Writing on the Wall: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

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Words || Tamika Worrell

When I was little, my mum would send me into the kitchen to make her a cuppa. One tea bag, with milk, 5 sugars (shocking, I know). She loved the chocolate Royal biscuits, and Cadbury furry friends. And sometimes on payday, she would let us get Maccas. Devon sandwiches were a regular on the menu, and her curried sausages were the best in the world. 

Growing up, my mum taught me many things.  She taught me to always be proud of being Aboriginal, something that she wasn’t always allowed to be. She taught me to be resilient, to stand up for myself, and stand up for others who may not always have a voice. She taught me how to navigate the world. She embodied a staunch warrior, who no one could ever stand over (even though she was barely 5 foot tall). 

My mum was a storyteller. Growing up, she was always sharing stories. Sometimes happy stories, but many were overwhelmingly sad stories. She told us about how she used to steal lettuce leaves from the garden, and fill them with sugar and eat them with her brother. She told us about the swimming holes she got to spend the summer in, and how there was bush for miles around her home. 

My mum was stolen from her family when she was eight-years-old, in 1966. She was taken around 500km away from her home, and eventually to Bidura girls home on Glebe Point Road. She was separated from her 5 siblings. This was the catalyst for a range of trauma in her life, all stemming from forced government removal. Despite the anguish, abuse and trauma she experienced from being stolen, she is the strongest person I’ve ever known. She raised 5 kids, all on Darug Country in Western Sydney. She never missed a school event, or a parent teacher night, and did her best to make sure we never went to bed hungry. She surrounded us with love in all that she did. 

My mum passed away suddenly from complications relating to her emphysema in August 2018, aged only 60. She had smoked cigarettes since childhood. Some old people say we hold our trauma in our chests, and smoking can help ease the trauma we carry there. 

My mum is walking with the ancestors now. I carry her spirit in everything I do, and hope everything I do would make her proud.