The 100 Project | Centenarians | Australia | Julia Kenny
Well, me mother was born in Australia.
Me father was born in Denmark
and the story is like he got a girl into
trouble, so he jumped on a boat
and travelled around and ended
up in Australia. I remember
being on a sugar farm. My
father was cutting the trees down to plant
sugar cane. We were cane
farmers living in the country.
Rode horses to school... You know
we didn't have much in the
house at all. There was no
electricity in those days, but after
I was married and had me child
electricity come into the
town and you see... of course me
mother came over and she said
you'll be able to iron the baby's
clothes and everything with the
electric iron. Well, I was
only telling me great grandson
about it the other day...
He'd take a bite out of an
apple and throw it away and
then he'd you know and I said,
well, look when we were
kiddies, me father and me
mother went to Brisbane and we
were home with friends while they had
their trip and me mother come
back and she said that the
kiddies were going through
street garbage bins looking for
food. I said "and here you are
wasting it like that". You know,
he just wasted his food. I
said we were always... plenty of
it, but we're always made eat
Yeah, at the dances we met, he was a cane cutter, which
is unheard of nowadays... They come from south
up to the North Queensland for
the cane season every season
and that's how you used to meet
all the young chaps when they
come up for cane cutting. It
wasn't a long courtship. He
knew me long before I realized
who he was or anything.
Then when we really met, we
married a couple of months after.
That was taken 6 weeks
after we were married.
Me husband lived in a place called Cooran
and we had to go into Gympie to
get a wedding photo taken. That
bunch of flowers is only is
all paper flowers.
Quite a big wedding. I had
me two sisters bridesmaids.
Everybody in the town... It's a
small country town. The church
was only two doors away and we
went down the hall to have a
breakfast and we danced. They
danced there all night but my
husband and I, we caught the
train. We used to call it the
"night horror". Everybody used to
sneak out of town on this 12
o'clock train at night time, we
caught the train at 12 o'clock
that night. We went down to me
grandparents in Ayr. They lived in
Ayr. Have you heard of Ayr? No... That's A-Y-R.
That was our honeymoon,
yes... and we stopped there
for a day or two and then
travelled down to his people.
We were in Silkwood and we had
to blacken all our windows.
You could hear the planes fly
over at night time. So that's
where we were all evacuated down
south and me family stopped
there and then, but me and my husband,
back - I only had the one child -
because they had to have the men cutting
the cane you see so he had to
come back again. And that's how
he got in with the union so
they said well, now you're
married, you'll take on the
position of... I don't know what
they call them - sort of for the
cane cutters, you see, and he started
off with the cane cutters and then
from there he ventured into
being a worker, a union
official for the Australian
Workers Union. Tasmania was in
trouble and they got this chap
from Mount Isa to come down and manage
the AWU and he rang and got me
husband to come down here and
me husband was used to do cane
cutters and he had to come in
here and do sheep. Alan was
two so I can say he was born in...
must have been 56... 56, 57. We
come to Tasmania on the
thirteenth of November. I
remember that day he flew down
like I was left behind with his
mother come to stop with me and
I had a little fella and the
eldest boy and we caught the truck
down and I visited me relations on the way
down to Melbourne and come across on the Taroona.
And I was frightened of being seasick and
they told me to wrap the young
baby - he was not quite three - in brown paper so he
wouldn't be sick. And the boss
in Hobart said we'll get you
out of here as soon as
possible... but I enjoyed Queenstown
We had an AW house
and we rented that and then the
the boss always thought we didn't like...
but I loved Queenstown, which
was very friendly.
He was such an easy person to
get on with. And he knew that I
always went to his wherever he
went with different things. I
went. I was always involved in what he
Me husband and I had just come back
from Geneva from the
International Labor Conference
of the World. He represented
the Australian Workers Union
and they all seemed to think
that my husband could have
suffered from what they didn't
know much about which was the clotting in
your legs from travelling.
To see how we were and he had this
funny turn, I said "you alright?"
and he mumbled "I'm alright" and
I thought "you're not" so I run
next door. There's another
couple there then, and I said
will you come over and look
after him because he wants to
go to the toilet and I knew if he got out of
bed he'd fall so I run
over there and said "look after
him while I ring the doctor" and
she. She said, "don't wait for a
doctor, I'll send the ambulance". He
went in about 9:30 in the
morning and he died about five that
Well Brian Harradine
because he's gone. They were
great friends - me and Barbara
and Brian. After Bill
died and that I used to look
after Barbara's kids and give
Brian and Barbara a break. I
used to have to entertain quite
a few members of Parliament and
everything like that. We were
very friendly with Bob and
Hazel Hawke. Well, Hazel was a
funny person. She swore a lot,
which I don't do, but
she used to swear a lot. Bob
was really a great sport.
I've got a thing here that he
signed. They were at the casino
one time... Alan had to go because
Alan was the secretary of the
Australian... No he was the
Electrical Trade Union boss and
he was there to represent them
and he went up to Hazel and he
said to Hazel "I believe you knew
my mother". He said, "who
was that?" and she said
"Julie Kenny". "Oh, yes" she said.
So then, Bob wrote on the back
of the menu "To Julie. I have
great memories of your husband",
you know, signed Bob Hawke. I don't
know where that is now. Must
look it up.
"We were friendly with Bob and Hazel Hawke"
Julia lived on a sugarcane farm with no electricity
Julia recalls her early life on a sugarcane farm in far north Queensland (FNQ). When she was young, life was utterly simple – there was no electricity and they rode horses to school.
She lived through The Depression and it taught her never to waste anything.
She met her husband on the cane farm. She remembers her wedding like it was yesterday. He was the love of her life and her stories about him are very moving.
They eventually travelled to Hobart, Tasmania.
Age in Video
Date of Birth
10th May 1920
Place of Birth
Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia