… 1972 had been an extremely traumatic year. Separated from my children, I was often in despair. When meetings closed, usually in the early hours of the morning, I was left alone to cry myself to sleep: no future, no place to go. Too ‘working-class’ proud to ask for charity, I fed the baby sugar-water while humourously describing my latest battle with welfare. During the first nine weeks I received only two $10.00 food vouchers. Few women at the meetings noticed. I understand, but still resent, the pressures put on me to ‘move on’. Three or four weeks is insufficient time for a woman in crisis to get back on her feet.
Lillian Roth once said her life was never her own, it was charted before she was born. Boy, you’d better believe it. Within a month or two I met an Englishwoman who had lived in India for 11 years and had vowed, after the spirit and vivacity of India, never to return to her homeland. She was looking to fill the void, and found it through workign voluntarily with fledgling Aboriginal organisations adn people. At the time I didn’t really know this, it is only in retrospect, but on first encounter she hugged me like a daughter and I was to become like a daughter, for she became my second Mum, my ‘migloo Mum’, for want of a better word. (‘Migloo’ is a Queensland Aboriginal term for ‘whitefella’.)
Oh sure, Mum pissed me off at times, as she cautioned me against this and that. That I needed to relax, was still too highly strung, needed to slow down, stop impressing ‘the snows’ (which is what she called whitefells) and told me to believe in God. At the time, this was a bit too much for me, especially the remarks about God, as I was a card-carrying Marxist and hell bent on changing the world. When I did object, she’d tell me I was getting a bit too big for my boots and would cut the conversation short by saying: ‘I don’t know what they teach you at uni, Lillian, but it certainly isn’t manners!’