Aunty Gerry Page’s memories of growing up on Beaudesert’s Petersen Street are as vivid as the colours on the NAIDOC polo shirt she wears.
It was like a community of its own – siblings, cousins, aunties, uncles, parents and grandparents sharing kitchens and loungerooms, backyards and hearts.
Gerry, now 71, is the oldest of 12 kids and has lived a whole lot of life since those Petersen Street days, and her work is not done yet.
After more than 50 years away she returned to live in Beaudesert in 2016 and loves sharing her culture through the Mununjali Elders group.
And there is something about her current home that is reminiscent of the Petersen Street of the 1950s – family looking out for each other, kettle on the boil, kids playing in the backyard.
Those kids playing in the backyard today are Aunty Gerry’s great grandchildren.
Gerry comes from a line of strong women, like her paternal grandmother, Mununjali woman Anne Page (Currie née Fogarty, most known as Granny Polo) and her maternal grandmother Noonukul Quandamooka woman Martha Day née Manager.
Gerry’s mother Doreen was a beautiful four foot nothing woman who married Roy Page – a Mununjali man who was born under a tree at Tamrookum.
Together they made their home in Beaudesert, then had to move their big family back to the big smoke for their son Phillip’s medical treatment.
Gerry was 12 when she left the comforts of Petersen Street, and about 65 when she returned to Beaudesert. Through it all she has continued to be inspired by those strong women.
In 1967, when Gerry was 17, she married Eddie who was in the army.
They have been divorced for as long as they were married, but they remain friends.
They were in Singapore/Malaysia from 1969 to 1971 and in Townsville for nine years.
They had four kids – Darren, Edward, Grant and Rachel Anne (who got her middle name from Granny Polo), 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Rachel died in 2003, at the age of 30, and Gerry raised Rachel’s four children like her own.
Gerry also lost two of her brothers – Russell and David – to suicide in 2002 and 2016.
“You never get over your grief – it doesn’t matter what happens, you grieve,” she said.
Survival and self-worth course through Aunty Gerry’s veins.
She has always worked, from her job with the Department of Main Roads for 15 years to the Aboriginal Employment Strategy until her 2017 retirement.
She keeps busy with her family commitments and with demand stronger than ever for the Mununjali Elders’ services.
“it’s about survival and keeping going, reconnecting, making tracks and sharing- we grew up with that,” she said.
“The most important thing in life is to value who you are as a person and to be respected. I really feel that since I’ve come back home.”