More than a year ago (July, 2011), I went and had a meeting with Patricia (Pat) Ockwell.
Pat Ockwell is a special kind of Self-Appointed Elder, and it is good to be her friend.
Pat is a tireless Volunteer in her community. In her position at Victorian Aboriginal Housing, she has helped many of her friends, family, and, even herself, to the best stock in the roster.
I'm sure when most people think of 'Aboriginal Housing', the brand new, modern units you see in the photo above aren't what first comes to mind. But that is what special people like Pat get, and although Aboriginal Housing Victoria have large numbers of homes that are old and poorly maintained, they save those beauties for the rest of the applicants who aren't related to the hierarchy of the Board, or friends with them.
I'm definitely not on Pat's friend list. She was the person who was sitting with me (in one of her many roles, of which my favourite was where she was given the tile of 'Respected Elder' - which admittedly would go great on a business card) when I filled out my 'Proof of Aboriginality' application, only to wind up being rejected. Despite her constant assurances during our meeting that she knew my family well (in fact, she made the statement 'you can't be a Victorian Aboriginal and not know who Charlie Carter (my paternal grandfather) is!'), and would vouch for me at the Board meeting, something went wrong. That something, was a long friendship between an Aunt of mine (with whom I'd fallen out in 2009), Pat, and another board member at DDAC. The same day I asked to apply for my Aboriginality, other family members attended the same Co-op and despite the fact I didn't waive my right to privacy, they were informed of my visit and future application by a DDAC Chairperson and Board Member. At this point, my estranged Aunt told her good friend, 'don't give him what he wants'.
I cannot say for certain whether my Aunts input was what led to my application being denied and then locked away in the CEOs' office for months, but, having watched this particular Aunt receive preferential treatment from Aboriginal Housing and other Industry organisations - thanks to Pat Ockwell and her friends - over many years, and in the absence of any believable alternative explanation being forthcoming from the organisations and people involved, there is little other conclusion to draw.
Unfortunately, Pat didn't end her meddling in my business there.
In March, 2012, my father passed away. During this difficult time, Pat took it upon herself to manage the guest list for his funeral. I say 'manage', as that is probably how she sees her actions (and how she manages to sleep soundly night after night) - but the reality is far, far different. Pat didn't work a family tree and a phone tirelessly night and day to ensure no mourner was left behind, instead, she took it upon herself to publicly abuse a woman who had mentioned she would be attending. It didn't matter to Pat that this woman was related to our family by marriage, and already had been given permission to attend by the children and partner of the deceased - heck, it didn't even bother Pat that this poor young woman had terminal cancer. Pat took it upon herself during a support group meeting at DDAC to publicly belittle this woman and tell her she was unwelcome at my fathers funeral. She reduced an already suffering woman to tears, all on the advice of her good friend - my estranged Aunt.
Pat did not attend my fathers funeral, and as for my estranged Aunt, she didn't even stay for the whole service and was long gone by the time we buried his body. One of the last mourners to leave was in fact, the young woman who Pat had abused.
Unlike most of the rest of us, there aren't many consequences for bad behaviour in Pats world. Although she undertook her tirade without grounds, and in a venue where she is also employed (actually, scratch that, technically - and you'll love this one - she works as a Volunteer so no action can be taken against her), when I attempted to raise a complaint about her behaviour with one of the organisations she 'volunteers' for, nobody wanted to touch it with a ten foot pole. Such is the power of a Self-Appointed Elder that nobody in the Industry
dares to speak against them for fear of the repercussions, and when an Elder behaves badly, everyone is encouraged to look the other way and say nothing.