Tilba Tilba / Central Tilba

The Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba area is in close proximity to the Wallaga Lake community. Many Aboriginal people’s stories about Tilba relate to employment in the agricultural industry and the presence of Gulaga Mountain to the west of the village. Unfortunately, unlike other public schools across the shire, Central Tilba School would not, for a period of time at least, allow Aboriginal students to attend, as described below.

Vivienne Mason’s grandfather Edward ‘Ted’ Stewart was born at Tilba Tilba. He married Muriel Coolie from Nelligen. Ted’s father was Christy Stewart and mother Emily Walker. Emily Walker’s father was Neddy Walker from Wallaga Lake. The Stewart family left the Tilba Tilba area following the timber industry to Annandale, Sydney, where they stayed. Every year the families ‘trek back to ancestral land…to maintain their connection’. Grandfather Stewart passed away when he was 50 years old. He always sang the name ‘Tilba Tilba’, that was his country and he died before he could take the family back [Vivienne Mason 5.1.2006].

Billy Thomas was working for the Bates family in Tilba Tilba [Valerie Andy 20.12.2005].

The rocks behind Tilba were home to wild goats. During the 1960s at Christmas time Ted Thomas and Percy Mumbler would shoot a few goats for Christmas dinner back at Wallaga Lake. Someone would dress up as Santa and give toys to all the kids. Eileen Morgan once said that the gold lost during the Mystery Bay saga was hidden in the rocks behind Tilba or at the bottom of Wallaga Lake ‘in a pickle jar’ [Chris Griffiths’ consult].

During World War Two when Mary was 5 years old, she walked to Tilba Tilba from Wallaga Lake with her Aunt to do some shopping. Mary had one penny and her aunt told her to save it, ‘put it in the bank’, rather than spend it. Mary slotted the money into a hole in the side of the bank! [Mary Duroux 6.2.2006].

Aboriginal people worked in the Central Tilba Cheese Factory [Chris Griffiths’ consults 16.3.2006].

Valerie Andy and her family have always shopped at Pam’s Store in Tilba Tilba [Valerie Andy 20.12.2005].

Residence of Wallaga Lake would regularly, and continue to visit Tilba Tilba to shop at Pam’s Store and drink at the Dromedary Hotel, Central Tilba. Glenis Kelly remembers dances at the Central Tilba Hall. The usual travelling route between Tilba and Wallaga was through the corn paddock. The Tilba Tilba Sports Ground was located at the Mystery Bay Velodrome and was well used by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal families. Lionel Mongta played football there. [Chris Griffiths’ consults 16.3.2006].

Beryl Brierley’s father, Ernest Andy and his brother Robert ‘Bob’ Andy played in the Wallaga Lake Football team. They were never beaten. Beryl recalls seeing them play at the Tilba Tilba Football field [Beryl Brierley 12.5.2006].

Beryl’s mother tried to enrol her children into the Central Tilba Public School. ‘……They said we were not allowed. I did not know until years later that they were prejudice against Aboriginal people, kids and all. We were well known in the area, the Andy family, but the kids had to go to Wallaga Lake every day for school, all the Aboriginal kids went to Wallaga Lake School…” [Beryl Brierley 19.12.2005].

In 1946 Lionel and his brothers, Lyle [dec] and Wally [dec] attended Central Tilba Public School for two hours. On that day the manager of Wallaga Lake complained to the principal of Central Tilba School because he did not wish for his own children to be attending school with ‘three back kids’. The boys then made the daily walk from Central Tilba, where they lived, to Wallaga Lake School, to be schooled with other Aboriginal children. The three brothers attended Wallaga Lake School for the next two years [Lionel Mongta 2.1.2006].

As a child Lionel lived on the veranda of the Thomson’s wooden farmhouse. He lived there with Ted and Lizzie Davis; Lizzie made butter, whilst Ted worked as a farm hand for Mr Thompson [Lionel Mongta 2.1.2006].

Many families from Wallaga Lake worked in the Tilba area for the Bates and Diblon families, including Albert Solomon, Lionel Mongta and Ted Thomas. People would work chipping bracken fern and milking cows. Tilba was not seen as a racist town, the Bates family in particular showed good will to Aboriginal people [Chris Griffiths’ consults 16.3.2006].

Beryl Brierley was born in the vicinity of Millers farm, Central Tilba in 1932, her grandfather Robert Andy worked here clearing the paddocks, cutting bracken for cow pastures. Beryl’s eldest sister Patricia Andy was born at the base of Gulaga Mountain. In the school holidays, Beryl and her brothers and sisters would walk to Mystery Bay and Tilba Lake to go prawning and collecting muttonfish. White clay would be collected from Mystery Bay and used for painting fences and fireplaces. Beryl recalls walking with her sister-in-law Valerie Andy [who was married to Bob Andy, Berly’s brother], from Tilba to Bermagui to go to the pictures [Berly Brierley 19.12.2005].

Lionel’s maternal grandfather was Bob Andy, a well-known tracker and his maternal grandmother was Mary Ellen Piety, an Aboriginal midwife who worked at the Corkhill’s farm in Tilba Tilba. Mary Ellen was trained as a midwife by Mrs Corkhill, a nurse who never saw winter. She spent the Tilba winter in England and the English winter in Tilba. Later in life Mary Ellen lived at Wallaga Lake [Lionel Mongta 1.2.2006].

Miller’s was at the base of Gulaga Mountain. Robert Andy, Beryl Brierley’s grandfather, worked there cutting bracken [Beryl Brierley 19.12.2005].

Amelia ‘Millie’ Andy was born at Central Tilba in 1928; delivered by her grandmother Mary Ellen Andy [nee Piety]. Her place of birth was pointed out to Maureen by a close family member who said that her mother Millie was born on a women’s site in the local area [Maureen Davis 15.12.2005].

The Pines’ was ‘home base’ for Beryl as a child. From here she followed her ‘gran’ Mary Ellen Piety to different farms, picking and doing odd jobs. They would do half a day on one farm and walk to another farm in the Tilba area to work in the afternoon. Mary Ellen worked until she was 80, picking all around the Tilba area. Throughout the mid 1900s Elizabeth Andy ‘Lizzie’ worked at Reeds, whilst Lizzie’s brother, Beryl’s father Ernest Andy worked next door at McCall. Both farms were in Tilba. In the 1940s Beryl Brierley worked at the Dromedary Hotel, Central Tilba [Beryl Brierley 12.5.2006].

In 1939 Lionel Mongta moved from Victoria to Central Tilba with his aunt [mother’s sister] Lizzie Andy. They lived and worked at ‘The Pines’ dairy farm. The family lived off a combination of bush and farm food. Lionel’s brother Wally was born at ‘The Pines’, as was Jenny Parsons and Marie Andy [Lionel Mongta 1.2.2006].

Gulaga (Mt Dromedary), Najanuka (Little Dromedary Mt) and Tilba.
Gulaga (Mt Dromedary), Najanuka (Little Dromedary Mt) and Tilba.

Taken from “Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People”. View the full study

Excerpt from "Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People", 2006. Story Contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.