Senior Australian on the move for better future
AUSTRALIA'S senior citizen of the year in 2017, Sr Anne Gardiner, is on the move using her national profile to benefit the Tiwi indigenous community on Bathurst Island.
As a result of this award and through the generosity of Richard Rolfe OAM, the dealer principal at the Audi Centre Canberra, Sister Anne has been gifted a 4WD scooter which will allow her to activate a new project where she will meet and talk with every Tiwi person between the ages of 18 and 35 about self-esteem, motivation, and mutual respect.
"I will sit down and talk to the people to see if I can help them to understand the world that they are living in," Sister Anne said.
"These people can be leaders in their own right. Their ideas have got to be listened to. Let's give them a fair go.
"I will be able to take what they tell me, decipher it and then say, if the Tiwi people allow me to do it, these are their thoughts regarding the situation they are finding themselves them."
Sister Anne is understated in her acceptance of the prestigious award, but when it comes to the Tiwi people she has no qualms about using the award to have her concerns for their future heard.
The 86-year-old moved to Bathurst Island when she was 22 as a member of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
She remembers the community didn't have much, but they shared everything. But now she sees money has had the biggest negative impact on the Tiwi people.
"We have become individualistic and I see family breakdowns, not only on Bathurst Island, but also in my own family.
"We seem to be forgetting that the core of society is family and I think individualism is wrecking it."
Sister Anne has a one word answer for this problem: respect.
The senior members of the Bathurst Island community are gravely concerned about the loss of language and culture, and the loss of respect for the elders.
"Respect has to come back into the vocabulary of all of us. Once that respect goes, what have we got?"
She is also calling on medical professionals to make the time to sit down with the Tiwi people to talk to the them about their health issues and options.
"They have leaders in their own community. They have to look at this very seriously and say, 'what can we do to better our health?'," she said.
Sister Anne is seeing the community elders starting to take charge of trying to turn around their problems by working on the younger generations retaining the Tiwi language and culture.
In support of these community elders wanting to turn around the cultural outgoing tide, in March this year she handed custodianship of the people's Patakijiyali Museum to a group of four "strong" women so they could continue to collect and preserve Tiwi artefacts and stories.
She still has an ongoing connection to the museum through the family tree project where each family will receive a copy of their family tree.
"The women are working on computers, trying to get the family trees finished. They are also working on story books and a calendar for next year.
"I see great potential for that museum."
Before her reign as Senior Australian of the Year finishes in January 2018, Sister Anne wants so very much to see one thing change among the Tiwi community; she wants to see respect return for its elders.
"If they can respect themselves first, then they will really know who they are," she added.