Being a woman means having choices in what I do and where I go—having the freedom to do that.
As a child growing up I experienced a lot of racism—I grew up on an Aboriginal reserve, so the first thirteen years of my life I spent there and in a small remote community. Now I don’t experience the blatant racism that I did then, a lot of it now is passive and when you see things or hear things you kind of question whether that is racism. But when I look at it a bit more deeply it is, and it feels like nothing really has changed, it’s just not in my face as much as it used to be.
But I challenge those things now, whereas I never would have done that as a child, even as a teenager or a younger woman—I didn’t have the confidence to do that. But being where I am now, as old as I am, and with my experiences, it puts me in a position where I can challenge those things, not aggressively obviously, just in a way that makes people stop and lets them know it’s not ok.
I’m an almost 55 year old Aboriginal woman and very proud of my Aboriginality. I had polio as a child and never saw myself as being disabled; it never interfered with me living my life. However, over the last twenty years and more probably the last five, it’s made itself known in the way that I’m able to get around. I’m really struggling on my feet, I’m constantly in pain and so my life is around pain management. And I’m starting to worry now what my life will look like in five years’ time—whether I’m still going to be working or able to move around as much as I am at the minute.
I think getting around is the hardest thing about Canberra. As someone with a disability the public transport I just don’t access at all. Parking is such a huge problem here in Canberra and you know, there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it anywhere. I hate coming into Civic, I really do, because there’s nowhere to park, and where you do get parking it’s so far away and walking is a problem for me.
My family moved here in 1982, so I’ve been here on and off since then. I lived in Burke for about four years, working out there with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and then I moved to Queanbeyan when my mother got really sick and she passed away shortly after my returning back to Canberra, and I haven’t left.
I’ve actually lived here longer than I have in my own community where I was born and raised. My son lives here and I got married here, all my family still live here except for my brother, and so I have a strong connection here even though I’m not a local. I have lots of family connection here, lots of friends. I’m comfortable—it’s just a big country town, that’s what it feels like to me anyway.
The friendships that I have here, particularly friendships and relationships and networks that I have in the women’s sector are the best things about being a woman in Canberra. You know, because Canberra’s such a small community, there’s lots of support here and as an Aboriginal woman working in a mainstream service, I’ve found lots of support with other women and just generally in the community.
I think it’s easy to maintain my health and wellbeing in Canberra because there are a lot of health facilities. I generally just access Winnunga, which is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service and they’re a fabulous service, they’re really holistic in what they do. It’s accessible for me so I get a lot of support from them in terms of any medical issues I might have.
My perfect day would be spending time with my family, just being with my grandkids. My whole family spend a lot of time together, at least one day every week. So that’s the perfect day for me.
Being a mother, having five beautiful grandchildren, my family—I’m the eldest of seven and I have five sisters and one brother, and working where I do. These are my favourite things, they’re the things that define me as a person.
Image created by Liz Thompson