Elder Kathleen Lena is launching a book about her life and it’s got a few surprises.
Elder Kathleen Lena is launching a book about her life and it’s got a few surprises. John Gass

Aboriginal elder launches book

SMILING, Tweed Aboriginal elder Kathleen Lena points fondly to the framed family photos and countless accolades hanging on her living room walls.

"I forgot about that one," she says with a proud chuckle.

She's the woman who has become known as "Aunty Kath" and today she launches a book about her 84 years of life.

Here we speak to Mrs Lena about her ups, downs and hopes:

Tell us about your book?

It's about my life and how I lived and all the people I got to know over the years.

Why did you decide to write it?

It was my 80th birthday. I was thinking about it before then and my daughter said to me that it was about time to write a book. I wanted to show the way we lived and how we survived because life is a survival day by day.

What's the most shocking revelation in your book?

They all think I'm a goodie goodie, but I learnt to play cards. I learnt the art of gambling. So that might be a shocker to people. I was about 13 years old. But we weren't rebellious, that's one thing I will say, because the uncles and aunties that I lived with were very strict. Strict but a loving upbringing.

You're a leader in your community. What led you to this role?

It's not for me to nominate myself. The community made me an elder. I hope I can be a guidance to the young people. They're supposed to come to you for advice.

What is the greatest challenge facing indigenous Australians now?

I hate to say it but the prejudice is deep down. I think that's what it all boils down to. I don't think you'll ever get rid of it. It will be there forever. It's something that's too embedded in people's lives.

What are your hopes for the future?

To see my people rise up to the challenges of life and overcome them. I know we have some young ones that have done that, but there's still quite a few yet. There's more to be done. We have another young generation growing up. To be able to nurture them through their young years and for the elders to take their positions and look after them.

Will you write more?

Oh yes. The next one will be about the community. The next then will be a book on family and my (late) husband Allan's family.


Aunty Kath will launch her book, My Life, at the Minjungbal Cultural Centre today from 10am to noon, on the corner of Kirkwood Rd and Duffy St, Tweed Heads South. It's self-published and took four years to write.

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