Because of them, I can - OzChild

Because of them, I can

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3 July 2018

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are the focus of this year’s NAIDOC Week celebrations from 8 – 15 July.

The theme ‘Because of her, we can!’ aims to highlight the active and significant roles Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played – and continue to play – at the community, local, state and national levels.

In the lead up to NAIDOC Week we asked OzChild’s National Director of Aboriginal Partnerships Dea Delaney-Thiele to reflect on the strong Aboriginal women who have influenced her life.

Growing up in Mt Druitt in the 1970s was so much simpler than today. That said, it still had its challenges for our Aboriginal family, including isolation, exclusion and racism.

Mt Druitt still had a regional feel with lots of farms and my brothers and sisters were free to roam the streets during daylight. A luxury that wasn’t afforded my Elders when they were young.

What else did Mt Druitt have? Strong, resilient black women who all worked together to set up vital services and initiatives to help improve access and outcomes for Aboriginal families. 

With this year’s NAIDOC theme being ‘Because of Her, We Can!’ I thought I’d pay tribute to all the women who defined me, guided me, who were so resilient even though they had faced very challenging, adverse times just to exist and keep their families together.

My main influences were my mum Gwendolyn Delaney (née Campbell), grandmother, Eliza Delaney (née Cain), Aunty Margret Campbell (Aunty Muughie), Aunty Christine Hinton (Aunty Peggy nee Delaney), and Gloria Lalor (née Delaney). Very inspirational women!!!! Very resilient women!! Could be very combative at times to protect their children!! 

These women were the movers and shakers who started the Murawina Mt Druitt Aboriginal Child Care Centre, and my mum also had a hand in the early planning phase of the Aboriginal Health Service in Mt Druitt.

My Elders-especially the women-accomplished what we thought was unachievable, all from our backyard in Tregear Mt Druitt. Mum was the coordinator, Nan, Aunty Gloria and Aunty Peg cooked and cleaned each day for the kids. Aunty Muughie, who also worked at Murawina Redfern provided advice about their learnings and sometimes drove the bus to pick up the kids from around the community.

Aunty Muughie also continues to provide us with ongoing Cultural advice. We are so very lucky to still have her in our lives as mum and all the other Campbell siblings passed on early into the Dreaming.

Obviously, there were other Aboriginal women who helped, but I also wanted to pay special homage to Yvonne Donovan, Joyce Merritt and Christine Williams who also volunteered their efforts to help realise the dream of Murawina Mt Druitt!

Pat Delaney (nee Swan), Naomi Mayers (nee Briggs) and Dulcie Flower, extraordinary Black Women who led the many struggles in Aboriginal Health with too many contributions to list here. Thanks so much Patty, Nay and Dulce!! Without your many sacrifices our Aboriginal Health Sector would not have grown into the thriving 140+ Aboriginal Communities around Australia who are now delivering comprehensive primary health care to their communities! Your efforts were also inspirational!

Recently I was also very honoured and privileged to work with another strong resilient Aboriginal woman, Kim Davison, the CEO of Gugan Gulwan.

“Kim your commitment to our People, your tireless efforts have finally culminated in a joint contract from the ACT government, to jointly deliver FFT-CW into the ACT. From little things big things will grow!! I know your efforts will pay off to help keep Aboriginal families who come into the program stronger and together. Thankyou Kim!! You are inspiring!!”

These women are true inspirations and worked to keep our families strong and together. They set the bar high. I am very proud of my Aboriginal Elders and Kim Davison. They’ve handed me and some of my relatives the baton. Hopefully we can stay the course and leave a similar legacy. Because of them … we can!!

By Dea Delaney-Thiele, Joanne Delaney and Charleene Mundine

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