Noel Blair is a Jinibara elder. The Jinibara people are the registered Native Title Holders for the Woodford area and are comprised of the descendants of Fanny Mason, known as Jowalmel, who was born in the 1840’s at Woodford and Willie McKenzie, known as Wangiramu, born in 1826 near Kilcoy.
"My name is Noel Blair. I came from Cherbourg. My mum was connected to Stradbroke Island and around the Kilcoy and Woodford area through her parents and grandparents. My sister, brother and I grew up on Stradbroke Island, but we moved to Cherbourg to live with my dad and my grandmother in 1950-51.
I stayed in Cherbourg until I left school at the age of 14 and was sent to an island off Gladstone to work as a youngfella. They took us out of school and sent us to work and the money went back to the Protector, the Superintendent of the settlement. I lived on Quoin Island for seven months before I could escape and was sent back to Cherbourg. I ended up getting my exemption and I was free to live like everyone else.
I got married in 1967 and went to work on the railway line from Gladstone to Maryborough. I used to drink quite a lot, go to the pub and get in touch-ups and arguments. My life changed when I started with the Aboriginal legal service. I was involved with the Aboriginal community, police and the legal system. At the legal service, I was a field officer, so I used to go to all the clubs where the blackfellas hung out. I would be there after hours, especially when the clubs closed to to keep an eye on the police and what charges they were issuing blackfellas, where they were going and the condition they were in, whether they were getting bashed and everything else that used to happen to them.
I started off as a field officer, spent time as a committee member, chairman, administrator, manager and ultimately in 2000 became the CEO of the legal service in Murgon near Cherbourg. In September 2001, I went to Brisbane and I got the job as CEO of one of the largest legal services in Australia — 54 staff and 24 lawyers.
I retired in 2004 but I’ve been the chairman of medical centres, board of the legal services, child care agencies, housing services and other community organistions that are too numerous to mention. I’ve been involved in community since 1979.
One of the things I respect most of all was the teaching from the old people like my uncles, my dad, my grandpops. The things that I learned culturally about hunting, sacred sites, stories, I think that prepared me for life. Without that knowledge, I would not have been able to serve people as well. They taught me to help old people. And that’s what we still do today — look out for each other."
BJ Murphy is a Jinibara artist representing the Dungadau clan. Though his foundation includes drawing and wood burning - taught in the customary way by his Uncle Noel - his true passion lies in paint. His contemporary style combines experimentation in color with traditional linework and dotwork. His work reflects his meticulous mind and his love for the land from which he came. He currently resides in Gold Coast but enjoys regular trips to Woodford and Kilcoy for inspiration and for a breath of fresh air, away from city life.