It took me almost 50 years to find my own voice and say exactly what I thought. My father had a nervous breakdown at nineteen—he was the only mechanic when they were breaking up a lot of country at the back of Keith, towards the Coorong. It was called Bruce's Plain and of course this was before trace elements were discovered, long before then. Dad broke up that country driving 24 hours around the clock. He just lay awake waiting for the machinery to break down and he was the only mechanic. So he was packed off to South Africa. Later, if he got up in the morning and said black was white because he hadn't been able to sleep and he had taken numerous whiskies, hot and cold showers, and so on, I learnt to agree, to keep the peace.
My childhood was hard. I was born in Robe, 1948, at Millicent Hospital, only just made it there, in an old tin Ford ambulance--they had to stop and fill up the water all the way there, so I just made it. I started at Kingston, I think, and ended up having to go to Millicent, Mum had me there. Dad was a fisherman, my Grandfather was a fisherman, he was the one who was instrumental in getting the cutting through. My grandfather on Mum's side too--because my Nana was here and my uncle was here, he had a big boat--don't ask me the name of it, I can't think of it now. They all fished. There was a big boatyard--I'm not sure whether they built the boats here--but they had to fix them up, when they came up, when the wind came up.