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Pat Waria-Read

There have been drastic changes since I was a kid, not just technology but also our understanding of how we lived, breathed and walked in culture.

I left school to help my mum (Winnie Branson), who was a single mum with five other kids. She was the first State Secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI). I remember her taking me to Canberra for the very first FCAATSI  meeting: we were taken by a communist party member in his car to attend the meeting, and billeted out with white people in Canberra. It was my first introduction to Aboriginal rights and I've been on that pathway ever since.

The women in that time became the big speakers, movers and shakers because a lot of the men were still finding their way in looking for jobs, were in and out of prison and weren't around much as partners or husbands. The women did it themselves. The women kept a stronger culture and the men were a bit lost - it was mostly the women who were talking.

We haven't done anything for ourselves like that for a long time; white people with good hearts came and helped, but it diluted it, and then they begin to speak for us and we let it happen. To get change we need to be the front runners and our white friends are behind or beside us, not speaking for us.

Aunty Mary Williams was the first Aboriginal woman to establish a kindy, she got some money from government to establish that kindy for our kids. I believe this lead to the current Aboriginal childcare centre called Kalaya.

There have been drastic changes since I was a kid, not just technology but also our understanding of how we lived, breathed and walked in culture; it has been diffused and displaced, because the system (western society) has been talking it down, treading on and bastardising all aspects of our culture. We've been told over generations that our culture isn't good enough any more and we're reaching out for whitefella or American culture, thinking ours isn't good enough. This loss is leading us into sickness, diabetes, blood pressure and mental illnesses. Many of our people are into drugs and alcohol and our youth are dying and committing suicide. We now have a second generation of kids being taken away and put in welfare - it's because of the despoilments and displacement of our identity, our culture, our stories, our spiritual connection to the land.

Pat Waria-Read