Sunday, 17 March 2013

'Elders' Behaving Badly

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. 

People infront of unit jpeg

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.


  1. "Respected Elder" Indeed. How about an individual who craves power over others. And who, as a means to achieve this end self-proclaims herself as a chief representative of a collective. One, which all are forbidden to critically evaluate. Because to do so is evil. At least say those who also surrender their individuality to collective identity.

    "Simply a woman" does not feed the ego the way "Respected Elder" does. The great irony of course is that by self-proclaiming herself to be respected, she states to all that she is not. No-one could ever genuinely respect such a person. Show them obsequious doting in the hopes of being favored with gold? Sure. Even fear such a person for the power they hold? Absolutely. But here's the thing about the latter, fears can be overcome.

  2. Dallas, if you took a survey of indigenous organisations you would find this situation is the norm, which is why I am watching the NT government with great interest. Indigenous people in positions of power tend to misuse their position to gain advantage for their families and allies. Have you ever considered why aboriginal people did not live together in collectives like other races did, but instead lived in individual family groups, only coming together as a whole for special events, like initiation ceremonies? Did you every wonder why so many indigenous organisations go bankrupt and end up under investigation? It is due to self interest and nepotism and the reason it has been allowed to flourish is because non indigenous people are so terrified of being labelled racist they don't question dubious activities until it is too late, and the damage has been done. And nothing will change until the day aboriginal people are held to the same level of accountability as non aboriginal. Then we truly will have reconciliation.

  3. I see they even throw in gardening and other services. Is it too much to expect people to get their own lawn mowed after being given a free house?

  4. "Indigenous people in positions of power tend to misuse their position to gain advantage for their families and allies."

    Then they are like virtually every other power wielding bureaucrat who has ever set foot upon the planet.

    1. The difference lies in the quantity of rorting going on, and the lack of expected accountability. It would be interesting to know just what ratio of indigenous/white organisations had been disbanded or had their accounts frozen due to mismanagement and nepotism. I can't speak for other states but last year alone in the NT, dozens of indigenous organisations were charged with failing to submit financial reports.
      And how many of the culprits are ever charged? Very few, if any.
      And I can speak from personal experience when I say that no-one, from the government down, wants to get involved with anything that could lead to an accusation of racism. I know of brave people who have reported rorts, mismanagment and pure nepotism, only to have it swept under the rug and shrugged off as "cultural practises".
      To rip off strangers is one thing. But to do it to cultural family members who are in sometimes desperate situations and dependant upon you for help is something else.

  5. "And I can speak from personal experience when I say that no-one, from the government down, wants to get involved with anything that could lead to an accusation of racism."

    Then they are cowards, more interested in keeping their own mini gravy train rolling in.

    Such charges of racism made by those who self-claim to represent a collective (and they are always of a leftist bent) will not go away. It happens in Oz. It happens in Canada with the First Nations. And it happens in the U.S. where those who argue for limited Gov. (Tea Party) are pilloried as racist towards Obama. Hell, even the Prime Minister of OZ employs the same tactics, but her critics, rather than being racist, are sexist and women haters. Such character assassination is stock in trade to people who want to keep the power and privilege they have at their hands.

    "But to do it to cultural family members who are in sometimes desperate situations and dependant upon you for help is something else."

    People are people. Look at the U.S. at those majority black areas, who have been represented by mostly black leftists/collectivists for decades. The corruption and associated societal decay is massive.

    Individuality accountability is the only thing that can serve to mitigate such occurrences.

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  7. Seems she isnt the only one sitting on boards collecting sit down money

  8. Seems she isnt the only one sitting on boards collecting sit down money

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