(Tony Moore – Brisbane Times)
They call them the three wise men.
They are “Goondeen”, which is also the title of a book that gives an alternative reading of the big events in recent Australian history and is aimed at library shelves in Queensland schools.
In Murri language a Goondeen is “a wise fella, a clever fella, a father figure”.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with three wise men – rail and seniors entrepreneur Everald Compton; the man who invented the Murri Court, Uncle Albert Holt; and the premier’s father, Henry Palaszczuk.
Photo: Tony Moore
The three wise men are all south-east Queenslanders of note who all arrived at their place in history through different journeys.
Livewire rail man and National Seniors Australia founding director Everald Compton was born in the little timber town of Linville, north-west of Ipswich.
As a young boy, Mr Compton and his family had to leave Linville when the sawmill closed down and they moved to Toowoomba to begin a new life.
“It pressed upon me, even in my early years, that there is little investment in the bush,” Mr Compton tells author and historian Sophie Church.
Mr Compton’s Goondeen is his boyhood hero, John Flynn, the man who founded the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“In 1912 he looked at the inland of this country and he said we must put a mantle of safety across this continent,” Mr Compton said.
“And he built 20 bush hospitals and he got nurses to go out.”
Mr Compton said working to put the book together taught him a lot.
“I greatly enjoyed working with Albert and Henry. I learned a lot, I really did.”
Former state MP Henry Palaszczuk spent his first three years in German refugee camps with his Polish family after the decimation of Nazi Germany.
His parents, Hipolit and Ludviga Palaszczuk, spent three years during the postwar famine and freezing cold before applying to become one of the 170,000 refugees to come to Australia.
They arrived in 1950 and young Henry Palaszczuk, aged three, began life in Australia at Wacol Migrant Camp. From there he eventually became the region’s state parliamentarian and the father of the state’s premier.
Uncle Albert Holt, who today lives in Inala, grew up on the Aboriginal mission of Cherbourg, formerly known as Barambah, about 250 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, near the town of Murgon.
Mr Holt was the 13th child of Guilema and Albert Holt, who raised their eldest seven children on the banks of the Nandowie Lagoon at Springsure.
It was the local police sergeant who shifted Mr Holt’s parents and his older siblings from Springsure’s Bidgera people lands to a tent at the Baramaba Aboriginal Reserve about 700 kilometres away.
“Instead of being able to be proud of our family and our heritage, we were like mongrel dogs being driven into hiding with our tails between our legs,” he recalled.
After being shamed at school, he became one of Queensland’s first Indigenous police liaison officers and helped to fund the Murri Court, an alternative justice network for Indigenous elders to take part in sentencing Indigenous offenders.
Goodeen: Understanding Australia is an attempt to have three Goondeens – the three wise men – give their view of recent Australian history.
They talk about the end of World War II, Eddie Mabo’s key role in a land rights case in the High Court of Australia, the Cronulla riots of 2005, the Vietnam War, equal pay, the Bicentenary of Australia and Julia Gillard’s 2012 misogyny speech, among 28 issues.
Melbourne historian Sophie Church was asked to interview the three men and compile and combine their different readings of history.
It was Mr Holt who knew of the word Goondeen as a way of describing their combined experiences.
“It’s a Murri word and it means a wise fella, a very wise and respected person,” Ms Church said.
“I asked him if there was an Aboriginal word which somehow encapsulates the meaning and the wisdom that we were hoping to draw out.
“And he said Goondeen.”
Mr Holt explained a Goondeen was a leader.
“He is a fatherly figure and he had power such as being able to bring people along with him almost like hypnotising people,” he said.
He said he too had learned a lot listening to Mr Palaszczuk talk about his life in Australia as a young Polish immigrant.
“I was able to lean what it was like to arrive in a totally new country on the other side of world at age three, your parents not knowing where they were going to live, where they were going to work.
“You had fled terror in the war. And to arrive here and say, ‘how do I fit in and what do I do next?'”
Mr Palaszczuk said his life as a young boy in Australia was shaped by the early loss of his mother.
“My father took over the nurturing role. So in that regard, growing up in that migrant camp and moving across to Inala, it became very difficult to integrate with the Aussies around us,” he said.
“But, the initiative came from the Aussies around us. They came along and became very good friends. And once they became good friends the language barrier started to improve.”
He started doing his father’s income tax assessments when he was 10 years of age.
“And being an interpreter in the stores when we were buying furniture. So I grew up very quickly. Very quickly indeed.”
Queensland University of Technology’s Bill Synott believes Goondeen will become a series of books, perhaps a play.
Goondeen: Three Wise Women is bound to follow the first book, Mr Synott said.
“The future is to look at three women who represent the same backgrounds as the three men,” he said.
“An elder in the Indigenous community, a child from a migrant family and then a third more established type of figure who has lived in ideally the same city.
“They can tell of the events which affected them in three ‘different countries’.”