We shouldn’t be measuring each other. Life’s short – we as Aboriginal people know that so you have to live life each day and only worry about what you need to.
Lorraine is the General Manager of Winnam Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Corporation.
I was born on my Mother’s traditional land in Kamilaroi Country, and my father comes from Kullilli land, out West past Cunnamulla.
I’ve grown up as an Aboriginal Child with all the pros and cons that go along with that.
I came to Brisbane a long time ago and have had all my kids here in Brisbane. I have four beautiful children – 2 sons and 2 daughters.
I guess you could say historically from Brisbane, but traditionally I’m not from here.
I studied a degree in Business Management while working full-time and looking after three kids. I achieved my degree despite not being well-educated for my first few years of schooling.
I’m proud of where I’ve come from and done the best I can in raising my kids.
Right now I’m the General Manager with Winnam Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Corporation. I oversee the operations for a volunteer community Board and feel very privileged have this role and opportunity to serve my community.
We have 45 staff and provide community housing as well as an aged care facility in Morningside.
Winnam has been around for 27 years, and I’m humbled by only being the second GM for this organisation. Given that the former GM was here for quarter of a century, sometimes people say to me that I have “big shoes to fill” but I always respond by saying that I’ve got my own footprint.
I love being able to build on the work of those before me and am striving to execute the vision of our dedicated community Board of Directors.
How important is your culture to you?
Heritage and culture is what I live and breathe – I can’t image anything different.
It wasn’t a question of whether I grew up accepting or embracing my culture, it was just done. What actually confused me as a child were influences outside of my traditional culture. I couldn’t understand this growing up, and had a lot of unanswered questions. I didn’t know at the time what it meant for my family to be under the Aboriginal Protection Act.
I remember asking:
Why did I need to wear a school uniform?
Why was this man checking our house? Who are these people and why are they here?
Why am I hiding from these people visiting our house?
Even when my people were recognised in thethe 1967 Referdenum, it was hard for me as I felt connected to my culture and history growing up on Mum’s land, but all of a sudden I was placed as part of a white system.
What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?
NAIDOC Week is just wonderful – it’s the time of the year where it’s about us. We’re proud people and I’m a proud woman, and I don’t shy away from any racism or nonsense.
During NAIDOC week it’s just that time that you can feel it spiritually as well as emotionally – that presence of us all being around.
From the early years, it’s always been a great time to celebrate who we are and our time.
Australia is home to many cultures now, and that’s a great thing. But NAIDOC Week is special as it’s about people understanding first and foremost who we are.
When I saw this year’s NAIDOC Week theme, I started thinking of all the women who have been part of my life – particularly my Mum, Elders, and daughters.
Even at my place of work, several Elder women on the Board are traditional owners, and their inspiration has just been amazing.
I worked in State Government for a long time, but have recently come back to the community sector through this role. It’s amazing to be around that true essence and inspiration – it’s a cultural, professional, and personal inspiration to me. Sometimes in the public service you can get lost in the size of the system, but being in this role with these amazing women keeps me grounded in my culture.
Did any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women inspire you growing up?
It would have to be my sister and my Mum. The way my Mum grew up and then what she was able to achieve was very inspiring.
I can hear their words and voices in my head. I can hear them telling me that it doesn’t matter who you are – you are a human being and equal.
I can hear them remind me that the separation of our culture from other cultures is important to me and that I don’t have to justify it. I worked with a lady who made me realise this about my culture. I remember her telling me:
If people think they can measure your culture, then tell them to bring the measuring stick out because I’d love to see them do it.
Do you have a message for this year’s NAIDOC theme?
My message is that we shouldn’t be measuring each other.
Life’s short – we as Aboriginal people know that so you have to live life each day and only worry about what you need to.