Sue Hodges is part of The Salvation Army’s Indigenous Ministries team as The Divisional Indigenous Engagement Coordinator (NSW/ACT). We had the pleasure of interviewing her to hear more from her about NAIDOC Week 2018 and how The Salvation Army engages with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Thanks for being willing to share with us, Sue!
What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?
Sue: NAIDOC is very special to me, a time to get with the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander community. I know I am going to be busy and have time to catch up with everyone at the marches, flag raising ceremonies, BBQs and so forth.
What does this years theme “Because of her, we can!” mean to you?
Sue: Most of us know of Indigenous women who give and give but rarely receive any recognition for all that she sacrifices to gives to others. I am so excited about this year’s theme because it is about promoting the achievements of Indigenous women and saying ‘Thank you’. These women have achieved their goals regardless of having to nurture their families, care for their own sick parents, support their mob in prison, tend to husbands and community despite all the things life has thrown at them.
Who are some Aboriginal women who have inspired you in the ways they have played active and significant roles at the community, local, state and national levels today?
Sue: It’s very close to home as I have had the pleasure of meeting some deadly proper women, beginning with my own mum, Ivy West (29.5.42 – 3.7.83) from the local, state and national levels, who was a staunch Wiradjuri woman, the first Aboriginal woman to be employed at Wellington High School as an AEA, a domestic at 16 and suffered and endured all Australian government policies but never a nasty word said about anyone or anything.
My Aunty Jane Brown was the first Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer at Dubbo Base Hospital.
I am so proud of my own daughters, I know I can’t mention all who have inspired me but I must mention I am also so very proud of my own daughters, Jo Gilmour, a widow at 33 with 3 year old to raise. Jo overcame losing her husband to brain cancer and does a lot in our community now to raise awareness and funds to support others. She graduated on International Women’s Day (8 March 2018) in Naturopathy and in the business of healing people from a health perspective.
My other daughter, Sam Parkinson who works with BaptistCare who has a real heart for blessing people with her love and care.
Aunty Donna Meehan Author of her own book entitled “It Is No Secret” published by Penguin Books Australia.
Michelle Perry – The first Aboriginal Director at Awabakal Child Care Centre Wickham.
Emma Beckette the first Director Nikinpah Child and Family Centre Toronto.
Aunty Sandra Griffen – an Awabakal Elder and the first Aboriginal Female Audiometrist in Australia from Newcastle.
The Hon Linda Burney MP – Parliament a Wiradjuri woman who I met through the NSW AECG Inc back in 1996.
Then there’s a young lady Angela Pearce from Dubbo – a single mum, Manager at age 30 and first home owner.
Aunty Lyn Riley – Director of the Koori Centre, Sydney.
Aunty Di MacNaboe who has her Masters in Teaching Aboriginal Languages.
At the national level I would have to say Bonita Mabo and her girls for the work they have carried on even after the passing of uncle Eddy Mabo. I loved the movies and could really relate to everything that they lived through.
More recently I have the pleasure of gaining a position with The Salvation Army as their Divisional Indigenous Engagement Coordinator and still pinching myself as I get to work with the likes of, and alongside. the incredible Mt Isa girl, Shirli Congoo who is our Indigenous Ministries Leader with the Salvation Army based in Townsville. Another member of our team, Lucy Davies, is our outstanding Indigenous Engagement Coordinator Brisbane whom I admired so much while listening to her talk about her Streetlevel ministry.
The outspoken and endearing Aunty Jean Philips along with so many other wonderful aunties who I’ve only met this year through Grasstrees and the wonderful work she does with our Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders, together with Brooke Prentis whom together are opening up pathways into churches from all denominations to highlight the awesome work our Indigenous Christian Leaders are doing.
“Because of Her, I can” relates to each and everyone of these incredible women. I apologise if you are reading this list and your name isn’t included, I don’t wish to offend anyone you are all wonderful.
What can we do to help future indigenous leaders become all that they can be?
Sue: We can listen to and love them. To help future leaders, we must encourage them and assist them to reach their goals. Discourage thoughts and feelings that convey “I can’t do that!”, “That’s too hard!” or “Shame”. When opportunity knocks, help them open the door. Walk alongside individuals and help them identify their goals, help them create a plan of how they are going to get there, help them seek out mentors or be that mentor for them. Help them identify their strengths and weaknesses so they can work on their weaknesses to be the best they can be. Remind them of this verse – Jeremiah 29:11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’.
What sort of things do you do in your role as The Salvation Army Divisional Indigenous Engagement Coordinator?
Sue: I have been doing my best to bring my knowledge and skills to this role, being mindful of our team and The Salvation Army’s Reconciliation Action Plan. I am a part of a team of five, me being the only one in NSW/ACT, Shirli Congoo in Townsville, Chris Congoo in Townsville, Terrance Whyte also in Townsville, and Lucy Davis in Brisbane. I have been on the road a lot and clocked up around 27,000 kilometres in eight months.
I have been meeting Army personnel and gauging just how big this Division really is. I attended the Kids’ Holiday program at Moree with Jason and Jessica Poutawa in February, the Grasstrees Gathering this year at North Parramatta then to Mona Vale, followed by Surrender in Melbourne in March. Networking and seeing how other Indigenous Christians relate to Theology and each other played a big part in my learning on the job. In March I also helped out at Waterloo Streetlevel with Mel where I made six dampers and guided the team in including an Aboriginal perspective on the day. I work at Auburn Monday’s and Tuesdays and spend the other parts of my week up in the Hunter or wherever I am asked to go. I have visited a number of Corps, presented the Acknowledgement to Country and a Welcome to Country at a number of events or organised an Elder as appropriate to follow protocol in the Aboriginal community.
I work at Café Connect chatting and brewing or assisting with the making of coffee and Food Pantry on Thursdays at Bonnells Bay Salvos and love journeying with these people. I work with people experiencing homelessness and have supported them in getting Emergency Relief, warm clothes, food, shelter and attending court, Centrelink and advocating on their behalf with Employment agencies. I have provided guidance and resources to the Army to assist them with Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC events.
My next big goal is to work with others at DHQ in Auburn to get the Indigenous Australian Map framed and up on the wall in Divisional Headquaters together with cards for Army Officers – be they in a local Corps, Salvo Store or Rehabilitation Centre – so they know whose Traditional Land their particular services are on.