For me, being indigenous means…empowerment. But with that, a lot of struggle. Not knowing your identity is hard. As an indigenous woman, it’s hard to battle everyday life, let alone trying to connect with my cultural side as well…but I never forget where I’ve come from.
NAIDOC week is about everyone getting together; there’s a big community feel. It’s so important for our younger generations; I mean, I want them to practice it every day, but it’s a really strong week for us to run together and remember the powerful side of our people. To remind them that the drugs and the drinking and the aggression is not our culture. That’s not our culture. There’s a lot of stigma, still – and it goes both ways. I think it’s a generational thing, for both sides. But the more we go along, the more openminded we’re getting. I think everyone is starting to wake up to the future and leaving that past barrier behind.
A lot of us are rallying for the date to be changed on Survival Day. That day is a real heavy day of mourning for us…if we can get that, that would be a really big thing for our people. But I’m even seeing more First Nations on commercial ads, more of us in parliament, non-indigenous people wearing our stuff. Even more than we wear it! But it’s nice to see that there’s more understanding and connection nowadays. My cousin, Yvonne Weldon, made local government – that spun me out, to see my cousin up there. It was a really proud moment.
It’s a bit of a mix, with me – I was adopted and grew up in Sydney. My adoptive family is Wiradjuri – the largest NSW tribe. And I also represent the Eora nation - not a lot of people still do. But I also tracked down some of my blood brothers and found out I’m part Afghani and Arrernte (Arundie), through my biological family up in the Northern Territory. When they were working on the Ghan Railway and helping the Europeans get across the desert, the Afghani and First Nations people teamed up - and that’s how my great, great grandfather met my great, great grandmother. And my biological dad was Egyptian and Maori too! But first and foremost, I feel most connected to being an Aboriginal woman.
I’ve always been a part of cultural things – I was an Aboriginal dancer for the Redfern Aboriginal Dance Theatre all through my childhood, up until I was 13. We used to dance at all these places, renaming them back to their traditional names. I went to a philosophy farm when I was 13, did lots of dot painting.
I learnt how to make traditional jewellery - from my aunties, originally, but I got a bit more skilled at it when I did a 6-month course. I actually just went and bought a whole bunch of stuff; I want to get back into it again, because it helps my mental health, too. There’s a lady across the road from me who can help me with a website, if I get some pieces together. And I want to start a women’s group of some sort - invite non-indigenous women to come, too – where I can teach them how to make the jewellery.
I went up to the NT once, too – I swear, half my healing came about from being there.
“We got 7 different languages up there, in my tribe alone – and I thought wow, that’s amazing. I’d always see other nationalities talking their language, and I always wished we knew ours.”
But all my nieces and nephews up there are only just hitting 14 and they speak it fluently, so I'm going to start learning it now.
The IGA sold kangaroo tails in their freezers, so we went and got a tail each and headed out to this beautiful cave, with these big sand dunes in between them. And you could tell I was a city kid, I had all this Nautica gear on skinning a kangaroo tail, prepping it, cooking it, eating it in front of my elders out of respect. It was a bit weird, I’m so used to having meat all prepared already - but it was a powerful meal. I definitely had strong energy for a few days after that!
It’d be really nice to get back up there again soon; do a healing ceremony with my cousin and aunty. Healing ceremonies are very powerful – I’ve only done a few down here, but up there it’s a different game. Way different game. The air is that thick with our ancestors…all that power and culture and spirituality. It’s insane.
Yeah, I hope to get back up there soon.