Women Elders Group
We would like to acknowledge Aunty Cheryl’s women’s Elders Group for their support, hard work and long-term commitment to Waminda and our Community. Our Elders through hardship and struggles have built foundations to ensure that our people have opportunity to lead their own healthy and fulfilling life journeys.
Some of the Elders have originated from different areas of NSW and have settled with their families and lived locally for many years. The aunties have spoken about how they had to work with their mothers and moved along the South Coast, often walking long distances, from place to place, to find work.
Aunty Cheryl, speaks fondly of ‘her ladies’ as a beautiful group of women, like a special family, who are very modest in their needs and are at their happiest when they come together for a yarn with each other or an outing. Having this group allows Aunty Cheryl to ask the women about their wants and needs, which enables her to address their mental health and supplementary (or specialist) medical needs; such as eye sight and hearing monitoring. The women discussed how they ‘just wanted to come together as a group to have a yarn’ and how they ‘love op-shopping’! Even getting together for a hearing screen is a chance to socialise!
In their life time, they worked extremely hard in addition to looking after their children and extended families, often with very limited household resources and therefore not taking very much care of themselves. Facilitating this group is an opportunity for Aunty Cheryl, and Waminda, to show their appreciation by giving back to the Elders by offering support and experiences, some they might never have had before, ranging from fortnightly local outings to annual trips and special events.
Aunty Cheryl talks of the Elders’ incredible stories and how she would like to see more of them being captured for oral history. ‘The ladies are getting a bit older now and the longer we leave it, the more stories we are losing. It’s so important to get on top of this now and it is a priority. We will never hear stories like theirs again. It was a very different time they’re from and their lives were very different.’
Aunty speaks about ‘back in the day’, even her ‘own day’ when everyone had to work very hard. ‘There were no government hand-outs. To put food on the table you had to work, often picking beans, peas, potatoes, grapes and cherries, whatever you could pick to earn money! Whole families would get involved in the vegie paddocks locally and all along the coast - but machines do that job nowadays. Other main employment was fishing and men were employed in the timber industry in saw mills all along the South Coast’ (with conditions that would never hold up to work health and safety standards today). ‘There are local businessmen today who are rich from the labour of these Aboriginal families.’
Looking forward, Aunty would also like to see the ladies gathering together to share more cultural and art practices which they may have missed out on growing up; due to their entire families having to work. She has plans for a special Elder’s Pamper Day and hopefully would like to take them to the Archives in Canberra to research their families.
Aunty Cheryl says it’s very sad that there have been some amazing ladies in the past whose stories were never captured but looks forward to picking back up the Oral History Program, which began in 2010. Unfortunately due to ceased funding the program couldn’t continue but it will be a priority to get this going again in the new year.
These Elders are our role models who pass on their knowledge and wisdom through their life stories. We look to them for guidance and direction so that we in turn can learn from their wisdom and hope to continue in their footsteps with the same resilience and strength for our future.