IN CELEBRATION OF NAIDOC WEEK 2021, WE ASKED OUR TENANTS TO SHARE THEIR STORIES OF CULTURE, ART AND COUNTRY. ISABELL BUNGIE’S STORY WAS GIVEN TO COMPASS COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION OFFICER KORAN TAYLOR. WE THANK THEM BOTH FOR SHARING.
BIRIPI WOMAN AND RESPECTED ELDER
For the first eight years of her life, Isabell lived on her grandmother’s two-acre property on at Taree. Isabelle’s grandmother purchased the land when she won the lottery. The extended family came together to build a family home and Isabell enjoyed growing up with her grandparents, parents and 12 brothers and sisters.
When Isabell was eight years old, the family was moved to the Purfleet Mission where she attended school.
“School was good as a young child, the children were black and white and not racist, there was no difference, it was the teachers that were”, says Isabell.
“Things were different at highschool. The children were racist, and the teachers weren’t “
Isabell lived on the mission until she was 20 years-old when she moved out to live with her husband and two young sons. At first, they lived in a caravan at the back of her parents’ home, but in 1976, the family moved into their own place in Taree.
Life was good, and the family grew! Isabell soon had six sons who got on well and enjoyed playing football in the local park with other kids. Isabell’s husband passed away in 1997 but Isabell remains in the house that they shared. A house that is now managed by Compass Housing Services and has been home to Isabell for 45 years!
Isabell always enjoyed giving to her community. She participated in the work for the dole program which gave her the opportunity to volunteer at local schools, supporting students and teaching Indigenous arts and culture.
Her volunteer work led to an opportunity for paid work under the local Aboriginal Lands Council and with the Department of Education.
Through this work, Isabell supported generations of students for 20 years before retiring in 2009 to care for her second youngest son who has a disability.
To this day, Isabelle at 65, still volunteers her time at several local schools including Taree Primary, Taree High, Chatham Public and Chatham High. She enjoys talking about life growing up in Taree, teaching Aboriginal art, visual arts, culture, sewing and being involved in community events in her role as a respected Biripi Woman and Biripi Elder.