginal Elder of the Uralla District).  Myles is on my family tree, so both of us would have the same relationship to King Billy.

The tokenistic kingship entailed the leading Elder of a clan being presented with a brass plaque mounted to a belt.  This particular practice was implemented throughout most parts of Australia.  

During the 1800’s, the whole idea of this exercise was to keep law and order within the ranks of the Aboriginal people by the Europeans.  As a result the King (Aboriginal Elder) was the keeper of the peace within his own clan plus the colonists, in other words he was a bridge builder between the two nations.  There were several groups of Aniwan custodians within the Uralla District.  One particular clan was allocated 100 acres of land on the banks of the Kentucky Creek on the 12.12.1886, two kilometers west of Uralla.  The said land was revoked in 1936.  The residents were moved onto an Aboriginal reserve in which comprised of 14 acres on the west end of Uralla, hence the village was named West End.  There was approximately 12 shacks utilized by 15 families.  The dwellings were constructed of corrugated iron, plus second grade waste timber.  There was no running water or electricity. Gully springs were the main supply of water, candles were utilized for lights.

There was a tragic house fire on the reserve on 18.10.1965, where seven people were incinerated. After this happening the occupants of West End gradually relocated within the town of Uralla.  

The 1970’s were the last years of macro discrimination (meaning open and blatant segregations, such as Aboriginals weren’t allowed service in hotels, theatres, swimming pools and higher education). We now live in the micro model, where discrimination is almost hidden.  However, the Aniwan people of Uralla (including myself) were fortunate to attend the central school plus live in the town, as there was very little, if any, discrimination from the mainstream townspeople and teacher.  This particular harmony was achieved by our clan marrying into the mainstream of Uralla, therefore, we are related to most of the residents within our establishment.  

Uralla – comes from the Aboriginal word “oorala” meaning meeting place or camp.