Saturday, February 24, 2024  

15 April 2002 and 21 January 2007


Uncle Max Eulo’s face is associated in Sydney with ‘Smoking and Welcome Ceremonies’. He remembers going to the Block in 1973.  He used to ‘live off the land’ but his adventures took him to many towns in New South Wales and even overseas to America and New Zealand.  He says, ‘I’ve had a good life.’

Uncle Max, can you give us a bit of background about yourself?

Uncle Max: I was born in the Darling River in Bourke. I had five brothers and five sisters. None of us stolen.  We were all reared up in Enggonia, about 60 miles from Bourke going towards the Queensland border. My mother used to carry water from white people’s tap to get our clothes washed ready for school.  She dried the clothes in the bush, no clothesline, she dried it that way. My Dad was a stockman and drover.  He was a drover from one station to another. In Queensland, they call them ‘Ringers’.* 

You didn’t really need money then when you live off the land. But I wanted to see other towns so I was skinning, boning kangaroo to make a few bob, did stock work too. I’d roll my swag up and that’s what it is. When I was a boxer, they called me ‘Snow White’ [a tease because of his very dark skin].

Uncle Max Eulo can you tell us some of your memories about the Block or some of the experiences that you have had.

Uncle Max Eulo: When I came down here [the Block] in 1973, I went to Bendalong Haven [Marrickville], but I left Bendalong Haven after a month and I got back on to the grog again. I met up with Judy and we used to live in Louis Street here [the Block] and I found everyone really good and friendly. I got on good with the whole lot of them. All the houses were built up then along here. I used to drink around here a lot but I never got into a fight with any of them. I just like it, you know. That’s why every time I go home to the bush, I come back here to Redfern and  [see] the old friends I used to drink with. Some of them are gone now, passed on. But I knocked the drink off in 1975.

Uncle Max can you tell us some of the stories that happened during the time you spent living here in Redfern on the Block.

Uncle Max Eulo: Wasn’t much in them days. Before I knocked the drink off, I used to live here and I found the people really good. I used to go to church a lot before I knocked the drink off.

I used to sleep at the Presbytery next to Fr Ted’s Church and another place too, the Black Theatre where a lot of other people drink there.  I got to know Fr Ted really well then.  He was a really good bloke.  You wouldn’t find a better bloke than him around Sydney. He just loved Aboriginal people.*

You had some good experiences in your acting career too and travelling. Do you want to tell us a bit about that.

Uncle Max Eulo: Oh yes. I was working with the disabled people then, for fourteen years I spent there. I met an Italian girl in a wheelchair and we went to Hayman Island for a holiday, a week up there. That’s when I first had a ride in a big jet aeroplane [ANSETT]. I have been getting around a bit. Been over to New Zealand and I went to America in 1989. I found it good too. Doing a bit of travelling since I knocked the drink off.

There was an American girl I met. She kept giving me pizza and said, ‘You’re my soul mate.’ We had a cup of coffee at the Aboriginal café in Redfern. She was staying at Manly at the time.  She kept talking about the Outback and said she wanted to see it. She rented a car up to Dubbo.  I had to watch her drive a bit.  In America, they drive on the right lane. She stayed for four days. We cooked her emu and kangaroo. Later she invited me to the States. They [friends from the Block] said a prayer for me [at Sr Pat’s place in Caroline Street).  I flew from Connecticut to Arizona, a bit warmer up there. I told stories there and did some dance.  They never see black ones [from Australia].  [American] Indian people invited me for dinner. They gave me an Indian rug. When I got home, I found I made the equivalent of A$2,000.*

I also went to New Zealand with the Christian mob up the Crossroads. Maori women cooked hangi [ground oven].  Met a little friend who took me to Wellington. I enjoyed it down there too but it was too cold.

What is the special feeling that you get when you come back down to the Block, Uncle Max?

Uncle Max Eulo: Oh I get a good feeling, you know, they all respect me and call me 'Uncle' from kids right up to elder people. Even white people call me ‘Uncle’ and I figure really they see the good side of me and they make me feel real good.

Do you feel that Island culture is still here around The Block?

Uncle Max Eulo: Yes, yes. When the event came up, everyone [Torres Strait Islander people] all joins in, you know. They are not far away from us.

You do a bit of work with the Tribal Warriors too. Do you want to tell us a bit about that?

Uncle Max Eulo: Oh yes. I am on the committee of the Tribal Warriors and go to meetings sometime. We have got that bus going around Australia now. Got one bloke who couldn’t read or write and pulled through. It is going round Australia now. Will be a big thing when it gets back too. The people down there are very good, that Christian mob, Daniel and his wife. I get on good with them and their kids, yes.

You do a special thing too, as an elder here in the community. Can you tell us what you’ve been doing?

Uncle Max Eulo: I’ve been welcoming people onto this land on behalf of the Gadigal  tribe. I do my smoke ceremony, cleanse the land and the people around us. I do a lot of that around here. I first started doing it when the Pope [Pope John Paul II] came to Australia.

I am 65 now. I enjoy life better since I knocked off cigarette smoking four years ago. I feel a lot better. I do smoking [ceremony] on the ship [Tribal Warrior cruise ship]. At Circular Quay, I do a lot of basking and I meet people from all over the globe.  They ask me questions.  I am a full blood --- Badgeti, a bit of that from the Queensland side too.  There’s a little town in Queensland called Eulo.  They took that name from my granny.*

What do you think of the Block now, and its future?

Uncle Max: It’s all right after they built up the [Redfern] Community Centre and it will be good once they start building the houses [for Aboriginal people] again.*

Thank you, Uncle Max Eulo.

Interviewers: Kaylene Simon (2002) and Deborah Wall* (2007)
    9 July 2015  
Archibald Prize finalist

Adam Hill
(aka Blak Douglas)

Smoke and mirrors
(Uncle Max Eulo)
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