Aboriginal Support Circle (ASC)
We began in 1994 with the late Noreen Hewett, the late Ruth Layard, and Lucy Porter. Our aim was to study the history, customs and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to spread this knowledge amongst associates and friends so that a better understanding and appreciation of Indigenous people could be gained, leading to a shared sense of truth, fairness and justice. Members could then use this knowledge and understanding to cultivate relationships and friendships with older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women so that they could work together to add value to each others’ lives. Our motto is: Listen – Learn – Understand.
Membership grew steadily. We met twice a month, using the “Australians for Reconciliation Study Kit” and the “Open Learning” programs on the ABC as guidelines. Each member contributed $2.00 at each meeting to fund photocopying and postage, and to buy books for a library. After completing the study kit, we invited older Aboriginal women as guest speakers to tell their stories and share lunch prepared by our members. Some guest speakers were elders who had been stolen from their families as children, some were brought up on missions, and some were professional women who had overcome immense difficulties. We attended rallies, lectures, art exhibitions and book launches in connection with Aboriginal affairs and became members of the Women’s Reconciliation Network and Women for Wik, as well as supporting ANTaR (Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, including the “Sea of Hands” and Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education and Training College. In 1998 the ASC was honoured to receive an award from the NSW Council of Aboriginal Reconciliation in recognition of its “creative involvement of women in indigenous issues and events.”
Lucy Porter successfully applied for Senior’s Weeks grants in 1994, 1995 and 1997, so that we could hold a gathering of female Aboriginal elders at La Perouse and we actively supported the National Aboriginal History and Heritage Council (NAHHC) to acquire the Australia Hall in Elizabeth Street, where the first national Indigenous protest had taken place, for Aboriginal ownership. Yorta Yorta woman Betty Little became a valued member of the ASC, as did Brenda Saunders, who had been the guiding force of NAHHC. We were also joined by Yorta Yorta woman Lorraine McGee-Sippel, whose book “Hey Mum, What’s Half-Caste?” has won many accolades and awards and has been reprinted. In November 2003, Linda Burney, then NSW MP for Canterbury, launched our anthology of Aboriginal women’s stories, (including two by non-Aboriginal women) called “”Steppin’ Out and Speakin’ Up” with an emphasis on the three R’s of Indigenous existence – Relationship, Respect and Responsibility, at Parliament House. This was Lucy Porter’s inspiration, and she supervised, (followed by the late Meg Coulson), the 3-year project. She obtained financial in-kind support from various charities and sales of the book raised $10,000, which was donated to Tranby College to fund a Lynn Pollack scholarship for female students. Lynn was an outstanding member of the ASC, totally dedicated to Reconciliation, who was too ill to attend the launch. She died in 2004, deeply mourned.
Since moving to Newtown, we no longer have regular meetings, as we are an ageing membership, although we do have some new members. Those of us still active, meet to attend art exhibitions, lectures and other events, where we discuss current events and information over tea or lunch. We have always attended Survival/Invasion Day on 26th January, and the Coloured Diggers wreath-laying events on ANZAC Day, and we continue to do so. We have always raised money to support Aboriginal organisations, in particular the Kool Kids Club at La Perouse, and with generous contributions from Sydney OWN, we are still able to respond to requests for funds. We keep in touch with each other with emails, thanks to Gai Smith, and phone calls.
Please contact Gai Smith 9698 12618 firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat Zinn 0380 1090 email@example.com
Photograph: Lorraine McGee-Sippel