July 5, 2018

Because of her we can: Kylie’s story

Kylie Hampton and Phillip McGuiness

For this year’s NAIDOC theme ‘Because of her we can’ we’re sharing stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women that have made invaluable contributions to our communities. Kylie Hampton, one of our Community Development Officers in the Northern Territory, shares her nana and mother’s stories and how they’ve inspired her to be the strong Aboriginal woman she is today.

Above: Kylie is pictured left with Phillip McGuiness fellow faces of NAIDOC by Menzies School of Health Research, 2017. Acknowledged for NAIDOC Theme “Language Matters”.

As an Indigenous woman I have witnessed many sad and beautiful things through the Aboriginal women in my community. Sadly, my nana was a part of the stolen generation. She was taken when she was 5 years old from her mother in Wave Hill, Kalkaringi which is 500km’s west of Katherine, Northern Territory.

My Nana’s Aboriginal name is Bilknardi (Nginjinarli) meaning Storm bird and she is from four Guirindji nations.  When she was stolen and placed at Croker Island Mission they changed her name to Jessica (an English name, as they did with most of the children that were stolen). Her nickname at the mission was Dubitj from the other children. My Nana vowed to return to see her mother again once she turned 18years old, however when she was finally released from the mission she returned to her community to find out her mother had died. Later in life, when she was around 40 years old, she met her other full blood younger brothers and sister back in Wave Hill. This was painful and upsetting for me to see as a little girl; my nana crying to meet her two brothers and sister for the first time, all of which had been robbed of their birthright.

My mother is also my pillar of strength. She has studied hard while raising 5 kids, finally achieving a Bachelor in Education through Batchelor College. After completing her education, she then applied to teach in Kalkaringi, where she moved her family (including my nan) for the chance to live and learn in my nana’s country.

My mother – through struggle and fight back times – made it possible for us to enjoy family and country surroundings and most importantly, getting to know our own identity. She was a teacher and eventually became the first Aboriginal woman and Town Clerk of the twin communities Kalkaringi and Dagaragu.

Kylie and Nan

Although my nana experienced trauma and depression she still had the strength to move back to her community with us and build a strong relationship with her brothers and sister. She has taken my mother and our family back to Wave Hill where she makes the connection and carries her heart heavy with painful events. Through this we were able to find our identity, language and culture again as this too was stolen from Nan.

Today I speak Gurindji fluently which is from Wave Hill the Gurindji people – the first Aboriginal tribe to put all Aboriginal people on the map by fighting for what was rightfully ours. I am proud to know I am from the Gurindji tribe and have strong cultural knowledge of my language, kinship, culture and song line. Vincent Lingiari was one of the tribe elders and our Leader. The Wave Hill strike would eventually reshape the agenda of relationships between Indigenous Australians and the wider community. Over that time, support for Aboriginal rights grew as the struggle intensified. The protest eventually led to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976. This act gave indigenous Australians freehold title to traditional lands in the Northern Territory and, significantly, the power to negotiate over mining and development on those lands, including what type of compensation they would like.

An important and symbolic event in Australian history occurred when, during an emotional ceremony in 1975, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured the local sand into Vincent Lingiari’s hands1, symbolically handing the Wave Hill station back to the Gurindji people.

My Aboriginal name is Bibay, meaning ‘Sacred Feather’. My dreaming is the sacred feather from the eagle which also means ‘leader’ in my community, as I am the eldest of my siblings. Today I still hold that role as a big sister and eldest granddaughter and daughter. I am a teacher and leader, a role model in my community. For that I am grateful to my nana, for taking us back to country, as she did not want the same identity crisis happening to her family. The way she suffered and lost her language and culture –  she made sure it didn’t happen to her family – us – the next generation.

I continue to follow in my mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps to get an education, as education is power. I have a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science majoring in Indigenous Community Management and Development through Curtin University of Technology in Perth. I am also a qualified trainer and assessor and have trained many students in culture and language.

Nana and Lorna Fejo

For me, this year’s NAIDOC theme ‘Because of her, we can’ means that because of her I choose to walk forward and hold my head high striving for improvement every day for the justice of the Aboriginal people. Because of her I am strong, wise, educated, powerful but most importantly I am a survivor like them and I have lived to be a wonderful and beautiful mother.

“Thank you, Nan, and Mum it’s because of you that I can”.

Left: Nana pictured this year with her best friend from the Croker Island home Lorna Fejo (Warramunga elder).