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Under a Bilari Tree I Born

Written by Alice Bilari Smith, Anna Vitenbergs, and Loreen Brehaut


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Alice Bilari Smith lived in the Pilbara, on stations and in the bush, on government reserves and in towns. Narrowly avoiding removal from her family by ‘the Welfare’, life on the stations taught her to cook and launder, sew and clean, shoe horses, chop wood and milk cows. As a young married woman she added mustering, dingo scalping, shearers’ assistant and sheep-yard building to her skills. Alice also grew up in the ways of her country, hunting, cooking and building in the traditional manner. As well as a large family of her own, Alice played an active role in caring for other Aboriginal children and initiated the establishment of a Homemakers Centre in Roebourne. This is Alice’s insightful and inspiring story – the story of a life that is remarkable and yet typical of Australia’s strong country women.

‘... an evocative and powerful Aboriginal voice.’ Aboriginal History

‘The description of Alice’s life in overlapping Aboriginal and European worlds provides ... a unique view of how this Aboriginal woman lived and survived in each.’ JAS Review of Books

‘... a splendid piece of Indigenous oral history.’ Canberra Times

‘... a fascinating insight on an indigenous life lived between the black and white worlds of the North-West.’ The West Australian

'Alice's story captures a vital part of Australia's history and is essential reading for secondary students who want to gain a deeper understanding of the life and experiences of Aboriginal women living in Australia.' Australian Teacher

ISBN 9781925162103 (Paperback)
Formats B Format (198 x 128mm) (Paperback)
Categories History
Books for History Teachers
Indigenous Writing
Mother's Day 2021
Autobiography, Biography & Memoir
Publisher Fremantle Press
Edition 2nd
Pages 236
Rights World
Publication Year Originally published 2002, this edition 2015
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    Loreen Brehaut

    Loreen Brehaut is a New Zealander who lived in Western Australia for eight years while her husband Bill was working for Woodside Energy Ltd. While there she became active recording oral histories and was co-author of Florence Corrigan’s autobiography, Miles of Post and Wire, which was shortlisted for the 1999 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards. Read more

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    Alice Bilari Smith

    Alice Bilari Smith was born at Rocklea Station in the Pilbara in the 1920s. Her mother was a Banyjima woman and her father a white teamster. She was raised by her Aboriginal family and narrowly escaped being removed to Moore River. After her marriage, Alice spent most of her adult years living in the bush and raising a large family. They retained their language and many of their customs, and it was not until 1969 that Alice settled in Roebourne so that her children could attend school. Living in Roebourne, she was a foster mother to fifteen children and a valued member of the community. Alice died on 1 February 2012 at Roebourne District Hospital. Read more

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    Anna Vitenbergs

    Anna was born in Scotland and came to live in the Pilbara where her father was a wharfinger in the 1960s. For some years she and her husband lived abroad and interstate, but they settled in Dampier in the 1980s. Read more