Auntie Pamela Joy Lily
Recorded by Char and transcribed by Claire What is your full name? Pamela Joy Lily Where and when were you born? I was born in Mater Hospital in Waratah in 1953. Where did you grow up as a child? I grew up here on the mission. Have you stayed around the Karuah area your whole life? My mum and dad moved me to Roman Terrace when I was 8 years old. What memories do you have of the traditional aboriginal life here? We used to go to church here, Sunday School, but I didn’t really know any of the culture back then. What I knew was what I saw. What does gathering back to Karuah today mean to you? It’s wonderful coming back home. This is my home, I will be buried here at the cemetery when I die. It’s wonderful what Michelle has done, bringing us all together. I wish my sister came to see what Michelle has done. Who were some of your friends going up? Nearly all the kids on the mission here. We used to walk to school. I had friends from over the river, the Johnsons, Maxine, Alison and all the kids. What were some of the activities you and the kids would do on the mission here? On the mission, we used to play rounders daily on the side of the church. We’d used to all gather out there and hear mum sing out ‘dinner time!’ before scattering home. We used to go to Sunday school at the church and over to the Uniting church. They used to put on little discos for us. Those were such wonderful times when I was younger. What does culture mean to you? I’m a Woromai woman. It means so much to me. I never knew culture when I was smaller but now I’m a part of the land council at Williamstown which has so much culture there. You learn so much from what’s going on around you and from meetings. I’m an elder now and I attend the Elder’s Olympics. Last year we went to Port Macquarie and we’ve won it twice. We didn’t know about it until 4 or 5 years ago but Andrew from Woromai coordinated it. The first one was at Taree which we won and received medals for. The next one was our turn so we hosted it at Nelson Bay. We had a big dinner at night to present the medals. We were so excited when we won and brought home the shield. Andrew organised a motel for us and we didn’t have to pay for anything. It was a fun two days away. What are some changes in our society that you have seen in your lifetime? We used to have so much fun outside back then but now with computers, laptops, tablets and phones it’s quite different. My grandson plays a driving game on the TV and his tablet at night so his dad tries to take him outside. He’s even climbed a big mountain at Tomaree three times! He’s only 5 but I climbed it when I was 17. I was so scared, my legs were shaking when I was going down. Now they’ve got steps and pathways leading up to it. Where did you go to school? I went to school down here at Karuah Primary School, I enjoyed it so much there. When we used to go to school from here, we used to go with no shoes on. We would walk across the mudflats and up a little road to school. Some of us would go down and meet our teacher to walk him to school. His name was Mr Roberts. We used to go to his house, knock on his house and he would walk us back up to school. Do you have any stand out memories from school? We used to play on pojo sticks at half-time and jump around. We used to have little bottle of milk that were supplied to us and one-time channel 10 visited us. They wanted to a little documentary about us aboriginal children called the ‘black and the whites’. I remember my mother dressing me up in a little white dress with a ribbon in my curls. We didn’t walk across the mudflats that day because we had shoes on. We used to have such fun here. I used to go down to the water by myself and pick up tiny pieces of glass that were smooth around the edges from the water. They washed up on the beach and I would find all these different colours. I used to put them in a bottle but I don’t know what happened to them. They were so beautiful, these little pieces of glass. Do you feel like your achievements from school were recognised? No. Well I left high school at 14 because my mum had kidney disease and I was the only one home that could look after her. My dad was at work, my sister was in Sydney doing nursing and I was the only one home. She died in 1969. I missed her so much because at 14 you really need your mum. That was such a sad time. Did you play any sports in high school? I used to play softball and I was captain of the softball team. I was really good at pitching. I didn’t play basketball, it was mainly softball. What were the values and traditions you were taught when you were young? Nothing really. Mum and Dad didn’t do anything. Dad was a fisherman and used to work on the Oysters. Dad used to go down to Soldier’s Point from here and set the net for fish. My brother Neville used to work on the Oysters. I never really thought about it. What’s your message for the young generation of school children? Get out and have fun. We have a beautiful world here. Just go out and have fun, not just be on your computers and laptops. Enjoy life. How did you find your working life? I first worked at a café when I was 16 at Roman Terrace. Then I worked by picking beans and tomatoes. I met my ex-husband who was in the army when we were dating. His family owned a nursey, Flora Park Nursey which is gone now. We worked at the nursery and sold our share to move to Queensland. We stayed up there for 4 years and came back after my eldest child had a baby because we couldn’t stay away from the grandchild. I then worked with a boy from Juvenile Justice followed by a refuge for domestic violence with Delise, she was my boss. Unfortunately, I fell over at work while getting the linen off the line. My foot went off the pave and I twisted it, I ended up getting a knee replacement. My husband and I then moved down to Nelson Bay. We got a Woromai house with cheaper rent. The worst part was he had an affair on me. After 39 years, my heart just broke into two. He’s still living with the lady and I found a partner after so many years. I’m happy now. What are some great historical events you have experienced in your life? I’ve been to few places in the world. In 1983, my sister who was doing nursing married a Dutchman. They went back to Holland and we went over for a few months. John and I had four children so we took them over for a holiday. My sister organised two campervans to go all around Europe. We went across the English Channel in a big ship to see the Chelsea Flower Show. We come home after three months. On the way back we stopped at Singapore for 3 days. We used to do a flower show at Garden City with Azealias. John and I then went to Fiji while the children stayed with family. We’ve been to New Zealand. I’ve also been to America with my oldest son, daughter and my grand boys. John and I also went to Thailand for our 50th with our friend who was also 50. They asked us to come over to Thailand with them. I went to Bali last year with the eldest daughter. I’ve been to a few places in the world. John and I used to travel all over Australia as well, just car trips. My little grandchild makes me so happy. I’ve got 6 grandchildren, five boys and one little girl. My youngest son’s boy makes me so happy. What is the most powerful lesson you’ve learnt so far? I think mine is trust. When I was 14, I was pushed into a car, taken out into the bush and raped. I was still a virgin. My brothers both grew up in the Mile Lakes with all the family. I swam out to save their little granddaughter. When I got back to shore, I fainted because of the stress of that. I’ve had a terrible life. My dad molested my daughter, that broke me in half when I found that he did that. Falling over at work with my knee was the next thing. The separation and the divorce was another thing. I almost suicided in my life twice. I’m still here. They say that I’m a strong woman to go through all that. I’ve had a terrible life but I’m still here. I just thank god that I’m here to see my grandchildren. What’s something in your life that you’re proud of that you’ve achieved? My grandchildren, they’re so precious. They’re different from your own children.