The Family Stories of the Behrendts

behrendtAt the result of the Bolt trial the Left cheered the defeat of free speech. Fairfax did what Fairfax does with a dumb headline, “In black and white, Andrew Bolt trifled with the facts”. Below it, David Marr did what David Marr does:

Freedom of speech is not at stake here. Judge Mordecai Bromberg is not telling the media what we can say or where we can poke our noses. He’s attacking lousy journalism. He’s saying that if Andrew Bolt of the Herald Sun wants to accuse people of appalling motives, he should start by getting his facts right.[1]

Or, as Boris Pasternak said, “Men who are not free always idealise their bondage.”

Bolt was attacked inside and outside the court for his journalistic adventures in unspinning White Aboriginal genealogies. When Professor Larissa Behrendt (above) put aside her Prada handbag and entered the witness box she made some interesting statements. Her family story is appealing, highly publicised — and badly researched. In the early 1980s her father, Paul Behrendt, had uncovered the Aboriginal family history of his mother using both documentary and oral-history evidence.

With likely changes to the Constitution to recognise indigenous Australians, the family history of a leading indigenous academic, writer and activist is worth reconsidering. Andrew Bolt’s disputed references to what he supposed were the family’s German antecedents were one of the most interesting parts of the trial so it may be useful to look at the family’s Aboriginal family story, and its German one.

To save confusion for the reader I will hereafter refer to Paul Behrendt and Professor Larissa Behrendt individually as Paul and Larissa.

Larissa’s witness statement, read in court, sets the scene: “My paternal grandmother, Lavinia Dawson, was part of the Stolen Generation. I have copies of the record of her removal from her family by the Aborigines Protection Board. Lavinia was taken when she was about 12.” Although she talks of “copies”, the file, in the name of Lavinia Boney, is a simple, single-page document.[2] It does not give her age, Larissa says twelve but Paul, basing his calculation on the consistent ages given in his mother’s wedding and death certificates, suggested she was fourteen: her birth year would have been 1903. She was of mixed descent.

Larissa talked of her grandmother as a member of the Stolen Generation and ignores the welfare implications of her story. The document gives two reasons for her removal from an Aboriginal camp in Walgett, and both suggest her involvement in the decision: “the girl’s own request & to get away from camp life”.

For most of his life Paul knew nothing of his mother’s antecedents. He was three years old when she died in 1942; his English-born father Henry died in 1979. At the beginning of the 1980s, when he was in his early forties, he set out to trace what he suspected and hoped was an Aboriginal genealogy. In the background was a profoundly politicised rewriting of Australian colonial history and a fluid middle-class restating of what Aboriginality was and who Aborigines were. At another time having an interestingly diverse family tree with English, German and Aboriginal forebears might have caused some angst and selective pruning. Times have changed, but the blades of the pruning shears are still sharp.

He began with his parents’ marriage certificate and his mother’s death certificate. A search had not revealed a birth certificate. On the documents her name was spelt as Lavinia and Lavena, and the confusion would continue during her life. In the newspaper memoriam notice placed by her husband her name is given as Lavena and, to be consistent, I will refer to her by that name even when the source documents are at variance.

Lavena was born in Coonamble, New South Wales. Her father was listed on both documents as Henry Dawson, hotel keeper. The marriage certificate gives her mother’s name as Mary Brown, deceased. On the death certificate the name of her mother is “unknown”. Paul’s next step was to travel to north-western New South Wales and he searched, unsuccessfully, for information about her and her family. The family names meant nothing to people he spoke with. Surprising really, as the name Dawson should be fairly well known in the area. In Lightning Ridge there was a Dawson’s Store from 1960 to 1980, and Paul first travelled to the area in 1980.[3]

The search became much clearer when an acquaintance sent him a copy of an Aborigines Protection Board file from 1917 for a girl who appeared to be his mother.[4] Though her family name was Boney, she was the daughter of Alfred Dawson and Mary Lance. There was no explanation of why she was carrying a different family name from those of her parents. The child was an orphan. Her mother was dead and her father, a carrier and presumably European, had disappeared.

The most exciting discovery was to find that his mother had a younger brother called Sonny Boney, seven years old in 1917. In 1982, “after a lot of pieces had fallen into place”, Paul again drove north to Coonamble, looking for a man he had met on his first visit. When he found him he reintroduced himself as a “first cousin”. The man was the son of the late Elwood Boney, a child of Billy and Maria Boney. Paul believed Elwood was the boy called Sonny on his mother’s file, and spoke of him as Elwood “Sonny” Boney. This might have been an error: the right family, the wrong man.

Sonny in 1917 was seven years old, Elwood would have been about twelve, much closer to the age of his sister. Sonny may have been another Boney child who was born, lived a little, and then died without anyone taking much notice. It wasn’t easy being a child of Billy and Maria.

Paul’s meeting with the family led to an incident which Larissa used in her prize-winning novel of the Stolen Generations, Home. At an academic conference in 2006 she spoke of the factual encounter which became one of the most poignant scenes in her book, the hostile reaction her father received from his new-found aunt:

And the reason why the woman at the door was so angry with him was because she had been married to Sonny Boney and he had died 3 months before my father had arrived and he had been looking for his sister his whole life. Although once she got over that initial anger she became very supportive of my Dad and welcomed him in, I thought that was a real tragedy.[5]

That wasn’t the real tragedy.

The author then went on to read from her novel. This is how the moment is encountered by school children being taught the history of the Stolen Generations. Here the woman is speaking:

“He missed your mother every day, he did. You could see it in his eyes, the sadness.” She was looking at the photographs as Bob [fictionalised Paul Behrendt] glanced sideways at her. She seemed softer now.

She turned to Bob and tilted her head. “You know, he told me once that he sometimes felt that she was within his reach, that sometimes he could swear she was standing behind him, and only by turning around to face the thin air could he prove himself wrong. He wasn’t a superstitious man but he told me she used to visit him in his dreams.”

Marilyn was quiet for a moment. Then she snapped, breaking her own thoughts, “That’s why you should’ve knocked on our door three months ago.”[6]

In both the non-fiction and fiction versions the chronology has been distorted, and the most touching element is phoney. Elwood Boney died in a Redfern hospital in August 1978. Paul Behrendt contacted his family four years later in 1982.[7]

Paul died in 2006, an acknowledged expert in Aboriginal genealogical research and oral histories. He was involved with Link-Up, a group which reunites Aborigines with lost family members. He was chairman of the Aboriginal Studies Association and, as an indigenous academic, began an Aboriginal studies program at the University of New South Wales.

That literary encounter with his aunt was at the beginning of the decade and by its end the family story seems to have been solidly established. Paul’s work in finding his mother’s lost past and reconnecting with her family was seen as an excellent example of how oral history can be used to enrich Aboriginal histories. Paul taught and praised his own methods: “The only way to get the full story is to talk to people who were involved. You can’t rely on Protection Board documents.”[8]

Searching for memories of his mother, Paul interviewed a range of people including his aunt and his grandmother’s nephew, and a cousin of his mother. At Dungalear Station, outside Walgett, the elderly cousin, who had played there with Lavena, showed Paul the exact spot where her wurley had been when she was removed by the authorities. She pointed to the tree where they had built a cubby-house all those years before, “Surprisingly, some of the wood was still there.” Just as surprisingly, “She showed me the graveyard where my grandmother is buried.” In fact his grandmother is buried at Brewarrina, some 130 kilometres away.

An interview, published in 1989, brought together the principal elements of the story he had assembled:

I’ve heard a couple of conflicting things. What I have established is that her mother died not long after her brother was born. As happened in the old days, she went to live with her mother’s brother, Billy Lance. Who was according to the old laws, compelled to look after her. There were quite a few people living in the wurley at the time and the conditions were such that it gave the Aborigines Protection Board an excuse to take her into their charge.[9]

Why did no one tell him the truth?

The people he spoke with may have told the friendly, olive-skinned stranger from the city stories they thought he wanted to hear, or given back embroidered renditions of the tales he told them.[10] Larissa, a senior law academic, does not appear to have checked his work or continued researching her family. One of the major and most sympathetically drawn characters in Home is based on a person whose stories should have been more carefully examined. The oral history, which has built the family history, rests on documentary error. The oral history testimony Paul collected was the echo of a mistake he had picked up from the Aborigines Protection Board (APB) files.

These documents are simple, single-page sheets of paper consisting of two parts divided into sections with room for brief hand-written comments. Personal details are collected at the time the authorities first deal with the child or young person and then future placements and further relevant details are noted. These pages are extraordinarily useful, but need checking—especially personal details which can be cross-checked with other APB files and ordinary documents like marriage and death certificates. Unchecked errors on Lavena’s file have been built into the Behrendt family story, which is the basis of their identity and their involvement with Aboriginal Australia and the rest of us.

Primary details in the file are wrong. In 1917 Lavena was not an orphan. Her mother was not dead and she had a living stepfather. The dead Mary Lance in the APB file and oral history tale was the very much alive Mary, or more often Maria, Boney. She died in 1964 aged eighty-six. Though called Lance on the APB file she was known as Boney because she was “married” to William “Billy” Boney, and Lavena carried his surname. He died in 1952.

The Behrendts believed that Lavena only had a single sibling. In 1917 Lavena had at least two: Elwood and Kathleen. In the years after she left the Aboriginal camp, Billy Boney and Maria Lance would go on to have other children, other candidates for saving by the APB.

Larissa has written of her grandmother’s removal as being undertaken “under the Aboriginal removal policy”.[11] She came from a “family” with serious problems and though its members accumulated seven files only Lavena’s and two others are available for study.

Lavena’s brother Elwood was seventeen years old in 1922 when he was helped because he was “In destitute circumstances and requiring assistance”. He was found work and the file follows his employment activities until the final note written almost three years later: “Left there [his then employer] 31.8.25 & took employment with Mr F. Marshall ‘Aloombah’ Croyon [near Walgett]. Receiving own wage and permanent job.” When the APB finished contact with him he was a young adult, working in his own part of the country—and this is a racist, genocidal “Aboriginal removal policy”? In Home Larissa has fictional Sonny sent out to work: “he was to be paid two shillings a week, with the money to be placed in the care of the manager. He would never see this income.”[12]

It is unclear how Paul was able to locate his uncle’s family without seeing this document. His mother’s file said she had a brother named Sonny Boney. Elwood Boney’s file said he had a nineteen-year-old sister named Lavinia. There are a lot of people called Boney, so surely Paul needed to see his uncle’s file to connect? If he did use it, he never mentioned that his uncle had also received fruitful assistance from the Protection Board.

In 1927 Lavena’s younger sister Kathleen was taken into care. She was fifteen when “apprenticed out to service”, to an employer in Angledool. Kathleen was already pregnant, and some months later went to Sydney to have the child, which died. Later she returned to the same employer. In 1929 she lost another child, got married, and died in a sulky accident in Angledool Aboriginal Station, where she was presumably living with her Aboriginal husband. She was only seventeen years old.[13]

The Protection Board intervened when Lavena wanted to leave the Aboriginal camp, when Elwood was destitute, when Kathleen was pregnant. We know little enough of their lives, but the real missing people in these stories are Lavena’s stepfather, their father Billy Boney, and their mother  Maria Lance.

Larissa, a Kamilaroi and Yualawuy woman, has written passionately of her links with the land and through them her grandmother:

If I think of my traditional land, the land of the Kamillaroi, the areas of Lightening (sic) Ridge, Brewarrina and Coonamble, I think of the part of Redbank Mission where my grandmother was born or Dungalear station, on the road between Walgett and the Ridge, where the Aborigines Protection Board removed her from her family.

But Larissa did not know of her grandmother’s mother, half-brothers and sisters who lived on that land. And Paul, collecting oral histories of his family, was not told that one of his mother’s half-sisters was still alive, reportedly until 2000.

Neither Paul nor Larissa recognised that Paul’s grandmother, Maria Boney, was a published storyteller whose tales are used today to keep Yuwaalaraay traditional culture alive. One of her tales had a beginning that should have excited the oral historian, “My old mother told me this story.”

Maria’s stories, transcribed by Roland Robinson, were published in Aboriginal Myths and Legends (1977) and The Nearest the White Man Gets (1989). The latter book came out the same year as Paul appeared in a book of interviews about the Stolen Generations; in bookshops the two volumes may have sat side by side. Maria was fully credited for her stories and is referenced in academic papers and cultural teaching aids. On AustLit, the internet literature database, she has her own author page.

We know what Maria looked like. In 1954 a young anthropologist, Ruth Fink (now Ruth Fink Latukefu), stayed at Brewarrina for four months. In a recent memoir of her visit she recalls “old Maria Boney” as a perpetual pipe-smoker and accomplished speaker of Gamilaroi. A collection of photos she took at the time has been deposited with the Brewarrina Aboriginal Museum and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Amongst the images are those of Maria and her dancing son Archie (born about 1921).

In the Bolt courtroom Larissa claimed that her grandmother Lavena “had an Aboriginal mother and was brought up by her Aboriginal father”. That claim should have been challenged in the court. The APB file names her father as a white man, “Alfred Dawson, Carrier, address not known”. Possibly, Lavena herself supplied her father’s name. Nine years later, on her marriage certificate, he became a hotel licensee called Henry Dawson—her mother comes off as Mary Brown, deceased. In the first instance a fourteen-year-old girl is communicating with a welfare officer and remembering what she has probably heard. On the wedding document a twenty-three-year-old is also searching her memories. Neither Paul nor Larissa seems to have seriously tried to find Paul’s grandfather, an errant white man. The missing individual, Alfred or Henry Dawson, carrier or hotel keeper, may have been Cobb & Co agent and hotelkeeper Arthur Dawson.

Lavena Boney lived in the Aboriginal camp on Dungalear station; Arthur Dawson was the licensee of Gooraway Hotel, on Dungalear station. It was a Cobb & Co staging post on Walgett Road, and Dawson ran the hotel from 1898 to 1911.[14] He was, in a manner of speaking, a carrier and a hotel keeper and he had gone away. The first name is different, the surname is consistent, and the descriptions fit. He had left Walgett when Lavena was about eight. He is probably the man in the documents.

Lavena claimed Coonamble as her birthplace, and it was also where her stepfather Billy Boney was born. Her brother Elwood was born in Pilliga and they would live in Walgett, Maria Lance’s birthplace. There is a certain logic in using the children’s birthplaces, Coonamble in 1903 for Lavena and Pilliga in 1905 for Elwood, to trace the journey of the Aboriginal couple at the beginning of last century from Coonamble to Pilliga then to Walgett. The two children were born at some distance from Mr Dawson and his pub. When the family arrived at Walgett, Arthur Dawson would have been one of the best-known identities in the district and would have been a familiar presence during Lavena’s early childhood. Paul and Larissa present an idealised portrait of Lavena before she was removed from the Aboriginal camp. The printed part of the APB form asks where she was living in childhood and who was looking after her. The hand-written response is simply “Dungalear Camp Walgett”. Paul’s untrustworthy oral-based history says that after her mother’s death she was looked after by her uncle, Billy Lance. When Lavena was born he would have been aged about fourteen.[15] She may have been an abandoned kid, fending for herself, teased, brutalised, bullied and mistreated for being “white”. It is entirely possible that the child had been told, and believed, that the white man Dawson was her real father.

The file error which turned Lavena into an orphan may be a lie she told “to get away from camp life”—to escape misery and promiscuity, sexual abuse and violence. Larissa has written of the “psychological, physical, and sexual abuse suffered under state care”—she might well have been describing the life of her grandmother in the Aboriginal camp. Later, Lavena would not be mentioned as their child on Maria’s and Billy’s death certificates.

Paul described a fantasy Aboriginal existence of old laws and family bonds. He was not an initiated man, and he knew nothing of the real laws and deep secrets of Aboriginal life. The benefits of escaping from the camp for a high-spirited fourteen-year-old would have included adventure, personal safety, and some freedom. Lavena appears to be a woman who made her own choices. For the APB her initial family name was Boney, and she chose the name Dawson. Artie Dawson at the pub may even have shown kindness to the “half-caste” Aboriginal kid playing in the dust. If she remembered him and believed he was her real father the decision to carry his name may have represented a personal yearning, independence and a symbolic break with Aboriginal life. It was her stepfather’s name she chose not to carry, and her mother’s name she chose to forget. If at any time she had wanted to initiate contact with her Aboriginal family she had only to get someone to write a letter, or catch a train to Walgett. Her half-brothers and sisters who were also taken into care by the Board seem to have returned to the area, married and had families there. They now lie in local cemeteries.

Lavena would become the mother of a large family and a popular member of the Presbyterian Ladies Guild in Lithgow. Her sexually and politically active husband lectured the Presbyterian Men’s League “on the evolution of family life”.[16] She had made her own choices, just as her son and granddaughter have done. Theirs may not have been choices she would have shared or approved.

The supposition that Lavena was a victim of callous state removal underpins a self-aggrandising personal narrative: “I became a lawyer [Larissa informed the court] because my grandmother was removed by what I thought was a racist policy. There were no similar human rights violations on the other non-Aboriginal side of my family.”[17] Actually, she should check how her German great-grandfather avoided being sent to an Australian concentration camp during the First World War.

In an ABC opinion article in 2010 titled “What the apology means to me”, Larissa, once again, used her grandmother’s story to draw attention to herself. She repeated the same stories and errors, claiming her grandmother’s only brother died “just three months before my father arrived on his doorstep”. Andrew Bolt was attacked and ridiculed for factual errors he made when exploring Aboriginal biographies. Lavena’s granddaughter wrote this:

She was eleven years old [actually fourteen] when she was taken [saved?] and the Protection Board records [record] show that she gave birth to a child when she was thirteen [eighteen]. The child was taken from her [it wasn’t], but the circumstances of her pregnancy are unknown to us.[18]

For Larissa, her grandmother was eleven in 1917, and thirteen in 1921. Such law-professor logic may explain why Andrew Bolt lost his case.

The APB file does not reveal the sex of the child or tell what happened to it. To say it was taken away, without evidence, is invention. Though the child’s birth certificate will not be available to researchers until 2021, death certificates for the period are available. If Larissa had checked these she would have found more of her family story.

The first position the APB found for Lavena was with Mrs Charles Clark on Wirrabilla Station near Collarenebri, about 160 kilometres from Walgett. Lizzie Clark died in January 1920.[19] The absence of her supervising presence on the station may have had something to do with Lavena becoming pregnant. In April 1921 she travelled to Sydney for the birth of her child. In Home Larissa makes her fictionalised grandmother, impregnated by her employer, endure a hellish confinement in “a large brick building in East Sydney that was a home for pregnant girls”.[20] The real young woman went to the Montrose Maternity Hospital in Burwood, newly opened in 1920. Amid lawns and gardens and with spacious “artistically decorated” wards the state-owned hospital had room for sixteen patients who were given accommodation before and after their confinements.[21] Lavena appears to have stayed there for some weeks after the birth of her child.

In late May she went to Parkes where work had been found for her at Nurse Porter’s Private Hospital, and she took her son with her. Larissa should be grateful for the help the APB gave her grandmother. The following February the ten-month-old baby died from pneumonia. A doctor treated him on the day he died, and he is buried in the Parkes cemetery. The child was called Ronald Keith Dawson.[22]

Larissa’s witness statement touches on this hospital episode with more errors: “my grandmother was sent to work at the Parkes Hospital. While she was there, she met my paternal grandfather, Harry, who was not Aboriginal. I understand that Harry was the editor of a newspaper.” Lavena did not work at the Parkes Hospital (which is actually the Parkes District Hospital), she worked in a much smaller private hospital run by Nurse Porter—the information is on the APB file. Her meeting with her future husband was probably some years into the future. On their marriage certificate he calls himself a journalist—nowhere in the documentation does he call himself an editor. Lavena would have and lose a second child before their marriage.

Lavena continued at the hospital until April 1923, when she “left of her own accord” and began working for a Mrs Howard of Bogan Street, Parkes. In Home the name Howard is given to rather unpleasant employers—cruel wife and a husband who does his nasty mannish things to Larissa’s fictionalised grandmother in uncomfortable, puritanical prose: “Mr Howard slurred as he lay on top of her. He moved quickly, pushing his hard fleshy part inside her, his voice almost a whine.”[23]

The APB document does not record that Lavena had another child, a daughter, Dorothy May Dawson, who died, aged three months, in April 1924. Ill with gastro-enteritis and pneumonia, the girl was treated by a local doctor on the day of her death and she died at Nurse Cock’s Private Hospital: like her brother she is buried in the Parkes cemetery.[24]

What happened next is unknown and Lavena does not reappear until October 1926, when she married Henry Behrendt, the man with the interesting German surname.[25]

Andrew Bolt wasn’t the only person to have surmised that the name Behrendt signifies German descent. For a time in the 1930s the newspapers and police suspected that one of Paul’s aunts may have been the victim in the “Pyjama Girl” mystery—an unidentified young woman whose murdered body was found by the side of the road near Albury. It was even reported that a police official would make his own private inquiries about her in Berlin, but she was actually born in Australia.[26] It does not seem to have been her, as she later reappeared as a Sydney bus conductress. Contact with her family had broken when she moved from Queensland to Sydney several years before the newspapers took an interest in her. When Paul described his father’s supposed break with his family he saw a more interesting motive than a working-class family’s private dramas: “I understand from limited information that he was ostracised for marrying my [Aboriginal] mother in the first place.”[27] Yet his father chose to give the names of his siblings and father to four of his own children—Margaret, Frank, Albert and Ernest.

Larissa’s trial statement on her German heritage was unambiguous:

There is no German descent, to my knowledge, on either my father’s or on my mother’s side of the family. Certainly my father’s research into his family did not result in any suggestion whatsoever of any German ancestry and he never proclaimed himself as having any such ancestry.

Paul’s research was irrelevant hearsay. The court should have asked Larissa for her own research and knowledge of her family history. For enthusiastic amateur genealogists research never ends, as they seek to go deeper and deeper into their family’s past. Larissa’s statement was damning criticism of her father’s motivation, for it shows that he had done no research at all into the non-Aboriginal part of his ancestry. The Fairfax obituary of Paul said that he “believed that to be ashamed of one’s identity was to shame one’s ancestors”.[28] His German ancestors were shamed. When he searched for his roots he found only what he wanted to find.

Step one in beginning a family tree is to move from parents to grandparents. Paul’s maternal grandparents were of English descent (probably) and Aboriginal. His paternal grandparents were English and German. Larissa stated that her father had found no German ancestry. He, and she, had not done their research.

Paul’s grandfather, Herman Ernst William Behrendt, lived in Queensland from 1909 until his death in 1945. The state records office holds his marriage certificate (he remarried in 1927) and his death certificate. Both documents give his place of birth in Germany, and his parents’ names.[29]

Family research is much easier now than it was when Paul first went looking for his mother’s records in the early 1980s. Internet resources are rich and easily accessed—though the uses made of them by over-enthusiastic family tree researchers can be misleading, as some overly lush online trees illustrate. Herman married in England and lived in Hull, where Henry was born. The family appears in the 1901 England Census where Hermann, with an English wife, is listed as a “foreign subject”.[30] In Queensland Herman was a wharfie on the Brisbane docks. In 1929 he applied for and was granted Australian citizenship. As an enemy alien during the First World War he escaped internment, probably in the German Concentration Camp at Holdsworthy, by lying about his citizenship status.[31]

[1] “In black and white, Andrew Bolt trifled with the facts”, David Marr, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 September 2011

[2] APB 125. The file is reproduced in Coral Edwards and Peter Read (editors), The Lost Children (Moorebank, 1989), p. 139

[3] Lightning Ridge Historical Society Snippets by Barbara Moritz, Secretary, 28 July 2009; Coral Edwards and Peter Read (editors), The Lost Children (Moorebank, 1989), p. 138

[4] APB file 125

[5] Larissa Behrendt, Indigenous Writers, paper given at 2 Deadly: the 2006 ATSILIRN Conference

[6] Larissa Behrendt, Indigenous Writers, paper given at 2 Deadly: the 2006 ATSILIRN Conference

[7] Ellwood (sic) Boney NSW death certificate, 20704/1978: Coral Edwards and Peter Read (editors), The Lost Children (Moorebank, 1989), p. 138

[8] Coral Edwards and Peter Read (editors), The Lost Children (Moorebank, 1989), pp. 107 – 188

[9] Coral Edwards and Peter Read (editors), The Lost Children (Moorebank, 1989), p. 139

[10] The Naval Record of Service records his complexion as “olive”: NAA: A6770, Behrendt P.A.

[11] Larissa Behrendt, “Home: The Importance of Place to the Dispossessed”, South Atlantic Quarterly 108:1, Winter 2009

[12] Larissa Behrendt, Home (St Lucia, 2004), p. 127

[13] APB 655

[14] Lightning Ridge Historical Society Snippets by Barbara Moritz, Secretary, 28 July 2009

[15] On the 1944 death certificate for William Lance his age is given as 55. See NSW death certificate 28121/1944

[16] “Brevities”, Lithgow Mercury (NSW), 9 October 1940; Return Thanks, Lithgow Mercury (NSW), 6 January 1943

[17] Behrendt witness statement.

[18] Larissa Behrendt, “What the apology means to me”, ABC News opinion, updated 29 September 2010

[19] “Deaths”, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 20 January 1920

[20] Larissa Behrendt, Home (St Lucia, 2004), p.82

[21] “Montrose Maternity Hospital Opened”, Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), 18 January 1920

[22] NSW death certificate, 1843/1922

[23] Larissa Behrendt, Home (St Lucia, 2004), p.74

[24] Dorothy May Dawson, NSW death certificate, 7024/1924

[25] The suggestion is based on the age of her oldest child given by her husband on Lavena Behrendt’s death certificate.

[26] “Missing Brisbane Girl May Be Murder Victim”, Truth (Brisbane, Qld), 7 June 1936; “The ‘Pyjama Girl’ Mystery”, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld), 9 June 1936

[27] Aboriginal between square brackets is as it appears in the original text. Coral Edwards and Peter Read (editors), The Lost Children (Moorebank, 1989), p. 57

[28] Paul Behrendt obituary, “Gather and teller of stories” by Tony Stephens, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 November 2006

[29] Queensland marriage certificate 1927, no. 596; Queensland death certificate 1945, no. 4229

[30] 1901 England Census

[31] NAA: A1, 1929/459

6 thoughts on “The Family Stories of the Behrendts

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    Do you think she will tell her enthusiastic audiences the real story or the invented one?

  • Trog says:

    Simply brilliant! Very well done.

  • rathbeg says:

    An excellent article. Thank you Quadrant and Mr.Connor.

  • jonreinertsen@bigpond.com says:

    Excellent research. Our family history has a legend that I am part American Indian. This I suspect is based on one of my great grandfathers having the surname “deer”. In doing my own historical research I have discovered an interesting fact or two. If one applied to join the “Tuetonic knights” one had to be able to prove descent on all four quarters from German nobility. This is remarkable similar to the American/Canadian first Nations policies. Even if my Great grandfather (one only, and his birth certificate has him born in South Australia) was descended from the first nations, I would not be able to claim, that descent in legal sence. (yes there is money involved) DNA is the answer. The recent Ancestry ad which has a young New Zealand woman who thought she had Maori blood suddenly discovers she has Jewish blood with no a trace of Maori.

  • Jody says:

    Do you think anybody in the world takes a scintilla of notice of the execrable David Marr? Come on, now!!!!

  • mags of Queensland says:

    Like all of those who have hopped on the victim bandwagon, Larissa Behrendt is just another spinner of fairy tales to back up their claim.A disgraceful person who needs to have her claims publicly dismissed.

    I’ve always been angry that the Herald Sun did not bankroll Andrew Bolt’s appeal against the disgusting and dishonourable findings of the judge. He has been victimized to this day, too afraid to say what he really thinks. However, Ms Behrendt should realize that you have to have a good memory to be a good liar and her memory is lacking. She is a disgrace not only to her family but to those who have really gt something to complain about. For an educated person, no doubt on the taxpayers purse, she has shown herself to be unworthy of the accolades she has received for lying.

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