Uncle Kevin Butler – Interview Transcript

Interview Transcript form Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Kevin Butler

Interviewer: Sam Figueroa

Interview Date: 5 May 2021

Samantha Figueroa The following interview was conducted with Uncle Kev as part of Wollongong City Library’s Illawarra Stories Oral History project. It took place at Corrimal Library on the 5th of May 2021 and my name is Samantha Figueroa. Welcome Uncle Kev.

Kevin Butler Thank you for having me here. Yep.

Samantha Figueroa So can you tell me about your time, your life here in the Illawarra.

Kevin Butler Okay, I’ve lived here in Illawarra now for 34 years. Ah, I, I like it here, it’s a nice place to be. You know, we’ve got the mountains where it meets the sea. Good environment, lot of nice, friendly people here and, and it’s just a wonderful place to live. I enjoy it.

 Samantha Figueroa So when and where were you born?

Kevin Butler I was born on the 14th of May 1962 at Nambucca Heads on the North Coast of New South Wales. Um, I’m part of the Gumbayniggirr people. And, um, I was born there and, um, at the age of two weeks I was taken away from my family as part of the Stolen Generation and moved to Sydney to a non-indigenous, ah, family there.

Samantha Figueroa I’m sorry to hear that. How many family members do you have?

Kevin Butler In my, um, biological family, I have, um, the parents and I had a younger brother and an older brother, sorry, and an older sister. Yep.

Samantha Figueroa And where did you live?

Kevin Butler Ah grew up in Granville, ah, in western Sydney there, out near Parramatta.

 Samantha Figueroa And what was your home like?

Kevin Butler Oh it was okay, um, the adopted family, not, not the best of things I must say. I mean there were good times and there were bad times. But, um, I had, it was a good upbringing. I had a good education out of the experience of living there, and, um, I’ve turned out all right as I have now in my older age.

Samantha Figueroa So did you have any contact with your birth family?

Kevin Butler Not at first. um, when I was about 26 there was an organisation called Link-Up. Now Link-Up is an, ah, Aboriginal corporation that helps children that were taken away from their families, or families that have lost parents, that have lost children to reconnect to find the lost children and parents. I, ah, I joined that organisation and, um, had all the information about my birth mother and everything. Which they kindly followed through and…

Samantha Figueroa That would have been a, a nice reunion for you.

Kevin Butler Well, I was hoping for a good re-, reunion. Um, sadly it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to be. I found out that my mother had passed away. It was kind of sad because it was only like a year before I started.

Samantha Figueroa I’m really sorry. Yeah

Kevin Butler Yeah, one year before. So, all those hopes of, you know, finding my birth mother were sort of dashed and it was a very heart wrenching experience. It was like someone putting their hand through my chest and ripping out the heart. However, there was a good side to it. The good side being that I was finally reunited in 1990 with my, um, birth family up at Nambucca, where I got to meet my brother.

Um, the sister I had she was also taken away. But I had met some beautiful Aunties and Uncles, elder people and, um, and of course being black fellas, heaps and heaps of cousins. So, it was a good experience for me, it was like coming home.

And the good thing about it, too, is one of the elderly Aunts she said to me, “You’re not forgotten, you never are.” Even though it was, at that time, 30 odd years, you know, they still remember you. She remembers me when I was there. She said, “One minute you were there, next minute I was gone.” But to come home, yeah, and to know that there’s a place for you at the table. It’s really good, and, and it’s healing as well. That was a good, and a spiritual journey for me.

Samantha Figueroa That’s beautiful. That’s nice that you were able to have that..

Kevin Butler Indeed it was.

Samantha Figueroa …that experience.

Kevin Butler It was good. Yes.

Samantha Figueroa And did you know where your sister…?

Kevin Butler Well she was also taken away. Um, we’re still looking for her actually. In fact, I wouldn’t mind chasing it through while I’m still, you know, young enough. But, um, yeah, I understand she may be living somewhere in Sydney, so I’ve got Link-Up to get them to have, to see if they can find her as well, because it would be good to reconnect.

Samantha Figueroa That would be really good.

Kevin Butler Indeed. Yes.

Samantha Figueroa What did you do at home when you were young? What kind of games did you play when you were a kid?

Kevin Butler Well, lots of games as kids do. We used to hang out with all, all the, the kids in the neighbourhood. You know, ride our bikes and – wasn’t much of a sports player, but, ah, yeah, just hang out and play games, you know. ‘Cos back then we had board games that you play with and things like that. Got very creative, ah, as a child, of course, I did a lot of drawing which kept me busy as well.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler And, um, I even had piano lessons, which was good.

Samantha Figueroa Oh wow!

Kevin Butler Yeah, so I’ve recently actually the last year bought myself a keyboard, so I’m getting back into my second passion of music.

Samantha Figueroa So you’re very creative.

Kevin Butler Yeah, well, I actually had the knack of learning to play by ear.

Samantha Figueroa Oh wow!

Kevin Butler Yeah, I can hear a tune and next minute I could just get on the keyboard and play it. I remember I think it was went and saw Mary Poppins at the movies and of course, when I come home, I could play all the

Samantha Figueroa Wow!

Kevin Butler all the songs on the piano.

Samantha Figueroa That’s amazing.

Kevin Butler It is, yeah.

Samantha Figueroa That is really good.

Kevin Butler Yeah, so that’s kind of like the second gift, art being my first that I have, and music being my second passion.

Samantha Figueroa That’s beautiful.

Kevin Butler Yeah.

Samantha Figueroa Um, so where did you go to school?

Kevin Butler I went to school at Patrician Brothers at Granville. Quite a good school, you know, the teachers there were strict. But now that I’m in the teaching profession, I’ve sort of taken on their role and, and their old school techniques as well. But no, it was a good school, made some good friends which I still, some I keep in contact now through social media.

Samantha Figueroa Oh, that’s excellent.

Kevin Butler Yeah. So no, it was really good.

Samantha Figueroa So what did you do Uncle Kev for your first job?

Kevin Butler A job after I left Year 10 got a job as what they call a show card and ticket writer. And what that entails is, this is all before computers and printing and all that stuff, that I just get a, ah, I used to write up like price tags and that for, for shops. I was working at Prouds Jewellers and, um, I’d do all the ticket pricing and that for them. The nice, fancy handwriting and things like that.

 Samantha Figueroa Wow.

Kevin Butler Yeah, so that kind of paid off. Followed by that I did an apprenticeship in painting and decorating. I didn’t like it at first, ‘cos I was sort of forced into it by the parents, but I, I did it. Um, learnt a couple of good skills from it, and I remember the funny thing is when I finished the apprenticeship, I said to myself, “Kev, I’m never going to pick up a paintbrush again!” [Laughter] So that was kind of ironic, hey. But, no, those, those skills have paid off and in later years, particularly when you do murals and things like that.

Samantha Figueroa So, um, do you remember much about the area where you grew up?

Kevin Butler Yes, I do. Um, it was very multicultural area, so had, you know, lots and lots of friends from different, ah, backgrounds and that, which was good. Gaining, learnt a few words in different languages. Ah, Granville’s, you know, it was a nice place back then, yeah. Kind of changed now though.

Samantha Figueroa What about shops and farms and things around the place, did you…?

Kevin Butler Shops – we used to go to Parramatta.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler A lot. You know, I remember going to David Jones there, near the, alongside the River there at Parramatta. And I remember the favourite memory of that shopping centre was coming down the escalator downstairs and it had a doughnut machine, and you could smell it as you come in, and of course we’d always get the fresh doughnuts there.

Samantha Figueroa Oh, yum! [Laughter]

Kevin Butler It was good yeah. Yeah, no, that was one good memory. Yep.

Samantha Figueroa So what are your memories of Wollongong and the Illawarra area? When did you first move to Wollongong?

Kevin Butler About 30 years now, something like that, yep, close to that. Um, I liked it because at the time I was living in Sydney in the City, around Darlinghurst, Kings Cross. And it was kind of being – it was a rat race, you know, busy, people everywhere, traffic, and I thought, oh, it was time to get out. So, I moved down here. Ah, I like it, it’s near the sea because I’m from Nambucca, a saltwater person, it’s good to connect with the ocean as well. And it’s a lovely location as we all know, mountains meet the sea. Very tranquil down here, yep.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler I like it, yeah.

Samantha Figueroa I can agree with you.

Kevin Butler Yes.

Samantha Figueroa It’s a beautiful place. So, have you noticed, um, lots of changes since you first moved to Wollongong?

Kevin Butler Oh, heaps and heaps. A lot. Um, population growth would be one. The amount of buildings, particularly these high-rise buildings that are going on in Wollongong itself. Um, a lot of housing in this, in the su-, surrounding suburbs and what not, increased traffic. So, it has become pretty busy. I mean it’s still got its charm. It’s not as bad as Sydney. Not yet, but, um, it, it’s still, it’s still Wollongong and it’s still a good place to live despite the, what we would call ‘progress’.

Samantha Figueroa Yes.

Kevin Butler Yeah.

Samantha Figueroa So what did you do for work after you finished with Prouds and your apprenticeship?

Kevin Butler Apprenticeship, um, did some, lot of work in an office, office work like clerical assistant and things like that. And then I finally got a job as Overseas Telephone Operator for Telstra, or Telecom as it was back then, and that was a really interesting job. This was long before Netflix, ah Facebook and all that stuff where you could just talk to everyone overseas now. But back then it was like, yeah, wow, you know we’re talking to someone in America or England or something like that. And it was really good ‘cos you got to talk and, you know, to people all over the world, learn things, help people make that, connect people to their families as well, kind of like what Link-Up does. So, it was really a good, exciting job.

 Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler I liked it.

Samantha Figueroa It sounds fun.

Kevin Butler Yeah.

Samantha Figueroa So, and did you get along well with your workmates there?

 Kevin Butler Yes, I did.

Samantha Figueroa At Telstra.

Kevin Butler Yeah, it was a good group, we, ah, got on well. I remember I used to draw a lot at my console, wasn’t supposed to but, um, yeah, did a lot of drawings and that. And one of the, one of the, or a couple of them said, “Oh, Kev why don’t you get off your bum and do something about your artwork?” I thought, all right then. So, moved down here, started getting into art and of course the rest is history.

Samantha Figueroa Wow. They were good, good friends to…

Kevin Butler They were yep, um, yeah.

Samantha Figueroa …to motivate you to do that.

Kevin Butler Indeed they were. Yes they are. Or they were, yeah, good, really good friends.

Samantha Figueroa So what other work have you done?

Kevin Butler Well, at the moment I’ve, um, employed by the Catholic Education Office of Wollongong. Um, I go round, um, what is a position called the Aboriginal Education Assistant.

So, I’m, I go around to all the different schools to do murals and, and that. Ah, also do a bit of part-time teaching, mentoring, ah, of course naturally of course talking about Aboriginal culture, about myself, my history, things like that.

I’ve worked at Holy Spirit now for 11 years, which is my main school. And I also go out to different schools in the diocese to do, to do murals. Which has kept me quite busy over the last 11 years. In fact, I could honestly say with, um, I have done every Catholic school from Wollongong up to Helensburgh.

Samantha Figueroa Oh, wow.

Kevin Butler Every mural there, yes. And now I’m down at the southern suburbs working down there at the schools.

Samantha Figueroa That’s very good.

Kevin Butler But I have my bucket list. My bucket list is to do every school in the Wollongong diocese from Helensburgh all the way down to Kiama. And so I only have three more schools to do.

Samantha Figueroa Wow!

Kevin Butler I know. And then…

Samantha Figueroa That’s amazing.

Kevin Butler It is isn’t it, and it will be a personal achievement for me, I think, you know, ‘cos, with my artwork, it’s not just, not just putting a pretty picture on a wall, it’s a educational thing. It’s sharing the culture – Aboriginal culture, which is the longest living continuous culture on this planet. So it’s unique. So, I get to share not just my gift, but Aboriginal culture and Torres Strait Islander culture as well. Dreamtime stories, ah, get to pass on the knowledge to the students, pass it on to the parents, you know, um, teachers as well, anyone involved in the community, and that’s really good you know, it gives me a purpose. You know, being, now being classified as an Indigenous Elder, that I get to tell my stories. Not necessarily, you know, verbally like I’m doing now, but in, in artwork, you know, they say a picture tells a thousand words.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler So that’s an honour for me to do as well.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah, that’s excellent.

Kevin Butler Yeah.

Samantha Figueroa That’s so good. So, what is your favourite thing to share about Aboriginal culture?

Kevin Butler Well, of course would be the art, ah, music as well, ah, the, the stories. I love going onto class and, and telling stories to the children. You know, they’ll sit there and they’ll just, you know, little eyes opened up and they have heaps and heaps of questions, particularly young ones, about Dreamtime stories, which is good.

Um, talking about myself, ah, particularly with the Stolen Generation. I’ll talk to older high school kids about that, and that’s, I think that’s important too to let them know that this is something that we’re not dead. That, well, this is something that didn’t happen 100 years ago, this is current. You know, I was, it’s only what 50-60 years that it, that children were taken away. So, it, it’s a good learning thing for, for older children to understand.

And I suppose with the Dreamtime stories, the little ones are everything, music, Stolen Generation. Teaching, the kids, teaching about culture gets their awareness of, of Aboriginal people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, educating them. In a way it’s kind of like a Road to Reconciliation. Everyone can come together in harmony and they can understand the culture and, and whatnot. So that’s a, that’s a good, good thing as well – positive.

Samantha Figueroa That’s excellent.

Kevin Butler Yeah.

Samantha Figueroa That’s really, really good. It’s so important that you’re sharing all of that.

Kevin Butler Mmm. Yes.

Samantha Figueroa Um, it’s our growing generations.

Kevin Butler Yes.

Samantha Figueroa for them to know, um, every, all that you’ve, all that you’ve shared about, about the, the Stolen Generation.

Kevin Butler Stolen Generations.

Samantha Figueroa About, um, and about culture and about moving forward as well.

Kevin Butler Exactly. And it’s good for the kids. It’s not something they’re gonna see on the internet or in a, in a textbook. They’ve actually got someone in the classroom – living person – talking face to face, which is, which is I think it’s a more personal experience for them.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah, it definitely makes it more real.

Kevin Butler Real, yes.

Samantha Figueroa They can really, um…

Kevin Butler Relate.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler Relate to it and everything, yeah, and that’s good to know that.

Samantha Figueroa Have you been part of any sporting or religious groups or community groups?

Kevin Butler Not necessarily sporting, um, religious group of course obvious with Catholic church and that. Um, I’ve worked a lot, you know, alongside with them. Um, I do a lot of volunteer work now and then. Sometimes I will work with the St Vinnies. They have their, their, their food van down at Wollongong railway station so you know come and get the van there at night and come and feed the, you know, the people who need something

Samantha Figueroa That’s so good.

Kevin Butler to eat and it’s really good, you know. I, I like sharing stuff and, and just being generous to people who we’ll say are less fortunate – their circumstances are not as good. But just give them a, a sa-, a, you know, a sandwich and a cup of coffee and just the look on their faces.

And then they’ll start talking. They’ll start telling them about, talking about their experience to me and I just listen. And you think, oh, you know, what a wonderful story, you know. Or maybe it’s a story of hardship. But I think it’s good that, you know, I get to share with other people as well, hear their stories. And of course, you know, get that positive feedback and knowing that I’ve done good as well to look after people?

Samantha Figueroa Yeah, that’s so good. It’s so good to, to give to other. Yeah, to be giving to others.

Kevin Butler Mmh, it is.

Samantha Figueroa What have been your significant relationships? So, family, friends – what have been the most significant relationships in your life?

Kevin Butler Well, I’ve got good friends, you know, I’ve got a good circle of friends. Couple, you know, maybe close ones as well, like a smaller group and that and everything. I’m single, yep, never married or anything, so, I enjoy what I do.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler Yeah, yeah.

Samantha Figueroa And have you had good health?

Kevin Butler In the past I have. Um, recently when you get a bit older, I have the diabetes, ah, sort of affects, ah, my feet and my walking and that, but that’s no barrier. I mean, I, I’m still capable of getting around. Um, of course you get the sore back and everything like that, all the other ailments once, once you turn 50. But, um, I think I’m in good spirits. I’m in good health. Um, mentally, up here in the head, you know, I’m pretty, I’m pretty sharp, so I think that’s important too.

Samantha Figueroa It is…

Kevin Butler It is indeed.

Samantha Figueroa … very important.

Kevin Butler Particularly in my, in my profession.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler Yep.

Samantha Figueroa What has been, um, significant events in your life?

Kevin Butler Well, I guess he career in education would be one. As before mentioned, you know, working in community. You know, with the homeless, with children, everything, just to share, to see the smiles on people’s faces and things like that, that would be one thing. And it’s a passion too that I enjoy doing.

Um, I guess, art competitions. You know, I’ve won a few over the years as well. Recently last year I won the Lord Mayor’s Choice Award for a, an art competition at the Powerhouse Museum at Casula.

Samantha Figueroa Excellent.

Kevin Butler Yes.

Samantha Figueroa That’s so good.

Kevin Butler Thank you. So that was an honour too. Um, designing things like the, the logo, ah, the jersey for the Illawarra Dragons as well.

Samantha Figueroa Oh, wow.

Kevin Butler It’s just a couple of personal achievements. I’ve done, you know, I’ve got a few awards over the years, had a lot of – and schools as well, they give you awards. But it’s competition for recog-, recognition, that’s the word, recognition and my contribution to the community. And that’s important.

Samantha Figueroa That sounds like you do a lot of positive things in our community.

Kevin Butler It is. Thank you.

Samantha Figueroa Uncle Kev.

Kevin Butler And it feels good. You know, it’s, I suppose too, we talk about Karma. If you do something good, something good will come back to me in return.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah. I definitely agree with that.

Kevin Butler And I think too with the Stolen Generation and that it’s, um, I’ll say this in a way that a lot of people who were taken, they didn’t have good lives. And they, their life, it, it didn’t turn out for the good for them unfortunately, you know. And some people they turn to drugs, they turn to alcohol, self-harm, suicide, things like that. A lot of people had a lot of anger because of what happened, and, and you can understand.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler You know, particularly the ones that went in through the children’s homes, all the abuse and the bad things that happened to them. Myself, there was anger when I was much younger, but I thought, “No, well, why don’t you just turn it around?” You know, get rid of the bad feelings and think positive, think good, you know, do good things, live a happy existence. It feels much better for me, it’s good for my health, for my well-being. And like I said, all that positive, healthy, happy, happy vibes and whatnot is what I like to share with people. You know, my work…

Samantha Figueroa That’s so good that you’ve been able to do that.

Kevin Butler It is.

Samantha Figueroa That you are able to turn it around…

Kevin Butler Indeed.

Samantha Figueroa …and move forward and in a positive way. Like that would have been really hard to do, and I think it’s amazing that you’ve done that.

Kevin Butler Yeah, no, it’s good. You know, I can go to bed at night and think you know, like, I’ve done good things, so I’m happy. And I think you may live a bit longer too if you’re happy. [laughs] 

Samantha Figueroa You sure do. Yeah. How do you think that the Wollongong area will change in the future?

Kevin Butler Well, as mentioned before. I think we’ve got the population growth, but that’s happening everywhere, all over the world. Um, there will be a lot of housing going up, um, particularly down south. We’re looking at, you know, Shellharbour maybe going, continuing all the way down to Kiama, for example. You look out at back of Dapto, Albion Park, houses everywhere.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler Um, yep. That will change. I, hopefully, you know, in years to come we have acceptance of too, of people coming together – Reconciliation. No matter what your colour is, black, white, brindle, anything, you know, and, and it’s stuff that I do, other people as well, not just, you know, Aboriginal community, but, um, you know, we live in a multicultural world. So, it’d be good if, if everyone, you know, to get together.

You know, we got our young ones now coming up. We teach them about being good, good-hearted, acceptance and that and hopefully in the future, you know, everyone will be nice. It would be nice to think, think, think about it…

Samantha Figueroa Yes, Yeah.

Kevin Butler… you know, peace and, you know, warm things like that, good health. But these are challenging times at the moment, but yeah, I, I hope, you know, Wollongong in the future will be like a, like a nice place, yep.

Samantha Figueroa If, as, as long as you keep teaching these kids…

Kevin Butler Yes.

Samantha Figueroa …these great, these great things, I’m sure that that will have a, a lasting effect in our area.

Kevin Butler Thank you.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler And not just myself but my, my fellow workmates, my contemporaries and that. You know, everyone out there in the community can do good.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah, I agree.

Kevin Butler Yep.

Samantha Figueroa So what do you like about Woonona where you live?

Kevin Butler Good location. It’s lovely, right near the beach, um, and transport and that. Nice quiet little suburb that’s, ah, it’s, um, yeah, it’s, it’s really nice, you know, a little shopping centre there, the shops, ah, railway close to me so I can walk or get the bus. But, yeah, I like it, really like Woonona, it’s a nice place. And of course it has a good history about it as well, you know. With, um, they said Captain Cook, his ‘Endeavour’ got wrecked, got sort of a, they came in looking for water and they got stuck on a reef not far from Woonona Beach.

Samantha Figueroa Oh, wow!

Kevin Butler Yeah, you can see the plaque down near the pool and that, so, but yeah, colonial history as well. And of course the place is en-, enriched with Aboriginal history from the local Dharawal people. Yep, so I, I like it here. It’s good.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah. Do you have an association with the local Aboriginal community?

Kevin Butler Yes, indeed I do. Um, with the, ah, Aboriginal Culture Centre, um, Land Council, you know, even the AECG which is the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group. So I work a lot with Aboriginal education, not just in the, in the Catholic school but with the State school.

Samantha Figueroa Oh that’s fantastic.

Kevin Butler It is, it’s really good.

 Samantha Figueroa Yep.

Kevin Butler So I’m, I’m basically got my finger in the pie of everything,

um, working with community and that, which is good. Um, it’s good that now at my age of 59 that I’ve been accepted as an Aboriginal Elder as well. And that’s important too, because becoming an Elder it’s not something that you get handed to. Something that you have to earn to, to, to earn the respect from community, from your friends everyone around. And, um, yeah, I find that’s really good now that you know, people look up at me as an Elder so that way I can work in community with all the other Elders and people and, and give a good positive vibe there as well.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah, that’s really good.

Kevin Butler Yes, it is.

Samantha Figueroa Is there any cultural events that you attend?

Kevin Butler Yes, many. Um, in fact this month we’ve got Reconciliation. We have our walks. Um, Bellambi has one and there’s another one down at Shellharbour where schoolchildren, community, everyone gets together, Elders, just to have a walk, you know, in Reconciliation.

We also have Harmony Day which is coming up, Sorry Day – all in the same month. Sorry Day of course is for Stolen Generation, just to, to commemorate, to look back. Sorry Day is an event, ah, based on the Stolen Generation. I think it first came up a few years ago, ah, from Link-Up. It also ties in with the time that, ah, Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, apologised to the Stolen Generation which is about 13-14 years ago now. Ah, Sorry Day is when we have people, you know, from the Stolen Generation, um, reflect back, you know, on their lives and what’s happened. We have special events as well. Ah, we have things like the ‘Sea of Hands’ at many schools, ah, where the kids will get, we have handprints made out of, um, shapes out of cardboard. Kids, write, you know, a little message or paint something on. Ah, they’re put on wires and stuck around the ground of the, of the, of the schools and that. So that’s another way of commemorating Sorry Day.

Samantha Figueroa That’s beautiful.

Kevin Butler Yes it is.

Samantha Figueroa Very good.

Kevin Butler And of course we have our functions as well. Elders get to morn-, you know, morning tea, things like that, It’s good, yeah.

Samantha Figueroa Um, so, um, can I ask you about your art works. What are you working on at the moment?

Kevin Butler Well, at the moment I’m busy as I’ve ever been. This school term, I’m at five different schools in one day all over the place. Ah, there’s various schools I’m doing a couple of what we call Welcome Poles, just wooden poles that’ll be going up around the playgrounds at the schools. And they have things like the word ‘Welcome’ in the Dharawal language. Ah, it’ll have images of, um, Dreamtime stories, might be pictures of a whale, the whale being the totem of the, of the Dharawal people. Of course there will be Acknowledgement to the Country as well. Ah, the little kids will put handprints on, maybe a Rainbow Serpent. And with many schools we might like do the school’s logo and that and things like that. And other schools I’m doing murals, doing some murals on some panels, ah keeping busy. Ah, another school, which is Holy Spirit, my regular school, I’m back now to having kids come in like one period, just one or two kids, working one on one with them and we do paintings with them, which is really good.

Samantha Figueroa That’s excellent.

Kevin Butler So yeah, busy, busy at the moment. So, I have to remind myself which school I’m at some mornings, you know, to make sure I go to the right one! But I’ve gotten used to that and it’s something good too because I enjoy it. Each one’s different and it’s the variety. So yeah, I like it, it’s really, it’s a challenge for me.

Samantha Figueroa And where can we see some of your murals, um, that you’ve done?

Kevin Butler At the moment, well up here in the northern suburbs, ah, you can go past St Columbkille’s, you can see that from the street at Columbklille’s here at Corrimal. Um, Good Samaritan, at Fairy Meadow, ah, even Towradgi public school, they’ve got one right out the front. Um, and Austinmer Public School. So, it’s not just, um, Catholic schools. In the past, ah, 30 years I’ve done a lot of State schools as well. It is, yes. I’ve left my artistic mark all over the place.

Samantha Figueroa That’s good.

Kevin Butler It is.

Samantha Figueroa And we’re, we’re grateful for it.

Kevin Butler Yeah. I often think some time in the future, like distant, distant future, some archaeologist will be digging up Wollongong and they’ll find, “Oh, who’s this Kev Butler – all these artworks ay! [laughter] Yeah, but no, it’s, it’s good. It’s good in legacy, like you know, like you said it’s good that I, I can do this to carry on the, the culture and whatnot.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler Yeah, It’s a good legacy.

Samantha Figueroa That’s excellent. So, what inspires you for your artworks?

Kevin Butler Many things, depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Um, for example, a lot of artwork I do is of the ocean, being a saltwater person as, as I am. Um, I might do desertscape, another time I might do a, a portrait because I like a lot of – oh, ah, what do you call it? Ah, variety in my artwork. I don’t do the same thing over and over again. So yeah, and of course having a good imagination helps to bring out some of the, the stuff that I do. Yep.

Samantha Figueroa So you put, um, I think you were telling me before that you put your heart into all of your artworks.

Kevin Butler Yes, that’s correct. Ah, the art that I do comes from the heart. It’s my passion, it’s my joy. So, each painting I do has a hidden love heart in the painting. It’s sort of like a ‘Where’s Wally’. You gotta go up to the painting and try and find it [laughter], which is good. Yep. That’s my secret…

Samantha Figueroa Even the murals?

Kevin Butler Even the murals, yes. So, there you go.

 Samantha Figueroa We will lookout for those.

 Kevin Butler Please do.

Samantha Figueroa For those hearts.

Kevin Butler Please.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah. That’s beautiful, I like that. Is there anything else that you would like to share about yourself or your culture, or the area?

Kevin Butler Um, not offhand, um, just saying that, oh, I’m happy with life, at the moment. You know, I’m, I’m at that age. I’m, I’m nearly 60 years old and I think I’ve come really, I’ve come a full circle really good as to what I’ve done in my life. I …20-30 years ago if someone told me what I was doing now, you know, I wouldn’t believe him. But no, I, I honestly enjoy it, you know.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler There’s nothing wrong about getting old. If anything, it’s quite a positive thing now that people look up at you and whatnot and they respect you. And, um, yeah, I, I really enjoy my life as it is now. And I don’t think I’ll retire. I, I think I’ve got a good 15-20 years left in me. Y’know, my mind’s still good. Legs are a bit sore at the moment, but that doesn’t matter, I can still get around from point A to B. But yeah, so long as I continue to go on, I know that I want to go on and do many more paintings ‘cos there’s or, you know, there’s a few more that I need to, that I’ve got my, on my mind set to do as well.

Samantha Figueroa Yeah.

Kevin Butler Yeah, ‘cos I think with all artists, good artists, they all do one painting that they were, that people remember them from. For example, say Leonardo da Vinci. He did the Mona Lisa, everyone associates the Mona Lisa with da Vinci. I would like to do what I call that painting that the, the big Uncle Kev, important painting, that people will remember me by. I may have already done it. I think with individual paintings that I’ve done here or with the schools and that you know, people say, “Oh yeah, but we’ll remember Kev for that one.” But yeah, who knows, there may be a special one.

Samantha Figueroa Well your works are amazing, so…

Kevin Butler Thank you very much. Yep.

Samantha Figueroa Um have, are you working on anything currently at the moment?

Kevin Butler Apart from the Poles and that and the murals, um, not at home at the moment. Oh right, so one portrait that I’m doing for a, a special family whose, um, daughter is now deceased. They want picture of her done, so I’m working on that. But, um, apart from that, everything else just school work, which is good.

Samantha Figueroa That’s excellent.

Kevin Butler Keeping me busy. Keeping me out of trouble too.

Samantha Figueroa Is there anything that you want to share with people in our community about, um, your outlook for the future for, for them?

Kevin Butler Be nice to each other. Be nice to each other. You know, live life as it is. Yep, be happy. Boys and girls go to school. Be good to your teachers and parents, you know, it’s important to get an education. To get out there because you young kids they’re our future, they’re our future leaders, not just indigenous kids, all kids get out there. Get, get a good education. Go to Uni, go to TAFE, get an apprenticeship. You know, better yourself and you’ll have a, you’ll have a good life ahead of you. And you know you’ll be, how like I said, our future generations look after us to lead the world.

Samantha Figueroa Excellent. Thank you so much Uncle Kev for your time.

Kevin Butler My pleasure.

Samantha Figueroa I really appreciate it.

Kevin Butler Any time. No, it’s been, it’s been good. Thank you.

Samantha Figueroa Thank you.