Lessons from my non-Indigenous mum
Lessons from my non-Indigenous mum
8 May 2021
Being raised by a non-Indigenous mum has shaped me into a proud Aboriginal mum. My mum, who was faced with some of the most ‘in-your-face racisms’ by having five Aboriginal children, has taught me so much about what it means to be a good mum.
Mum tried her hardest to protect us from the cruelness of our world and what we as ‘coloured’ kids would face. She bestowed on us many values, but some of those that stand out for me are:
- Education, and how education can be a form of empowerment;
- Embracing our identity, and that our identity shapes our spirituality and our connection to our Creator;
- Unconditional love.
Being a white, single mum with five Aboriginal kids meant Mum faced many barriers. The statistics and the laws at the time were not in her favour, but no matter what was thrown at Mum – whether it be poverty, racism or exclusion – when we did have a win, she would always say to us, “Never boast about your achievements, be humble.”
I used to think that Mum just had a quiet nature, but I learnt later in life that she desperately did not want to bring attention to us kids, as Aboriginal children were still being removed from their parents in the 1980s.
Mum raised us to be proud First Nations people. She raised us to be kind to people and to always show love. Even when racism or injustices occurred, she taught us to always respond with an educational and factual response.
Even though Mum was white, she was also a mum to so many of our relatives and friends. That is how she taught us unconditional love. All our closest relatives and friends retell stories of Mum’s house being full of too many people for a three-bedroom housing commission home in Logan (45km south of Brisbane), but how they were always greeted with love and humility.
It is these important values that have moulded me into the mum I am today, ensuring my ‘gundoos’ [children] understand the importance of education, identity and spirituality. I follow Mum’s example of showing unconditional love to all of them, including the many nieces and nephews and grandchildren who also call me Mum.
One of Mum’s favourite sayings to us was, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Even though we were poor, she was unyielding on the importance of humility.
Mum would also routinely recite this line from Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur – “The old order changeth, yielding place to new.” Mum would say that, however disconnecting, change is constant, and you have to move with it and put your worries and fears in God’s hands.
I hope I make Mum proud of who I am and what I stand for. I know my mum has witnessed many injustices against First Nations peoples and has also seen many changes. I had hoped, though, that she could’ve seen even more changes.
I try not to talk to Mum anymore about the injustices First Nations peoples still face as I know it upsets her. I recently told her about the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and how there are still no convictions, only five [of the 339] recommendations have been implemented and that there have been four deaths in custody in the month of March.
My mum started crying quite uncontrollably and I asked her why she was so upset. And she replied, “Because I thought that I would see the end to this ignorance in my lifetime, I thought as God’s people, we would’ve stopped the pain and suffering that we as a society are inflicting on our First Nations peoples.”
My mum will be 81 in June.