My mum was brought up on the west coast of South Australia at the Koonibba mission. She was married to a non-Aboriginal farmer so we were brought up in a protected environment on the farm. The authorities would have needed a really good reason to take us away. That said, I always wondered why we were never allowed to get too dirty. Mum would wash our faces all the time. On reflection, if mum was being seen as not taking care of her children that could have been an excuse for our removal.
Mum, in three words, is strong, focussed and empowering. Growing up I wondered what constructed my mother’s identity, what made her so firm and strong – I mean, she’s only little. Growing up in an institution it was the strong family structure and connection that was confidence-building for my mother. Mum went off (after cooking, cleaning and looking after the family for a very long time) to the ambulance station to do her training. She became the first Aboriginal ambulance officer (on the west coast of South Australia that I know of). I can just remember thinking ‘That’s amazing. That’s my mother.’ She was also the first Aboriginal Justice of the Peace in the district.
Growing up I was happy so long as I was around my mother and my family. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to my mother for encouraging me to challenge my own thinking. Mum has undertaken so many different projects that make people sit up and say ‘Gee, wow. These stories are so inspirational.’ And maybe they’ll take a leaf out of her book. I did.
Edit: Debra attended her session to tell us about her beloved mum in particular, but we were lucky enough to squeeze out a story or two about Debra as well!