Knowing your family story and having cultural knowledge are important parts of the recovery journey for our clients. Lives Lived Well’s Shanty Creek clients are fortunate to have Uncle Willie Clark close at hand to inspire them to build their cultural knowledge.
Uncle Willie Clark joined Shanty Creek residential service four years ago as a Support Worker, bringing with him a lifetime of skills and a deep understanding of his mob’s ways.
Willie is a proud Gunggandji man who grew up in Yarrabah, east of Cairns. His great great grandfather was a Scotsman, in charge of a pearling lugger in the Torres Strait, while his great great grandmother’s mob comes from Lockhart River on Cape York.
Willie describes himself as a ‘jack of all trades’. Some of the jobs he has held include as a Justice Coordinator at Lockhart River, an Operational Officer for QLD Health, a Community Police Officer at Yarrabah, an interpreter for the Magistrates Court, plumbing, working in road and bridge gangs, and hauling sugar cane carts.
These days, Willie’s role as a Support Worker sees him welcoming new clients to Shanty Creek, helping them to settle in, catching up with them to see how their treatment is going, and talking about traditional ways.
“I like taking our residents on cultural trips, whether it’s down to the beach or to the rainforest,” Uncle Willie said. “I talk to clients about the different trees and how they provide medicine or materials for tools such as spears, boomerangs, nulla-nulla and shields.
“If we are down on the beach or at a saltwater creek there are lots of trees and bush food we can use or eat.
“Sometimes I will have an activity about who you are, not by name but who you really are – like your totem name if you have one and what meaning it stands for, your clan group, your cultural respect and lore, healing water, women’s places and bora grounds.
“If a client doesn’t know much about their mob, I will tell them to go and Google it up. Then they start discovering all sorts of things about their family and their clan and I see the joy it brings them. It’s a wonderful thing.”
In his spare time, Uncle Willie enjoys teaching his great grandchildren how to catch prawns and crabs using traditional hunting methods. With five children, 18 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren, Uncle Willie is kept very busy passing on his traditional knowledge to his own family. We are lucky to have him do this for our Shanty Creek clients as well!