Dick and Ruth Carney's A Little Piece of Heaven is going to Melbourne

STAGING STORIES: Dick and Ruth Carney share the story of their lives and experiences as Aboriginal Australians in rural New South Wales. Photo: ZAARKACHA MARLAN
STAGING STORIES: Dick and Ruth Carney share the story of their lives and experiences as Aboriginal Australians in rural New South Wales. Photo: ZAARKACHA MARLAN

Narromine's Aboriginal Elders Uncle Dick and Auntie Ruth Carney are taking their play A Little Piece of Heaven to Melbourne. 

Late last year the pair took to the stage in Dubbo and Narromine to tell their story as Aboriginal Australians growing up in rural NSW.

The stage show, presented by Orana Arts details Mr Carney’s humble beginnings in Warren, and the trials and triumphs of his time in the shearing sheds during the twentieth century. It goes on to discuss the loss, triumph, endurance, love and dancing of the couple's 55-year long marriage.  

While initially reluctant to share his story, Mr Carney said he "feels great" to have his story being told not only to educate people of the prejudice he experienced, but also as a way of healing.  

"I feel so great about it. I think it healed me because a lot of things I was afraid of, I'm not afraid anymore, not like I was," he said.

STAGING STORIES: Dick and Ruth Carney on stage at Dubbo. Photo: ZAARKACHA MARLAN

STAGING STORIES: Dick and Ruth Carney on stage at Dubbo. Photo: ZAARKACHA MARLAN

Mr Carney shared a number of his experiences, such as being turned away from the Nevertire pub to buy tobacco, to being rejected from the debutante ball in Warren for being Aboriginal. 

"My mother went and bought some white bowling trousers, and she dyed them black, she bought us a tie, bought them all from Vinnies and a white shirt," he said. 

"We rocked up at the door all spic and span, nice shoes and the rest of it … when we got to the door honest to god, they turned us away.

"They said 'what are you black fellas doing here?', they said 'look if you don't move the cops across the road, we'll ring them and they'll come and take you'."

"That's honest, I'm still not over that, it's so tough."

However 30 years later, Mr Carney was officially presented the 2018 debutantes at the Narromine ball. 

"We spent about 30 years teaching kids to dance, and it makes me feel so proud because now they've been presented to Ruth and I, which makes my day," he said.

The play A Little Piece of Heaven is named after the song by Mr Carney's favourite singer Charlie Pride, which he sings in the play. He said after meeting him in Perth, they bonded over shared racial experiences.

"I met [Charlie Pride] in Perth and I went into his dressing room, and he said what they've done to us as Aboriginal people out here, the same thing happened to African Americans over there," he said.

While his experiences prevented him from speaking out, Mr Carney now he hopes sharing it will educate future generations. 

"A lot of people cried when they heard my story," he said.

"My parents used to say to us, you've got to get better, not bitter. 

"People are so great to me now … anywhere I go, they all say hello to me.

"I used to turn away from people because I was afraid. But now after doing this play it makes me feel great, and that's why I want to tell my story."

The play is heading to Melbourne, Nyngan and Gilgandra after Orana Arts secured $20,000 from the Aboriginal Regional Arts Fund.

Mr and Mrs Carney thanked Orana Arts for their support to help share their story.

"Orana Arts are so wonderful, Alicia and Michelle are so good to us," Mrs Carney said.

"I think that it's been a real challenge, but we've had a good response from it all."