18 February, 2015
Aunty Evelyn and Uncle Harold Bates from Menindee in Far Western NSW have been married for close to 57 years.
They got married in a beautiful old sandstone Catholic Church in Wilcannia in 1958.
“In them days we were poor, this woman made a pink dress for me. I didn’t care about them things. As long as I had a wedding ring – the ring is a little worn now but I still have it today,” she said.
Before they got married, Aunty Evelyn worked in the old Wilcannia Hospital washing linen. She used to ride her pushbike to work every morning at 3am with her colleague Mary Reilly.
“In those days, there were no washing machines like today. We had to boil everything in the big copper,” Aunty Evelyn said.
Uncle Harold worked at Glendara station, about 100 kilometres north-east of White Cliffs, which is where he took her to live after they got married.
But it was a story that was almost over before it began. In the early days, while they were courting, Aunty Evelyn moved to Lake Cargelligo with plans to get a job at the doctors surgery. But Uncle Harold followed her there and refused to leave without her. His persistence paid off.
They had two girls and two boys, Cindy, Cheryl, Harold John (Sluggo) and Steven. Today they have 15 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
In their early years of married life, they travelled around working on properties. The last station they worked out was Barraroo, on the eastern side of the Darling River between Wilcannia and Menindee. They eventually moved to Menindee and settled their for good.
Uncle Harold secured work with the Water Commission (now known as State Water) operating machinery for 34 years until he retired.
Aunty Evelyn worked over the years too, with Aboriginal Legal Aid and National Parks.
Significantly, she got involved in the Land Rights Movement with Uncle Harold always by her side at meetings.
“We started back in 1981 and we used to have meetings at the old Menindee Mission on the river. We also went to a lot of meetings around the region.”
The highlight for her was when the Menindee LALC bought a sheep station, Appin, 5 kilometres south of Menindee.
“It was a good feeling when we got Appin.”
Aunty Evelyn was so involved in the Land Council that her legacy continues through both her daughters.
“Cheryl is the Chairperson and Cindy is on the board of Menindee LALC. I’m very proud of them both.”
The Greiner Government abolished the Regional Council – the second tier of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council in the 1990’s. As a result NSWALC took over ownership of Appin, but the Title Deeds were returned back to Menindee LALC last year.
Uncle Harold will be 78 this year, while Aunty Evelyn turns 77 in March – Aunty Evelyn is now retired too.
She doesn’t believe the longevity of her marriage is a fairy tale love story but rather one based on good old-fashioned values.
“We are not romantic at all. We are very old-fashioned.”
However, their youngest daughter Cindy disagrees saying she’s witnessed the romantic side many times.
“Dad always gives her flowers on Mothers Day and puts them in a jar on the kitchen table.”
They celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary at the Menindee Hall nearly seven years ago. Friends and family travelled far and wide to attend the milestone celebration.
“I’m so proud of them, they are still going strong and healthy – love them both,” Cindy said.
Aunty Evelyn believes the key to “everlasting love” is supporting each other.
“You got to give into one another and try and help each other,” she said.