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Greatness hides in plain sight

Yorta Yorta elder, Marie with her grandchildren

It’s good to reflect every now and then.

It’s good to understand that if it wasn’t for the sacrifices, the strength, and most importantly the love of those who came before us, many wouldn’t be where they are today.

Many wouldn’t be here at all.

Here in my home state, the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll has been established to recognise and commend the efforts of some of the great people from our community, who have worked tirelessly to make a profound and lasting impact on us as people.

Each member of the Honour Roll is more than worthy. Their stories and commitment over lifetimes are inspirational.

I was recently asked if there was anyone I would nominate for the honour. I flippantly replied, ‘yeah about a thousand people.’ As with most flippant remarks, it was borne from truth.

There are probably more than a thousand men and women, mainly women, who should have their names on Honour Rolls, but never will. The people who will have no glory, except for the love they give and the thanks they receive from the people they care the most about.

These leaders, these pillars in their families, deserve our recognition and honour.

We often mistake greatness with quantity of public profile. But who is to say that the love of one child or the ability to nurture that child so it meets its full potential, despite overwhelming odds, is not great or an act of greatness.

Who’s to say that the quiet achievers aren’t great? Those mothers, who through sheer love and determination successfully raise their own children, their grandchildren, nieces and nephews and others from extended families, are also great.

They will not get the public plaudits; many probably don’t want the publicity. Those, I know would say, it would be a ‘shame job.’

Most of us fortunate enough to be an Aboriginal community member, know a mother, an aunty or a grandmother that has gone to places that only unconditional love can take you.

The grandmothers that rise early each day to make sure the lunches are packed and that the grandchildren get to school on time to ensure these kids are afforded the education that they weren’t. Those aunties and mothers that involve themselves in the life of their children’s school despite negative experiences they suffered themselves at the hands of education systems.

These women are great, these women we must honour.

Yorta Yorta elder, Marie with her grandchildren.

However, most critically there is no recognition for those who tried, but could not hold the fabric of their families together. Despite best efforts, the forces of circumstance, personal choice or misfortune conspired against the commitment and determination of those who love the most.

Sometimes, the trauma lines of history resonate so deep that the best efforts of those who lead the many, aren’t enough to prevent tragedy.

Those that tried or are still trying, deserve our respect and recognition.

The appalling rates of suicide, self-harm, and the over representation of Aboriginal people in the prison system and the rates of premature death from preventable diseases highlight the challenge.

If you think this is a bleak picture, it is not.

The most successful ongoing civilisation on the face of the planet continues to thrive despite over 200 years of attempted decimation. Survival has not occurred as a result of government policy, the good will of philanthropists or tough love. Our success is down to us.

It makes you think of self-determination in a different way.

Artwork by Cheryl Moggs, Bigambul woman, winner of the 2018 National NAIDOC Poster Competition.

This year’s NAIDOC week theme is ‘Because of her, we can’. There could be no more apt time to celebrate the women who have been the glue for our families and communities.

We must acknowledge and celebrate their success, no matter their profession, no matter their ‘status’.

For in our community status is not recognised through societal norms, it is established through acts of love, built on courage, strength, resilience, humour and kindness. With these traits embedded in our culture we are a rich, prosperous and burgeoning community. Ours is a love story and because of her, we can.

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