Lionel Mongta

Lionel Mongta was born in Orbost, Victoria, in 1936. Lionel would have been born at Tilba Tilba, but his mother, Zeta Andy had to go south when she was 6 months pregnant. Tragically, Lionel’s mother was unable to care for him so Nurse Smith cared for Lionel during the first few years of his life. At the age of two Lionel’s mother’s sister, Lizzie Davis (nee Andy) took him to ‘the Pines’, a farm at Central Tilba, where he lived with his mother’s family.

Zeta Andy was born at Potato Point and his father Les Mongta from East Gippsland. They married in Central Tilba in the early 1930s. Lionel’s mother’s father 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.

Lionel recalls camping along the Tuross River at the Lavis’s farm, in the late 1940s picking peas and beans and fishing. Bob Andy, Lionel’s grandfather also camped there, they were ploughmen, and every farm needed them. They used Clydesdale horses to pull the plough, Lionel remembers having the task of picking up the rocks behind them. They would drag the rocks in a sledge type frame made from a fork in a tree. To keep the kids interested in the job, Bob Andy would ask the kids to ‘go and spear some fish for lunch’, so after lunch the kids would work again. Bob Andy told Lionel of how generations of Koori families camped at the same location.

In 1942 at the age of 6, Lionel moved to Moruya, to live with his grandmother’s family the Brierley and Davis’. Throughout his childhood, Lionel travelled regularly between Garland Town and Central Tilba, schooling at Newstead when in Garland town and at Wallaga Lake School when living at Central Tilba. In 1946 Lionel and his brothers, Lyle [dec] and Wally [dec] attended Central Tilba School for two hours. Due to racial segregation the boys were forced to walk daily to the Aboriginal School at Wallaga Lake. It was in Moruya that Lionel first met his sleeper-cutting father; Lionel was 15 at the time.

Lionel often stayed with the Duren and Sutton families in Sydney. Throughout his life Lionel has camped and fished at many places along the coast including Poole’s Point, Tilba Lake, Wallaga Lake, Jamison’s Point, Brou Lake, Whittakers Creek, Corunna Lake, Potato Point and Blackfella’s Point. Lionel continues to live in Bodalla with his wife Mary.

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