The woman who inspires me

Caitlin Bennett, a Bupa intern, shares the story of her amazing great grandmother, Amelia this Naidoc week.

*Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following article contains images of deceased persons

Written by Caitlin Bennett

This year’s theme for Naidoc week is about celebrating the amazing, strong, credible and loving women in our lives today.

With over 40 years of celebration, 2018 will be the first-time commemorating indigenous women with the theme titled "Because of her we can."

I spoke to Carol Corzo, Bupa’s Head of Inclusion last week and I said to myself, how will I even be able to talk about just one amazing woman in my life who inspires me every day? because I have many.

I had a long hard think about these important women in my life.

Sadly, I lost my great grandmother Amelia Rosabell Watego in September 2016 and I really wanted to write this about her. She was a woman that has always aspired me to be proud of who I am, never shy away from my culture, never give up on what I truly believe in, put my education first and always take every opportunity I can. Through all the many hardships she encountered she was always the one to never give up faith no matter the situation.

My great grandmother Amelia was a strong advocate for the importance of culture, religion and education.

As I was growing up my great grandmother had lived in Tweed, NSW. The trips down there were always great with the occasional "are we there yet!" When we would show up we would have the "My you've grown" even though it wasn't even too long since we'd seen her last and we hadn't even changed. She would tell us many stories of what her and her family had encountered.

She was of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander decent which made it very tough for her growing up as well as her parents and children. Unlike Australian Indigenous history not many people are aware of the history of Australian South Sea Islander people, South Sea Islanders were forced to move from Melanesian countries such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands to Australia. They were then enslaved and worked on the states cotton and sugar plantations from Bowen down to Tweed. My great grandmother was always passionate about telling us about our ancestors, she would explain that they came over to Australia from Tanna Island Vanuatu and split up all over Queensland but mostly Tweed.

She was always proud to tell us our Aboriginal history as well, and explained to me that I am a Mununjali woman from Beaudesert and a proud descendant of Bilin Bilin, the king of the Logan and Pimpama river region.

When she would tell me these stories I was always excited to know more. Unfortunately, as the years went on and her memory wasn't the greatest she found it very difficult to continue telling us about our history.

Sadly, at the end of 2005 my Pop (her son) was diagnosed with Cancer and was told that he would only live for 2 more years, from then I would always remember my great grandmother telling me to always have faith. As time went by I would always see her praying, my Pop lived a year longer than doctors had given him and he passed away in 2008.

The reason I chose my great grandmother Amelia is that I would not be able to be telling my story of who I am and where I'm from if it wasn't for her to pass this down to me. Being such a strong advocate for education and religion, her children and even some of their children went on to be pastors and/or teachers. Since she always showed me the importance of education I believe she has paved the way for me to get to where I am now. I am currently in my last year of my bachelor's degree which has helped me gain this internship with Bupa.

My great grandmother lived 89 amazing years, passing only months before she turned 90.

She was resilient, strong, brave, beautiful, courageous and most of all a loving friend, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother and "because of her we can."

By Caitlin Bennet




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