Gwenda shares her story for NAIDOC Week

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This week (4-11 July) is NAIDOC Week and this year’s theme is Heal Country which calls for greater protections of land, water and sacred sites.

To mark the week we shared Dementia Australia Dementia Advocate Gwenda’s story.

“As a proud Palawa woman descendent from the Tasmanian Tebrikuna Tribe I have the privilege of currently living on the land of the Wamba Wamba nation in the small country town of Finley.

Finley is less than 20km from the mighty Murray River where, due to the Murray Darling Basin Plan, flows to the mouth of the river remain in a dire state and dredging is to keep it open is now the norm, even without drought. 

Even though I was diagnosed with younger onset behaviour variant frontotemporal dementia nine years ago I still remain passionate about protecting our lands and waterways. Frontotemporal dementia does not define me, it is a disease that has changed my abilities but not my passion. It has reduced my empathy and social skills but not my ability to give and receive love. It has changed my personality and skills but I am still me inside. 

I am blessed to have been invited by Deniliquin Local Aboriginal Land Council to join other Elders, at the local Golf club, for an Elders Lunch to celebrate the recognition our Mother Earth, our waterways and sacred sites as well as our cultural heritage needing greater protection. 

I will spend Tuesday with these wonderful Elders who are imparting knowledge to the younger generations and on Thursday I will celebrate with family and friends in the beautiful Waring park where market stalls and information stands will be available for the whole community. 

This coming together of all local people at NAIDOC Week events provides an opportunity to learn more about Aboriginal communities and to join with us in our celebrations. Just like the different types of dementias there are many different Aboriginal communities and peoples, we are all different colours and we all celebrate differently. Here I am living with dementia with my pink hair and I will be standing beside the CEO of my Local Aboriginal Land Council with her purple hair along with Uncles and Aunts from surrounding areas during NAIDOC Week. 

Prior to diagnosis I was a Social Worker working for several Government Departments and have been on many management committees for various community organisations. The youngest of seven children and mother of five, now with grandchildren and a great grandson, I continue to embrace my life as it now is. Celebrating NAIDOC Week within my own community allows me to maintain community connections, feel accepted for who I am now, not the person I was. This is so important to me and I am indeed blessed to be embraced by my local Aboriginal communities.” 

We thank Gwenda for kindly sharing her story and for all that she does to contribute to her community and improve the lives of people living with dementia.