Oral History Project


"My father married an aboriginal woman, my mother, and funny enough his sister, Valda, married an aboriginal man, George Holton. But George was very dark skinned. I remember as a young boy asking him why he was so dark and he said that he simply tanned well - but he was shiny black ... He was of the Holtons of Armidale and my mother descends from ... Dr Ellis, a witchdoctor who worked for the Macarthurs. The Macarthurs proclaimed him King of the Aboriginal people of the Illawarra so I'm actually descended from a convict and a king!"



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Press the play button to listen to Les Bursill talking about his life from chilhood to present day and his work in the Army, for major Australian publications, as a lecturer, counsellor, author, in the Public Service, his work with Aboriginal inmates and his influential role as an Aboriginal archaelogist and anthropologist.




Les Bursill was awarded the Order of Australia medal on Australia Day, 2010.


TITLE: Les Bursill / Life Story
INTERVIEWER: Carol McKirdy
INTERVIEWEE: Les Bursill / Guest Lecturer
DATE AND LOCATION OF INTERVIEW: Engadine 26.3.2010
LENGTH OF RECORDING: 1:17
LANGUAGE: English
ACCESS RESTRICTIONS: Nil
ORIGINAL RECORDING HELD AT: Interviewer’s home
RECORDING FORMAT: Digital mp3
KEY THEMES: Happy childhood / poor extended aboriginal family / 4 years of age-serious head injury /NSW state representative swimmer / schooling in Hurstville area, Sydney / disruptive-left school at end of second year of High school
Parents stopped him from becoming a plumber / parental mason connections secured job/training in printing industry / Compositor-Sydney Morning Herald & Financial Review – digital, computerisation / eventually overseer / joined military police / 2 years in army – aptitude test SQ1+
38 years old went to university as mature age student / loved university / studied Archaeology then Anthropology for Masters / fascinated by study of early human origins / Fisher Hunter Gatherer ecology / excellent results / started Doctorate but first wife Barbara died and Les suffered cancer so had to abandon studies / married to Barbara for 38 years / 3 children / married second wife, Robyn Archer at age 58 years
1989 joined Public Service / Probation and Parole Officer / Drug and Alcohol Court Assessment Program – Wollongong courts / Department of Corrective Services / state coordinator for Drug and Alcohol Programs for Drug and Alcohol affected inmates mainly of indigenous origin / Aboriginal Counselling/trained counsellors / employed aboriginal Corrective Services counsellors in NSW gaols / published support material for aboriginal people
Lecturer, Sydney University - Medical faculty / NSW Police Westmead – lecturer mainly senior officers / St George and Sutherland Regional College – anthropology / TAFE NSW Sutherland College – Child Studies / Charles Sturt University
Studies – finds examples of Aboriginal culture in Sydney Basin / artwork – Dreamings – history within art / PEDS – PAINTINGS, ENGRAVINGS, DRAWINGS, STENCILS / 2001 Centenary medal, aboriginal industry / Aboriginal sites in Sutherland Shire-300+ sites / Lionel Baker / 1995 wrote book on Dharawal nation with Mary Jacobs and co-authors / Aboriginal Land Council approved / publisher Doryanthes journal / Sutherland Shire virtual museum / 2009-Teaching/Heritage award / 2010-Order of Australia Medal
SUMMARY: No
TRANSCRIPT: No
BRIEF HISTORY: No