The Benevolent Society acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that the following content contains names of people who have passed away.
This NAIDOC Week (4-11 July), all staff are encouraged to immerse themselves in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
This week we meet Amber who’s a proud Bundjalung Woman and has been with The Benevolent Society for 14 years. She shares how she supports families and children in her region and her personal reflections of her upbringing in Bundjalung Country.
A smiling photo of Amber.
What's your role and what do you do?
I’m an Aboriginal Child and Family Practitioner based in Tamworth. I work with families through the Brighter Futures Program, which first commenced in 2007. I love my job because my clients teach me something new every day and I consider each day as an opportunity to work with inspirational families and children.
How does the work you do help Australians live their best lives?
I’ve been fortunate to gain the support and trust within my community, which allows me to connect with my families. They share all their worries, concerns, barriers and hopes. In doing this, I can support parents to achieve their goals and what’s best for their children and family.
I’m extremely grateful that my families allow me to assist them, to try and break the barrier of ‘intergenerational trauma’ within the family. All children deserve to be loved, supported and to feel safe.
Tell us about the land and waters you're and your upbringing…
I’m a proud Bundjalung Woman from the Northern Rivers area of Kyogle, Casino, Lismore, Cabbage Tree Island and Ballina. My totem is a Goanna or ‘Dirawong’ in Bundjalung language, after Goanna headland at Evans Head. Evans Head was a place I spent a lot of time during my childhood in the school holidays.
I was raised by my non-Aboriginal Grandmother from the age of seven after a series of traumatic events in my younger childhood years. My ‘white Nan’ who was very focused on allowing me access both of my cultures, was a well-respected person in the community, with both non-Indigenous and Indigenous people. We were often frequent visitors to the local Boomerang factory in Kyogle.
My Indigenous Nan was Nan Rhodes. She was an extremely strong woman with a heart of gold. As the oldest Grandchild in the family, I was very spoilt until my other cousin arrived. Nan Rhodes was one of the lucky ones. She wasn’t removed from her family but raised by her own family at the Cabbage Tree Island Mission. Nan had many stories of the dreaming, and the hardships of being Aboriginal and the impacts of a socially unjust society.
Nan raised eight children and was one of the first female Aboriginal students to complete her Bachelor of Education through the old Teacher’s college in Sydney. She was a well-respected elder in the Bundjalung community, but sadly passed earlier this year.
Both my grandmothers where inspirational people with the goal in mind to achieve a socially just society being treated as an where the colour of your skin doesn’t matter abut who are as a person does. If I can be half the person they were, then I would be happy.
What are some Aboriginal traditions that your family honours?
Chasing Pippies on the beach for Pippi curry, making ‘jonny cakes’ (similar to scones or damper) with curry. Us fella’s love curry because its filling and usually cheap to make. Calling my nieces and nephews ‘Aunty’, searching for ‘monies’ or ‘nits’ through touch rather than sight (which I haven’t mastered yet, but my stepmother does this with her eyes closed).
What are you doing to celebrate NAIDOC Week this year?
Sitting down with my three children to reflect on hope that we, as a family, can support social change; visiting my grandmother’s grave; and making curry and ‘jonny cakes’.