Ingrid's Story

I am a Whadjuk Baladong Noongar Australian woman from Perth WA. My father’s family are from Perth and the wheat-belt, with links also throughout Western Australia and beyond. My mother’s family are English and Russian; they migrated here in the early 1900s.

As a child I grew up in and around the Fremantle area, mainly surfing with my dad Len Collard and proudly owning my ‘Freo feral’ title. It was a weird time growing up for me, figuring out my identity and where I fit. In the late eighties and early nineties the Aboriginal Act and Aboriginal communities was finally abolished and Aboriginal Australians were finally on the national agenda. As a result, the young generation of the time were forced to ‘pick a team’, those being team Aboriginal or team Australia.

For me, I did not understand why I had to identify with one or the other, as I was proudly both, but as I grew up I began to understand the nature of relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. I often used the saying “I don’t feel white enough for white fullas or black enough for black fullas.” I didn’t feel a sense of place in either domain due to the expectations in society at the time of what it meant to be either. On top of this identity crisis, my younger years were hard due to abuse suffered as a child by a family member. I therefore lost my way during my teen years, running away and travelling gypsy-style around Australia.

At 19 my dad found me in Sydney and asked to come home and reconsider the path I was on. This was a life changer for me, as I finally got back to school, met my now husband of 14 years, and discovered my love for anthropology, community development and engagement. During this phase of rediscovery, I confronted my childhood abuser finally brining him to justice, got married, started a family and realised my calling.

What was my calling? Realising that in the early contact between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian people and culture, there was a missed opportunity to learn, appreciate and work together for a common goal of coexistence. This lack of understanding started a series of events causing trauma, hurt and destruction. We now need to get back to basics. We can do this by building back trust and rapport, using all our stories to formulate and create the way forward. It’s a big life calling, but one I am committed to, and one I bring into the work I do with Canning as the Community Engagement specialist.

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What does ‘Because of her, we can!’ mean to you?

This year’s theme is one very close to my heart. When I hear it, I think of my two young daughters Haylee and Jennifer. After years of struggle, I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I remember looking down at my belly thinking, “I will not let her live my struggle, so I need to get my life together to make sure her journey is defined by who she wants to be, not carrying around my baggage”. Anytime I feel like things are getting too hard, I look into her eyes and remember - because of her, you got through the biggest hurdle of your life, and because of her, you can get through this.

What role have woman played in your life?

Coming from an incredible line of strong women from kura (the past) like Fanny Bulbuk (d), Janet Hayden, Janet Collard and Elizabeth Jean Collard and being inspired by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women of yeye (today) including my mum, sister, elders, old university tutors, work colleagues and mentors and today’s young people. All these women have played and continue to play a role in my life. They all have a journey and a story to share which anyone can find inspiration in and learn from. You just have to find the time to be still, be present and listen to learn from one another – something my elders have taught me from a very young age. I value all the interactions with all women and men I have, as I learn something new that either challenges or affirms my thoughts or actions, making me grow as a person and spirit.

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What are the opportunities for Aboriginal women moving forward?

As far as I’m concerned, the world is our oyster, regardless of who we are. Although for some, it isn’t as easy as that, so if you see someone who could do with the support or encouragement to access and opportunity, be an awesome human and help them. Nothing is more rewarding that knowing you helped someone realise or attain an opportunity or dream.

As this is my first year at Canning, I am really looking forward to the events we are hosting. This is the Canning moort (family’s) first year with a Reconciliation Action Plan. We as an organisation are excited to do more with our Whadjuk Noongar and wider Aboriginal community, not just during NAIDOC but continually throughout the year, with our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters.