Monday, 7 March 2016

Celebrating a woman who has earned respect on International Women's Day

There are people who demand respect because they feel they deserve it and there are people who just deserve it. I have been fortunate to have many women in my life who deserve respect but few demand it. On International Women’s Day  I would like to celebrate one woman who has never demanded respect but has certainly earned; it my mother.

I know, you are thinking all mothers are amazing and deserve respect, and they do, but mine is someone who gives so much of herself that I wanted to take the time to recognise her.

My mother is Rhonda Finlay, a proud Yorta Yorta woman. My mother has always raised me knowing that I am Aboriginal and that it is something to be proud of. Something which I am sure at times was difficult given the level of racism she has faced in her life. If I am a proud Aboriginal woman capable of standing up for our Peoples, its because my mother showed me how to be.

She is a generous with her time, love and money. And those who know her know this about her. Here are just SOME of the things she does or has done. She is on the Board of Worimi Aboriginal Land Council. She works full time at Toronto High, at the age of 61 I might add as an Aboriginal Education Officer, she teaches disadvantaged kids to drive and is one of the annual Yakka Day organisers. She has even managed a Koori woman’s league team for the Koori Knockout, even though she doesn’t consider it “real football”. She has sat with terminal patients who have few family or friends as part of a palliative care program, voluntarily putting her numerous experiences of death to use for the benefit of others.

She extremely dedicated to helping the kids at the school and those who have left. They have her phone number and she always picks up their calls and text messages. She loves them and at times brings out the tough love I am so familiar with. And they respect her enough to listen. She lets them mess up her hair, but only after lunch. She has introduced some of them to new foods such as olives, with varying success. If they don’t turn up to school she goes knocking on their door. If they cant get to a job interview she drives them. If I am caring and hardworking, it is because she led by example.

She has always given more of her self than any other person I know. When I was younger she worked as a cleaner to supplement my dads income so we could go to a private school. Now while I am recognising my mother, this does not mean I don’t also have an amazing father, I do, but it is International Women’s Day. She has done so much for us kids, more than I will ever know.  She insisted on teaching us kids to be like that too. When I was really young she made me give away half my toys to charity; literally half and I never had many to start with. She arranged for the entire family to feed the homeless one year for Christmas. Another Christmas our gift was sponsoring a world vision child. If I am generous it is because my mother showed me how to be.

My mother does all this and more in spite of the challenges she has faced in her life. She has dealt with numerous personal and family issues. Issues which may have guttered someone who doesn’t have the inner strength my mother has. Now don’t get me wrong, she isn’t perfect and like all mothers drives me up the wall at times. We struggled to understand each probably until my mid 20s. The point is not about being perfect all the time, but what you do the rest of the time. If I am strong, it because my mother showed me how to be strong even when life is challenging.

Throughout her life Rhonda Finlay has shown me, and many others, what it means to be hard working, caring, generous and proud. I am very lucky to have had a strong Aboriginal mother and I am better for having her in my life.

On International Women’s Day, please take the time to recognise not just those women who are publically contributing to the betterment of society but also to those who fly under the radar.