I’m a working class, mixed race Sociologist, geriatric single mother, over-feeder and music freak.
My brother and I arrived into the world as the result of an ongoing affair our English mother had with our African and Native American biological father. She remained married to her white husband and, after initially offering me up for adoption, they went on to raise us as their biological children! I traced our biological father when I was 21. By 1992, my brother and I had had our minds blown about who we are and the places and people we are connected to.
I’m a Social Researcher and Policy Analyst at Anglicare Tasmania.
We work to achieve social change through influencing government and decision-makers to create new services, review and reform policy and legislation, and improve programs to help Tasmania’s most disadvantaged people and communities.
Policy and programs are often developed and designed from a very white middle class lens. And the discussions about the ‘disadvantaged’ are often conducted without these people being present. We work to ensure that through our research, the voices of Tasmanians are at the centre of thinking about how we alleviate ‘disadvantage’ – on a social, emotional and material level. We’re unique in what we do in Tasmania, and there are few like us across Australia.
It is not people’s ‘fault’ if they underachieve by standards created by a predominantly white middle class system. Engagement is a two way process. Providing ways for people to understand what disadvantage, poverty, alienation and trauma feel like can be a powerful tool to change systems if they are listening and willing to be changed.
During my developmental years I dealt with judgement about class and race, verbal and violent expressions of racism. It created a curiosity about how people navigate themselves and one another through adversity and how social systems are designed to address that adversity and put people on an even playing field.
The last couple of years have been very challenging. Supporting family with addiction, mental illness and domestic violence, having my first child, Gil, at 44, my mother’s health deteriorating into dementia and stroke. Then becoming a single parent and latterly, a widow, all whilst needing to maintain full time work.
Grief is always present. We talk about Gil’s Dad every day. Gil has a very developed sense of what death is for a 5 year old and we’re lucky that he’s a great talker. We created a memory box about his Dad, so that we can add stories and mementoes that will stay with Gil as he grows. It’s been a great vehicle to make others feel more comfortable about sharing their memories and talking about death.
Music is a source of joy and sharing in our house. Growing up there was a constant stream of jazz and soul and my parents gave me my first record player when I was 11. My son Gil has started learning keyboard and I have returned to guitar lessons as a form of therapy. I have realised that we play so much reggae in our house that I’ve raised a boy with a UK/Australian/Jamaican accent!
I LOVE cooking for my loved ones. Gatherings at the table are where chats happen, memories are made, and I feel I can best nurture my loved ones with food, drink and music of course...
Family is created. It is not static and it needs reciprocated kindness to thrive.The beautiful environment and scale of Tasmania and the generosity I’ve experienced here within Tasmania has enabled me to establish a beautiful supportive ‘family’ of reciprocal support. We have a charmed life here really. And one that I don’t take for granted for a minute.
Photography by Ninna Millikin
This project was assisted by Bellendena Small Grants and City Of Hobart