To mark International Women’s Day 2019, here are the stories of our two deadly NCIE Aunties, Aunty Glendra Stubbs and Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo.
AUNTY GLENDRA STUBBS
Aunty Glendra Stubbs is NCIE’s Aunty-in-Residence and a proud Wiradjuri woman with 30 years’ experience providing advice and practical assistance to survivors of trauma.
“I’m a proud mother and grandmother but I’m also proud of being an Aunty cos that’s what’s missing in many people’s lives.”
“It’s a really important role, sometimes I’m just someone people can talk to, sometimes I give advice that people don’t want to hear, but I have to give it.”
In her role at NCIE she gives mentoring support, advice, advocates for, or just listens to people from around the NCIE, staff, members, visitors and community.
Aunty Glendra has worked with a number of state and national bodies including as an Aboriginal Engagement Advisor for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the National Stolen Generations Alliance, and Metro Migrant Resource Centre. She is also a member of the advisory group of the NSW Government child protection and wellbeing program, “Their Futures Matter”.
“I’ve got generations of removal in my family. My grandmother was removed from Narrandera, my uncle from Mudgee, my father ended up in Westmead Boys’ Home… generations.
“So I’m really grateful that even though we lived in a shed with no power or running water in the Blue Mountains, we got to stay together as a family.”
Now aged 65, Aunty Glendra’s first job was in a bank in the city as a junior admin worker – or as was known in the day, a Girl Friday. She was 15 years of age.
She travelled in everyday on the old red rattler (single deck, red, steel) trains from Warrimoo in the lower Blue Mountains to Wynyard. She worked at the bank for a long time until she became pregnant with her first child and was forced to resign, as was common practice in workplaces then.
“Did they acknowledge I was Aboriginal? Well no-one ever talked to me about it directly but I think when they called me liquorice legs, that’s a sign they knew isn’t it?”
She eventually had nine children and worked with her husband running the family business before she went back to outside work, having learned a lot from the small business world.
She started at LinkUp NSW as the finance person in the early 1990s. Link-Up was founded in 1980 to assist all Aboriginal people who had been directly affected by past government policies; being separated from their families and culture through forced removal, being fostered, adopted or raised in institutions.
Her Link Up work set her on the path to working professionally with people affected by trauma. She eventually become CEO of Link-Up (NSW) and established a range of services to address the inter-generational impacts of the removal of Aboriginal children from their families and communities.
Aunty Glendra has also undertaken tertiary studies in Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Narrative Therapy to better inform and strengthen her work.
NCIE staff, management and local community members love having her here on site mentoring and advising, and so do our accommodation guests, many of whom are school age children from remote communities on their first big city camp experience.
So what makes a good, strong Aunty in this contemporary urban setting?
“Well, I’m an older woman, I’m calm, I don’t rush people, I’m not threatening. Importantly, I honour someone’s account of what happened in their life,“ she says.
“For me, it’s an honour to be trusted with someone’s account of their most intimate painful experiences.
“I’ve witnessed or experienced so much of what I hear from people in my own life.”
International Women’s Day
When asked about International Women’s Day, Aunty Glendra expresses her admiration for just how far women have come in her lifetime and has these words for young women today:
“Be the best you can be and don’t put too much pressure on yourself; the person you are when you are 20 isn’t going to define who you are when you are 40.
“And never forget where you come from. We all have an obligation to give back to community; to feed our strength, knowledge and experience back in.”
AUNTY BERYL VAN OPLOO
When Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo was at school in Walgett NSW, close to a third of her class was Aboriginal but the teachers did the best they could to not notice them.
“They’d either sit us all at the front of the class and talk over us, or at the back of the class and ignore us.”
Now a respected Redfern elder, educator, mentor, businesswoman, role model and mother of three, this Gamilaroi woman has gained recognition and respect by working tirelessly, and by leading with actions not words.
“I always say – education is key, when you’ve got education, you’ve got a voice, you’ve got a choice.”
Beryl Walford came to Sydney from Walgett as one of the thousands of Aboriginal people who came to Sydney in the 1940s and 50s looking for work.
When she got to Sydney as a 16 year old, a she gravitated towards family and community in Redfern.
Her first jobs in Sydney were standard for the times: factory work – at Mastercraft Chocolates, Arnotts Biscuits, and IXL Jams – and eventually housemaiding and nannying.
She first started cooking – as a job – in the early 1970s at Wununbiri Preschool which drove her to start formal education. She enrolled in a cooking course at East Sydney Tech (now the National Art School) driven by her interest in nutrition, diet, and creating healthy, cheap meals.
While studying at East Sydney Tech and working at Wununbiri, she was approached to enrol in the “First Ten Aboriginal Teachers in TAFE” initiative and began the hard slog of studying a TAFE Diploma in Education which she achieved in 1984. She was the only one of the “ten” to specialise in Hospitality.
Aunty Beryl’s first official teaching job was at Petersham TAFE in Sydney where she realised her dream of bringing education back to community.
Her “Home and Work Opportunities for Aboriginal Women” course was run at the first EORA TAFE on Botany Rd, Redfern, not far from where NCIE is today. The course content was very similar to a contemporary Job Ready course, comprising cooking, healthy eating and lifestyle education.
Aunty Beryl taught at Petersham TAFE “forever and day” until her “retirement” in 2005.
But she had barely breathed a retirement breath before, in 2006, she was approached to set up the Hospitality course that has come to define Job Ready.
The Certificate II in Hospitality – run by Aunty Beryl and Aboriginal chef, Mathew Cribb – originally operated out of Yaama Dhiyann in a restored railway building part of the old Eveleigh Railway Yards. In 2012 the Job Ready course, Aunty Beryl and Mat moved to the NCIE where the course continues today.
During this time Aunty Beryl has also run restaurants and cafes – including Gardener’s Lodge and Biri Biri – as well as her own catering businesses.
She operates these businesses partly so she can provide jobs and on-the-job training for her students who still – like she did when she first came to Sydney as a 16 year old – face discrimination in employment.
She’s also developed her long time knowledge of bush foods and bush flavours into her work and become a go-to source of information in this area.
She’s a strong Aboriginal woman, with a great love for community and possessing a gift of knowledge from her elders that she has shared throughout her life. NCIE and our Job Ready students are lucky to have her with us.
International Women’s Day
This week at NCIE she spoke an audience of 40 sports career focussed young women in Years 11 & 12 at an International Women’s Day Breakfast organised by SEDA College NSW.
“I told them we were trailblazers but every generation is a trailblazer. There’s more and more choices and they should use those choices.
“You have to look after family; if your family is strong then you are strong.”
“I’m still on my journey at 77 years of age. There’s been good times and bad times, that’s how it goes, but it will continue and I never stop learning!”