Going home to Country

29 May 2020

As a third generation stolen child, Julie has had a feeling of not belonging anywhere for most of her life. Even though she achieved success and recognition, being awarded a bronze medallion by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne for services in retail and tourism, she has felt incomplete. “All my life, I felt there were broken pieces in me; I didn’t know where I belonged.”

She recalls that some of the trauma of not feeling worthy of care stems from being in foster homes and institutions in her early life. It’s a sad reflection that for a long time, she put off accepting help at home because she wanted to be strong, independent and did not want to accept help.

In her twenties, she fell in love, married and had two sons. She shared a love of rock’n’roll with her husband, and they would sing and dance the night away to Elvis Presley. Together they established a Koori art gallery across the road from the Vic Market, and Jill continued to run the business up until 2016. Her husband passed away in 2012, and as Jill’s health deteriorated, she could no longer manage the gallery. It was difficult for her to let it go as it represented her lifelong commitment to representing her people in so many ways.

Julie’s first health alert came in 2004 when she needed a liver transplant – she is currently on dialysis pending a further liver and kidney transplant. She will be the first Aboriginal woman to receive the double procedure. In the meantime, she is spending half the days of her week travelling to Austin Hospital from Point Cook. A typical day involves waking up to go to the hospital, 3 hours of dialysis and a 1.5 hour trip home. It’s an exhausting routine which leaves little energy for anything more. She can manage this with the support of her sons and the additional help provided by her Home Care Package.

Her strength of character comes through in her determination that one day she will fulfil her Bucket List wish to visit Graceland. “Every day I meditate and I see myself well” she offers, “I’m sitting on a rock with my boys, and I’m better”. The rock provides a solid ground for Julie to focus her meditation on. It was only in the past few years, and with the help of her Client Adviser, Natalia, that Julie was able to return to her Country, her people, her home.

Julie is a proud Ngemba woman ( pronounced knee-em-ba). It means ‘country of the people’. With vivid memories of hiding behind her mother when she was removed at the age of three, she was in her fifties before returning to her Country, not knowing how she would be accepted. “When I went back to Country a woman approached me and said “You’re a Murray.” She recognised me by my facial features. She was my Aunty. She took me to see my family and it felt like I had found my home. My journey back to Country changed my life. I found my identity and a place where I belonged. I knew where I came from. There is a very deep connection to home, which is emotional, physical and spiritual. To have found my blood changed my life.”

While she was there, Julie also witnessed the reburial of the Mungo Man bones. The Mungo Man bones had toured galleries around the world as an exhibition piece of Australian history. His return marked the end of a long campaign to return Mungo Man to his original resting place. Julie’s Aunt and Uncle were involved in the burial ceremony, which was an important return to the land for the ancestors of Mungo Man. “I was there for the burial, and it was important because we share the same blood”, she proudly states. Country is something that stays with you forever.

Julie’s health issues required a lot of preparation and planning, which Natalia coordinated to ensure that the trip was successful. Natalia is of Russian descent, yet the two women share deep stories of family and culture. “Natalia took the time to find out about my Country. She knows what the triggers are for me. She has always supported me.”

Natalia says “When Julie came back from Country she was excited and very happy. She was constantly smiling. There was a lot of talk about her past, which helped her to understand where she came from. I could see how this experience changed her and made her feel better.”

Of her Home Care Package, Julie says that when she first received it, she didn’t feel worthy of it. With Natalia’s help, she realised that it was there to help her. “The Package helped me to regain my life,” she says “Health-wise it helps you unbelievably. It gives you control and helps you to get on top of things.”

Julie is now utilising her Package to assist her in staying living at home for as long as possible. Her experience with institutional care makes her determined to do whatever it takes to stay out of residential care. With a dedicated family, a team of carers and advice and guidance from Natalia, they are all committed to the best care at home.

“Care Connect has been able to address my needs in a way that doesn’t give me any more trauma. I’ve felt listened to. It’s an organisation that says how can we help you.”

It took some time for Julie to trust that a Home Care Package would help her. Ten years ago, she felt so broken that she couldn’t see how anyone could help. As her relationship with her Client Adviser developed, her opinion gradually changed, and she now accepts the offered help more willingly. “I can see now that I’m lucky to have Care Connect and extra help in the home.”

For help or information visit healingfoundation.org.au