Keith delighted to call Bethanie home

Publish date: 14 April 2024

Born in Bridgetown, it’s taken adventures around the world for Noongar man Keith to end up just a few towns away from where his life began.

He was just 11 when he travelled with his Mum, Dad and sister to the UK.  After a few years of local schooling, Keith joined the Royal Navy at 15, spending years between Devon, Portsmouth and Scotland.

“I was posted on a ship touring around Holland and Sweden, and I was miserable; I was so seasick,” Keith laughed.

Eventually finding his sea legs he was asked to join a guided missile destroyer and in the early 1960s climbed aboard HMS Glamorgan en route to the US and Hawaii.  The ship then sailed to Sydney and having given six years of service, Keith stepped back on Australian soil and knew he was home.

Keith had a number of jobs over the years – including at the Philip Morris cigarette factory in Melbourne – before settling back in Perth and having a family.  He has two sons, two daughters and 13 grandchildren, and considers he was one of the lucky ones.

“I had a good upbringing.  Dad was working on the sawmills in the southwest along with lots of other Aboriginal people,” said Keith.

“We moved from town to town to be wherever the work was, and we were lucky to have been unaffected by political decisions at the time.”

Now living in Bethanie Housing in the Peel region, Keith is now heavily involved with other local Aboriginal elders, meeting with them twice weekly to share yarns, craft and bond after years of disconnection.

“We want our young ones to learn about our way of life and try to help them”, Keith said.  “We have learned a lot of lessons from past generations, and the most important thing I share is to have a good education and get a good job.”

Keith is heartened that Bethanie has developed a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and is proactively seeking participation across the business.

“There has been a lot done for indigenous people in recent years; more than ever,” said Keith. 

“Importantly, more and more Aboriginal people own their land again.

“We all have different views and different opinions, and I am happy that we are getting somewhere now as a people,” he added.

Keith has been part of the RAP Steering Committee since its beginning, and enjoys sharing yarns and experiences.  He hopes more First Nations people will come forward and get involved in the process too. 

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