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Jasmin Michiels

Cheryl Mogg: Because of her, we can

By Announcements and Community News

About Cheryl Mogg

I was born and raised on traditional country in Goondwindi. All the women on Mother’s side – Mum, Nanny and Great-Nanny all come from the country.

We grew up on a reserve, living in a tin hut with no running water or electricity and dirt floors.

Mum, Nanny, and Uncle Edwin were my main teachers, and taught us how to map country, follow the seasons, and spoke with us about our culture and heritage. I attended a one-teacher school at Toobeah, but when the school closed down in the 1960’s, I came out of education at the age of 9 and never went on to finish Primary School.

Although I never attended High School, in my thirties I had the opportunity to be a part of a pilot program for Early Childhood teachers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. So with four kids in tow, I went to University to become a teacher.

Fourteen of us went in to do the training and there’s only three who came out as qualified teachers. It was myself and two other Aboriginal women; we were the oldest of the group so the older ones came out. I graduated from this program after three and a half years of training as a single Mum to four kids.

Following graduation, my first job was at a High School, which was quite ironic since I’d never been to a High School before. I was walking into the grounds that I’d never walked into before as a student. I knew a lot of the kids around the district that were friends with my kids and, of course they all called me Mum because it’s a culture respect.

I decided to become a teacher because of the injustice to Aboriginal children and poor children in our district where no one supported them or believed that they actually could achieve. I grew up in an era where rights for everyone certainly wasn’t given.

When people talk to me, they say ‘you speak so well, you seem so well educated’.

I usually reply: ‘Look, actually schooling stopped at age 9 for me, and it has been my commitment to pursue an education.’

Tell us about your Art

I always wanted to do art, but with raising kids and teaching, it was pushed to the side. That’s why I’m now pursuing art – I made the decision that my last journey will be about me, telling my story. I’m a self-taught artist and I’ve been teaching art in TAFE, in University and in schools but mainly in TAFE for quite a number of years; teaching Indigenous art and culture.

Having won this competition, I was able to spend two days in Canberra where we met some incredible women and saw some amazing art – the kind I’ve always aspired to and taught my students the importance of connecting to country and cultures through their art.

So, it’s an inspiration for me to continue on and tell now the Bigambul story, which is our traditional mob.

I personally spent eight years in the federal court fighting for country and then it went on for eighteen years for us to get determination and recognise as a traditional people of our region.

We got determination in 2016 and I personally took the lead for my family for eight years in the court, but what really helped the process was the work I did in documenting our culture, stories and country that were passed down the family. It then became evidence in the federal court and led into us getting native title so us being on country was the main factor that got us native title, so that was a major achievement.

Now we’ve got the green light now to promote that create awareness, tell our story. Recently I was just handed the whole historical information that’s been gathered over all that period, all those years, of about the Bigambul people and the region. So, that’s my next story I’m going to tell and paint. It’s the Bigambul story based on all that historical evidence.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

It totally gives us the opportunity to create awareness and educate people about the importance of our culture, especially the theme and what that means so for me to do it this year.

I’ve thought about it for a number of years, to do the poster, but I think I wanted a theme that I could actually relate to and I’ve grown up with that theme as well.
It gives the opportunity to highlight the importance of women who’ve led us and trailblazers and they’ve done quite a lot through history.

I believe my painting is pretty timeless as it resorts back to my childhood as what I actually saw as growing up and my Mum and Granny were certainly in a different place than where I am today.

I have a voice and they certainly never had a voice, they were still under the Act and Mum didn’t get accepted till she was 21. So, we were sort of living on a reserve but could have been taken away and then Mum tells a story of when they were kids, they used to hide the kids in the bush.

I come from the worst state, Queensland is the worst state, there was a lot of removals out there of children and we certainly could have easily been some of those children but we were lucky. Certainly, some of our relatives were subject to removal.

Do you have a message for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women this NAIDOC Week?

My message generally would be to set goals for your life and not rush yourself to achieve them because sometimes it’s about the long journey and the people you meet. Also, sometimes you need to leave where you are to find something better but you can always come back from the other way.

Be proud to be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander woman and embrace what that actually means.

Have respect for country and people and your elders. Go back to country, reconnect, learn your language and the stories.  Be proud of that and stand up because that’s what you take with you wherever you go.

That will help you get through life’s tragedies that we all sometimes have to face. We have a beautiful culture, be proud of that, you are the first nationers of this country so take your place.

I think it’s important to set goals in your life and not be so quick about achieving them. Sometimes it’s the long journey but as long as you get there and as you go on your journey there are lots of people who will touch your life and that you’ll let go on the side but align yourself with people that are positive, that are concerned with social justice and human rights and about family and country.

So, it’s about placing yourself with the right people because they are the people who are going to help you get along.

There’s a lot of tall poppy syndrome, lots of knockers around of people who want to achieve and if you’re an Aboriginal woman and very independent and well educated, there’s going to be a lot of knockers and tall poppies to stop you.

You just need to rise above that and follow the journey where you want to go and about making change and what you want to achieve and people will stand with you.

Originally published as part of QShelter’s campaign showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have contributed to the housing and homelessness sector and their local communities. View the full series here.


Alisha McNamara: Because of her, we can

By Announcements and Community News

About Alisha McNamara

I was born in Goondiwindi and grew up in Brisbane from the age of three. I was raised by my Aboriginal Mother, who I think was born in the Brisbane region. Culture is very important to me, and growing up, I learnt a few Aboriginal words, and learned about my dreaming and my tribe, the Bigambul people.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

I’ve always loved NAIDOC week – it brings a lot of Indigenous people and the community together. During NAIDOC week, you just feel very family orientated and are connecting with your culture.

Did any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women inspire you growing up?

Definitely my Nan inspired me, and my Mum. They both had very hard lives growing up, but their strength through adversity has inspired me to keep on going through life.

I was also very proud of myself to be able to share my story to young people at a local High School. From the age of 13, I was actually homeless on the streets in Brisbane. I saw a lot of domestic and family violence and drug use during this time. When I was 17, I was able to get off the streets and off the drugs and began full-time University and started working part-time.

Why did you share your story with those High School students?

Telling my story was hard. But if it makes a difference … not to a million people, but to even just one, then that’s enough for me. When I tell my story to these kids, even if it’s not same as other people’s stories, at least they can find something in my story that they can relate to and take back with them. It makes me feel happy to be able to share my story and let people know that, even though you think it’s the end of the world, you keep going because there’s better things out there.

Even if I’m struggling, I want to be able to help people. Because I know that when I didn’t have support, someone come to me with help and that meant the world to me.

Now when I see people experiencing homelessness on the street, I’ll go and buy them food and take it to them. I don’t do this to just make myself feel good. I do it to let them know that there are people out there who care, and that they’re not alone.

Right now I’m in Mackay studying Certificate III in Aged Care, and thoroughly enjoying it.

I love to be working with older people and hear their stores and be able to comfort them and make them happy. In my culture I was always taught that you’ve got to respect your elders, whether they’re white or black.

What message do you have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women this NAIDOC Week?

Remember who you are, where you’ve come from, and where you’re going. Remember that in your blood you’re got strength and to be proud of yourself and your culture.

Originally published as part of QShelter’s campaign showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have contributed to the housing and homelessness sector and their local communities. View the full series here.

Josephine Munn: Because of her, we can

By Announcements and Community News

About Josephine Munn

I was born in Brisbane and raised by a single Mum. My Dad is Tongan, but because I was raised by a strong Indigenous woman, I’ve chosen to honour her and acknowledge my Aboriginality first and foremost. That isn’t meant as a disrespect to my Dad or his culture as I’m proud to be both nationalities, but by embracing my Aboriginality; That’s me honouring her.

How important was your culture to you growing up?

Culture was important, but back then, racism was still rife. When I was a kid and I used to get bullied at school, my Mum always just said: ‘You are who you are. Just be yourself.’

It was just me, my sister and my Mum growing up. I was the youngest right up until I was 15 and my Mum had another girl, Zoe. Sadly we had another little brother but we lost him to SIDS.  So just us three girls and I think because we’re much older than Zoe we looked out for her– she gets away with lots!

I’ve always been in Brisbane and worked in Administration roles for most of my life.

When family members were diagnosed with Bipolar and Schizophrenia, I developed a strong interest in mental health and this started me on a path to my career in community services.

I moved on to work with training organisations and around training on the Stolen Generations. But I’ve been working full-time with BCHS for five years, and on-and-off for about ten years.

I enjoy working in housing as it relates quite strongly to health. I believe health is a holistic thing, and that social integration, emotional wellbeing, and access to secure housing comes under all of that. You can be well in other aspects of your life but being homeless can contribute significantly to one’s health and have deeper impacts overall.

Our services at BCHS are solely for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We want to empower our tenants into home-ownership, which we’ve been doing for the last eight months.

Most of tenants have been in their housing for quite some time too, 20 or 30 years, so we want to say: ‘Here’s the opportunity to buy your home, we’ll build a brand new one with those funds, giving the opportunity to the next tenant to buy one.’

I value interacting with the community and being able to provide new opportunities for them. It’s always rewarding to see someone purchase their own home through us. Also working with my nominator, Sally, is rewarding – she is exceptional at what she has achieved with BCHS. I don’t know why she didn’t nominate herself!

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

I always attend NAIDOC celebrations and I give my kids the day off school to attend. I just think it’s so important to take this time to celebrate our culture; our people; who we are.

I’ve also valued being a part of ‘Deadly Ears’ program through NAIDOC Week, which was a Queensland Health Initiative for healthy eyes for kids in remote communities in Queensland. I loved that, it was deadly going to those communities and meeting those little people – they’re so adorable and loved having outsiders come to their community.

What does this year’s theme mean to you?

Like I said previously, my Mum raised me singularly and I’ve chosen to recognise my Aboriginality first and foremost. That’s important to me because that just shows the strength of my Mother.

There are a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who raise their kids singularly and I think “Because of her we can” that’s a great honour to recognise them.

My Mum might not have done extraordinary things, but they were extraordinary to me. Racism was still rife in 1978 and I used to get bullied a bit in the playground and it bothered me. It made me an aggressive person back then, but as I got older, I realised that the reaction I was giving them is what they wanted and that I was lowering myself to their level; I have learnt over the years to just act with words not violence.

As a Mother myself, I’ve had five babies – I lost a young fella to premature  birth, but I have a 20-year-old, 15-year-old twin girls and an 8-year-old. I want my kids to be proud of me for a number of things, not just one, but I drive it into my children particularly my girls to be themselves, to find themselves and be that person.

You know you’ve done a good job when teachers call you and say: ‘They’re so great, they well mannered, very respectful and that they have voiced her/their opinion/s.’

That’s what I want. I want them to debate things if they disagree, I want them to stand there and be confident that they can voice their opinion.  My Mum, Aunts and Uncles instilled that value in me.

Looking back now, we didn’t have the best of everything growing up but we had everything we needed and my Mum makes me proud.

In saying that, I think I also need to acknowledge Auntie Les – my Mum’s sister. I also want to recognise my Godmother who’s Non-Indigenous, Auntie Carol. Those three women have a massive influence on my life.  And I am truly grateful and blessed to have them.

Auntie Les was involved with Indigenous organisations as a cook and a Carer. I think I developed my own cooking skills from just standing around watching Auntie Les when I growing up.

My Mum and Aunties have always been there when I needed them, they’d drop everything just to help me. Auntie Les is deceased though, I missed her advice and wisdom greatly, although she’s been gone for quite some time.

I think that’s where my interest for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comes from. Auntie Les where she worked at Musgrave Park when it was down at Hope Street South Brisbane, and she helped out at the Hostels. I remember when I was younger going to work with her. Sure I had to get out of bed at 5:00am, but I loved it and she’d cook and I’d help mainly with the dishes but I still loved and valued that time spent with her.

What message do you have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women this year?

It’s so important to take the time during NAIDOC Week to celebrate your culture; be proud of it, keep the celebration going especially for the next generation.

My advice for young women is to find yourself and be that person.

I tell my kids to always be proud of who they are and to be proud of their culture – that’s a message I’d love to share with all women this NAIDOC Week.

Originally published as part of QShelter’s campaign showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have contributed to the housing and homelessness sector and their local communities. View the full series here.

Peace signs and protests: Official 2018 NAIDOC poster unveiled

By Announcements and Community News

Originally published by NITV on 4 May 2018.

This year’s NAIDOC poster recognises the women who have fought for justice in our society.

Protests and peace signs feature in this year’s official NAIDOC poster. The words “Freedom”, “Equal” and “Justice” stand out from the multicoloured landscape, and a vibrant sun shines upon strong women who are fighting for their rights, maintaining resilience and keeping culture alive.

The work depicts this year’s NAIDOC theme, ‘Because of Her We Can’, which aims to recognise First Nations’ women who have, and continue to make, valuable contributions to our communities. With our history books often documenting Indigenous achievements through the work of remarkable men like Bennelong, David Unaipon, Sir Doug Nicholls, Albert Namatjira, Eddie Mabo, Vincent Lingiari and Neville Bonner, this year, the spotlight shines on our women who have played equally significant roles in Australia’s history. Barangaroo, Pearl Gibbs, Mum Shirl, Lowitja O’Donoghue, Margaret Williams Weir, just to name a few.   

It’s a theme which attracted nearly 200 artists to enter its annual poster art competition —double the amount of entries received in the previous year.

Out of hundreds of submissions, Bigambul woman from Goondiwindi, QLD, Cheryl Moggs took out the major prize. Her painting sends two key messages; it celebrates the Indigenous women who have fought for justice in our society; and highlights the importance of connection to country.

With such a groundbreaking theme, self-taught artist Cheryl, felt that this was the year she should to submit one of her works to the NAIDOC poster competition. It was a time to say “thank you” to all the Indigenous female leaders, she told NITV.

“I think it’s the first time I’ve had a bit of a political spin on any of the art that I do,” she says. “I’ve never been a political advocate in a negative sense. I try to do it in a positive way and use the art to do that. It’s a way of creating awareness and educating people of our history, and to showcase the people that were involved in making change.”

In the top right corner is an sun emblazoned in oranges, yellows, pinks, purples and a peace sign. Cheryl says it sends a message to wider Australia saying, “we’re all Australians, it’s time to make peace and come together and embrace diversity.”   

Her painting took just over three weeks to complete, not including the extensive research and planning beforehand.

Cheryl has worked as a teacher for many years, from early childhood to TAFEs and Universities, and recently a men’s prison. She says symbolism in art is something she drives in both personal practice and education.

“When I paint, I’m very symbolic and understand the power of our symbols. It’s something I’ve been teaching my students for a long time … it [my work] was about the three sections; how we’re connected to the sky, the land in the middle and the water. Then I have the extra bits on top telling the story. ”  

By winning this year’s prestigious Poster Competition, Cheryl has received the cash prize of $10,000.

Cheryl received the celebratory news while at work. After a missed call during a meeting, Cheryl got back to the office and received another message that Jacinta from the NAIDOC committee called her. Initially thinking it was a business enquiry about funding, Cheryl said she was completely taken by surprise to hear she’d won the competition.

“I rang her and it was a total surprise because I said, ‘How are you? Do you want to talk about funding’ and she said, ‘No Cheryl, I’m here to congratulate you —well, that was a shock. I shed a tear I can tell you.”  

NAIDOC committee member and one of the judges, John-Paul Janke said that Cheryl’s artwork not only stood out visually, but represented an important story, one that highlights the strong connection Aboriginal people have to country and the journey Indigenous women have endured with over time.

“It was the one the committee felt really captured the theme the most,” he told NITV.  

“The NAIDOC poster sets a dialogue for how non-Indigenous people engage with NAIDOC and more generally Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture,” he said.  

With many elements featured in Cheryl’s somewhat psychedelic painting, perhaps the most curious is the sign posts —Freedom, Justice, Equality, Yes. Giving a visual history lesson, they refer to the women who marched and protested for land rights, the Freedom Ride and encouraged the public to vote “yes” in the ‘67 Referendum.

Treading below these signs are colourful footprints, imprinting the word “Connect”. Cheryl’s artist statement explains. “Our feet remain on country always. Doesn’t matter where our bodies are, we stand with our people, side by side for the betterment of our First Nations. A united force.”   

Janke says that while the committee didn’t look specifically for a female artist, they saw an exciting increase entry of women artists who, like Cheryl, shared a personal connection with the theme. As such, he feels that the poster is sure to have a great impact.

The small town of Goondiwindi have already been impacted Cheryl’s work,

“All the family and all the people in this local community have been pretty amazing with the response,” says Cheryl. “We living in a region which has historically, had a lot of bad things happen here, and it’s something that’s brought people together out here.

“It’s showcased the regional and remote areas that we can actually come together and art does that justice.”