Sandra Creamer, in Guardian, tells the story of a single mother with four children who finally completed a law degree. November 2020.
I never considered leaving my home town, or going to university, when I was growing up. I thought that I would live in Mount Isa all my life, and find a job there in one of the shops. No one I knew at that time lived outside of Mount Isa.
I am Wannyi/Kalkadoon, and I was born prematurely as my mother had cancer. Sadly, she passed six months later. My sister said I was small, but a fighter. I was the youngest of 12 children. Growing up, my father eventually had to go back out to the stations to work as a cook, while my elder sisters and my mother’s family helped look after us.
Having a large family around was a good foundation for me. We didn’t have much – even food was limited – but we could make do with what we had. Times may have been hard, but I did not notice it much, because I just loved being with my family. When I was 15 years old, I went to boarding school. Although I had good grades, a mix-up put me back into grade 9. That lasted one year and the next year I left school and moved to Brisbane to do business college.
Now, as I look back, I realise it was meant to be. It led me to the path I’m on now. My first job was with the Aboriginal Legal Service in Brisbane, where I worked as the receptionist. I enjoyed working there. The CEO at that time was a wonderful lady and she made the whole office feel comfortable as well as included. It was there I was able to learn about the justice system and understand how important legal aid is for people who have to go to court.
After five years, I left Brisbane and got married. But, seven years into my marriage, I knew I had to leave.
I moved north to Yeppoon. As a single mother of four children, I had many dark days and times of struggle. This is when I learnt about resilience.
During their high school years, my children went to work after school, to help me pay school fees and household bills. It was really difficult – and I was sad for my children, I really struggled being away from my family in Mount Isa too.
But none of my children complained about having to help out, they were always supportive, and it gave them the experience of working and meeting people. I believe all of this gave all of us an understanding of resilience and determination.