Maisie’s peo­ple pas­sion

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS -

AT 90 years old, Maisie We­ston’s pas­sion for stand­ing up for her peo­ple is as strong as ever.

The Noon­gar Wagyl Kaip Elder and mother of eight from Rivervale has just been named the Naidoc Perth Fe­male Elder of the Year, but prefers the spotlight to shine else­where.

“I would have never nom­i­nated my­self, ever,” Ms We­ston said.

Despite her sur­prise at be­ing nom­i­nated, Ms We­ston said she was hon­oured to re­ceive the award.

Her ex­pe­ri­ences from child­hood shaped her into a de­ter­mined ad­vo­cate for Abo­rig­i­nal rights.

“It was a bad time for peo­ple like me. Be­ing Abo­rig­i­nal, part-Abo­rig­i­nal, it didn’t mat­ter, you were all classed the same and treated the same. And we weren’t able to go to the State school, we went to a lit­tle mis­sion school. So we were at a dis­ad­van­tage from the start. At the time, the Govern­ment was send­ing peo­ple away left, right and cen­tre. The Stolen Gen­er­a­tion. Back then they went mad, they sent kids ev­ery­where,” she said.

“I had a pho­to­graph, years ago, in 1939 an an­thro­pol­o­gist came. They were tak­ing every­one’s de­tails, your fore­fa­thers, as far back as you could re­mem­ber. A fas­ci­nat­ing time, I sup­pose, for them but they put ev­ery­body through a lot of ques­tions – the colour of your eyes, how tall you were, how long your fin­gers were. All this kind of non­sense. You felt like you were a crim­i­nal, I sup­pose, right from the word go. You never ever felt at free­dom.” Ms We­ston went on to work as as a field of­fi­cer with the first Abo­rig­i­nal Le­gal Ser­vice in Perth, work­ing with indige­nous peo­ple on le­gal mat­ters, hous­ing and a va­ri­ety of is­sues. “I felt good in that job be­cause I could seek jus­tice for peo­ple. I loved it,” she said.

Dur­ing the 1970s she worked with young girls at the Nyandi Women’s Prison, ad­vo­cat­ing on their be­half.

She also trav­elled to South Africa rep­re­sent­ing the El­ders Coun­cil to at­tend an Aged Care Con­fer­ence and said she felt an affin­ity with the coun­try dur­ing her time there.

At 90, Ms We­ston still has peo­ple seek­ing her ad­vo­cacy and ad­vice and the Elder said her dream was to have groups of older Abo­rig­i­nal women liv­ing to­gether, giv­ing them their own space but with easy ac­cess to group ar­eas to have a yarn and a cup of tea.

“I can’t see why we have to live alone when you’re that age. I’m sure there must be some clus­ter type homes where you can have two there, two there, and a lit­tle court­yard,” she said.

When it comes to this year’s Naidoc Week theme – Our Lan­guages Mat­ter – Ms We­ston said lan­guage, along with land, was of key im­por­tance to indige­nous peo­ple.

“We’ve been des­per­ately try­ing to hang on to (our lan­guages). At one point, you weren’t al­lowed to speak it,” she said.

Photo: Trevor Wal­ley

Maisie We­ston

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