8 July 2018, Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia
My name is Dr Casey Sullivan. I am a proud Wiradjuri woman. I am a daughter of Debbie Wadwell; also, a proud Wiradjuri woman. I am a granddaughter of Beverly Mclean. She was a beautiful strong Wiradjuri woman. I am great granddaughter of Madeline Davis. She, I am sure was a proud Wiradjuri woman. I am great great granddaughter of Maud .She was a strong indigenous woman. I am great great great granddaughter of Nellie. I know nothing of Nellie, for Maud was taken from Nellie and that line was lost.
Nellie has no last name, no tribe, no siblings, no parents. But with her it all began; my family begins, my story begins, and my life is possible because of her. Because of her I can.
Nellie’s daughter Maud was removed and placed on a property and at some time under the same sky I see she became the mother to Madeline. The property owner Mr Bruce was Madeline’s biological father, and he gave Maud his last name. Maud’s child belonged to a time where she would soon marry and have her own children.
From Nellie, Maud and Madeline my family begins to appear.
Strong, beautiful women.
Strong incredible Aboriginal women.
And through my mum and uncles hard earned research we have confirmed that we are strong Wiradjuri women. We belong. We have history and we have family.
My Family raised me in a small village outside Tamworth called Spring Ridge. I attended Spring Ridge Primary School. There were 3 other children in my year. My mum was a stay-at-home mum and my dad was a stockman at the feedlot. I was very lucky I was given the chance to go to school. I was born in a time when young aboriginal girls were encouraged to go to school. I loved school. I learnt new things every day. I played with my friends every single day.
But it has not always been this way.
Our grandmothers and even mothers grew up in a time where girls stayed home to help care for their siblings or they themselves become mothers. My Nan, Beverly, one of my favourite gifts the universe has offered me, was one of these children. She was a young indigenous girl who did not learn to read. She did not get the chance to go school and learn like the other kids.
So, one of my strongest memories of my Nan is seeing her sitting at the kitchen table, she was in her 50’s. And there was a lady teaching my Nan to read. I was already in primary school and she was learning around the same level as me. I was so proud of her. I’d never seen an adult learning before. She inspired me. Here was my Nan saying it was never too late. She was showing me that education is important no matter how old or young you are. I can still remember her saying to me “Gin a rin you can do anything you want when you grow up”. She always called me her little Gin and I loved her all the more for it.
In 2004 Nan was there with my mum and dad when I graduated from studying medicine at the University of New South Wales as a doctor; and her beautiful big smile still makes me smile when I remember that day.
Because of her I can.
Because of her I did.
I am a doctor because my Nan Inspired me. And that’s what we need more of. We need to be role models for our Indigenous kids. Women are strong matriarchal figures in Aboriginal culture. We all have sisters, daughters, mums, Aunts, Nans – Women who can inspire the next generation to say, “Because of her we can”.
We all have women in our lives that can change our future and plant the seeds that grow strong educated aboriginal women.
Now I am a doctor and i am a bit partial to science. So when i make a statement like “Because of her we can” I like to back it up and prove this with science. So Let me teach you some quick genetics. Inside us all is a special gift. (hold up blue bead) It is called maternal mitochondrial DNA. But don’t worry there won’t be a test. We will call this the “gift”. This gift gives our life energy. It gives us life for without it we cannot exist.
And this gift is given to each and everyone of us from our mother. Now this passes from mother to child completely unchanged. A gift that stays the same. Our dads add in their special gifts too so that each generation benefits from better treasures, (hold up small pale bead) so you might smile like your Dad or play sport like your dad. But with each of you remains this special gift.
This base genetic material given to you by your mother.
And she received it from her mother.
And her mother gave it to her.
A special gift passed down to each and every one of us which means if we look at that genetic material we can tell you exactly who you are, where you and your family came from, right back to your families first country and even past this. Right back until there would eventually be only one woman.
The first woman to ever give this gift.
The first keeper of the gift who began to share this amazing life giving genetic gift with her children.
So far science has uncovered one to the first women to ever exist. Her name was Lucy. She was 3ft tall and her bones were found in Africa. It doesn’t take much to imagine that this first woman, Lucy began to give this gift to her children. She just like my great, great, great grandmother had no last name, no known tribe, no siblings, no parents. And yet with her it too all began. Down through the generations passing her gift, mixing this gift with our fathers until standing here today you have me, we have you, we have us.
Because of her we can.
Beside you right now are strong beautiful women, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our grandmothers our Aunts all bearing this gift that can take us back to the beginning of time. And each of them with the ability to pass this gift unchanged onto the next generation.
Sons, husbands fathers- you are who you are because of a great woman, a mother who gave you this gift.
Because of her gift you can too.
Men be proud of your women, be proud of your beginning, adore and respect the gift she has to offer for it is older and more precious than you could ever imagine. So down through the years. (show beaded necklace)
Down through the generations from Nellie to Maud to Madeline.
From Madeline to Beverly from Beverly to Debbie.
From Debbie to me.
And from me to my 4 amazing strong Wiradjuri Children: Jack, Lucy, Mollie and Archie. Goes this gift, that only a woman, that only a mother can give. A beautiful thread through time connecting us each and all. Making a beautiful connection of life so full and precious, so colourful and intriguing. It is a gift of generations that I will continue to wear with great pride humility, care, respect and admiration, because of her it all began.
Because of her each and everyone of her I can.
So, I hold all of them and I thank each and everyone of the women who came before me and made me who I am. So, whomever she is to you. Whomever it is that your “her” is, remember all things are possible because of her.
Because of her you all can, and I thank her for she is a part of all of us.