“I only remembered the tribal women when I was getting better in the last 12 months and realized what a beautiful connection I’d experienced as a child and what an extreme lack of connection I’d experienced when I left that community and came to Australia….”

I was a registered nurse and I’ve just decided to let my registration go after 30 years so I’ve started a new chapter in my life and it really is focussing on connecting.

While I was a registered nurse and a midwife, whenever I had someone in my care I would always consider that person potentially as a family member and that made me feel very comfortable to be aware and empathetic of their needs: even if I was exhausted, even if I was under pressure. If you think about your family in need, even if you’re really really busy, you’ll consider them.

I don’t think my perspective of healing is simply a physical concept and I’ve become more aware of that in the last 12 months when I myself had a significant health issue. After nine months I’ve been diagnosed with an auto-immune condition and I’ve chosen to enhance my health in many many ways.

The condition that I’ve got is a connective tissue disorder and so I feel like it’s really important for me to connect. One of the ways that I have connected is to become really involved with our Indigenous community.

I was born overseas. My parents were Victorians but they lived 13 years in the Pacific Islands and they had six children throughout the Pacific Islands. I spent three years in Kiribati [pronounced Kirabis].

When I was three, we moved to New Guinea. I had the most beautiful childhood there. From the age of three to six, I would walk up the track into the bush and I was welcomed by tribal woman and children. I’d walk down to the creeks and sit down while they picked the berries, made necklaces and wove bilums, which is a bag they carried from their heads and they’d put their baby in it, or piglets or use it when harvesting sweet potato. Bilums are very important and they make it out of string from the plant material that’s just growing around the environment. So that was my childhood. And then I came to Australia, to Victoria, at the age of six and the change was a shock.

I only remembered the tribal women when I was getting better in the last 12 months and realized what a beautiful connection I’d experienced as a child and what an extreme lack of connection I’d experienced when I left that community and came to Australia and went to school. It was very destabilizing. I guess I learned to become very much dependant on myself. Without realizing it I became isolated.

So connection is terribly important to me. When I was sick my mother suggested I go on a holiday. I came across a women’s weaving retreat in the Arnhem Land so I went with my sister to a place called Gunbalanya. I met these beautiful Indigenous women. Apart from the fact that the community’s health is in crisis, they had so much resourcefulness, they had so much regeneration and love and care and connection. And they were really well rooted. They were healers and their generosity overwhelmed me.

From visiting Gunbalanya I met a young social worker who put me in touch with SevGen, an Indigenous organization based on the Sunshine Coast. I now volunteer a lot for SevGen [which helps to nurture and support Indigenous young people.] I’ve organized a few stalls the Eumundi Black Markets which supports black people to become independent with their business and also, part of the markets is to open our arms and connect Indigenous and non Indigenous. It’s about creating a fluid Australia, understanding each other and having connections.

What do I get out of this? I’m connected. I thought I was going to find my connection by going to traditional Australia and I wasn’t able to in the end. Somehow I opened my eyes and I found right in my neighbourhood there is this organization that was ready for some help.

And this has helped me: I’ve seen a number of specialists and I’m doing really well and they’ve actually listened to me and they’ve said: You’re doing fantastically well. So keep doing what’s you’re doing.

This experience has reminded me that I have the resources within myself if I just stop and listen. That’s why I’ve started up my little business call Hidden Heritage because when I was sick, I would be in the back yard doing my gardening and I realized all the answers and all of the resources are within me and within each one of us if we just slow down and stop and reconnect with ourselves.

Even though I’ve started a business, it’s not ultimately about basket weaving, it’s about encouraging people to nurture themselves, not be hard on themselves, but to say: You know what? I’ve got everything I need to thrive.

If you’d like to learn more about Cara’s retreats: http://hiddenheritageretreats.com.au

This story was caught at Brisbane’s State Library Queensland Big Day of Belonging 18 June 2016. You can also read it on the SLQ Blog