Uncle Charlie French


I was born in Moree in 1943, just outside of the Moree hospital, in a tent. We lived on a stock route straight across from the dump. In those days, we had an Aboriginal school on the mission.

My beautiful wife is the pride of my life. It’s funny because she came from Queensland, St George, and how we met was - remember the roller skates with the little wheels on them? - well we were skating around, and I fell over and she fell on my lap and that was it. We had 12 boys and 2 girls. My wife had one before we got married but everyone was happy.

In 1963 I joined the railway. I went from there to be a fireman on the steam trains and then on the diesel-electrics, and later become a driver. That was the life that I really enjoyed because I used to take the kids out for a ride with me. I spent nearly 30 years on that. After that I joined the Land Council. I have been on that about 6 or 7 years as the Chairperson of Wanaruah. The most important thing was the friendship that was formed with all the Aboriginal people that were on it. We made sure we continued that because everyone kept contact.

I tried to form a group to help our kids on drugs. I couldn’t get anyone to fight and come on it with me. The Police Commander said “Don’t worry about that, as long as we can have a responsible person like you. If any kids got in trouble, we can call you to come and help out with us.”

I put that first, I don’t worry about myself. I just make sure that my people get the right thing done.  I have had arguments with people over it, but at the end of 2015, I become Citizen of the Year for this area. They pretty well blew my eardrums out when I knew I had it.

“My beautiful wife is the pride of my life.”