‘Unspoken Words’ : Creative Letters to Elders of my Past and Present by Annette Dudley

My name is Annette Dudley.  Through my Dudley and Yow Yeh bloodlines, my Ancestors connect me to the Torres Strait Islands – Murray Island, Vanuatu – Tanna Island and The Bailai Nation of the Gladstone area, in Central Queensland, Australia. I would firstly like to acknowledge Elders past, present and future of the Traditional Custodians of the land that I live and work on, the Darumbal Nation, the Bailai Nation, the Ghungalu Nation, the Wadja Nation and the Woppaburra Nation. I would also like to acknowledge the Elders who have taken me under their wing and guided me, supporting me to do the work that I am honoured to do.

I have had the privilege of working in various roles based in Rockhampton which allowed me to make connections with people from all walks of life, young and old.  My passion is working with Elders, Stolen Generation, Women and Youth.  I feel honoured and privileged to be allowed to work in Rockhampton and the surrounding areas including Yeppoon, Mt Morgan, Gladstone, Woorabinda (Australian Aboriginal Community est. 1926 / 1927).

In this video I describe a project entitled, ‘Unspoken Words’: Creative Letters to Elders of my Past and Present.  It is about writing letters to significant Elders who have influenced me on my life journey, one in particular was my Great Grandfather Lomas William Yow Yeh (from my Mother’s side), who was Blackbirded* from Tanna Island in Vanuatu.  In my letters, I use externalizing and re-membering questions, highlight sparkling moments, and find ways to connect history, people and events across time – moving between the present, the past and future dreams and goals. My letters in this project were also influenced by a lot of the “Sorry Business” (funerals / deaths) that were happening in Rockhampton and Woorabinda as well as within my own family. These times got me thinking about eulogies and what it would mean to people if they were acknowledged for their life journey and the impacts that they had on people’s lives whilst they were alive by people simply writing them a letter.

I wrote various letters acknowledging the legacy that people have left with me and what they will leave for future generations to come. I am trying to honour and respect their embedded footprints in the sands of time of my life journey.

The next step of this journey is to support the younger generations to write letters to their Elders, those who are alive and perhaps those who are no longer alive.

Annette can be contacted c/o Dulwich Centre. She will also welcome your comments, reflections, ideas in the forum below.

* Blackbirding is a term used to describe the is the coercion of people through trickery and kidnapping to work as labourers. For more information, click here

Published on January 29, 2016
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