'How does one say “Goodbye” to a Magnificent Woman Elder?
I am writing to let you know that my darling Yipi (Mum, Aboriginal way) Maudie (Martingali) Mandigalli is very close to dying.
I have been blessed to have known Maudie for 23 years, and we have shared our lives together for most of the past 16 years. How privileged I am. I will miss her so much.
I’m writing this now before her death because I will not be able to speak (or write) of her after her death for many years. Such is the cultural way. And I know that there are many of you out there who know of Maudie, and there are some amongst you who have been Marlpa (companions/carers) and they have also come to love her. I know that they would want to know about her passing.
There has never been a more regal, majestic woman than the magnificent Martingali (her Aboriginal name). She holds her dignity even now. Never a complaint, but rather a gentle ease of Spirit.
Maudie was recently flown from Balgo to Broome Hospital to “find out what’s wrong”. On behalf of her family, I was honoured with attending her as her carer. When we were told that she had advanced ovarian cancer and that nothing could be done to cure it she flew back to die in Country, with her Walytja (family).
She stayed with us at the Women’s Centre with the other Elders, myself and our five Marlpa, for a few days while her family organised a room, and a hospital bed (given to us by the Halls Creek Frail Aged Centre) was flown in.
She has now left Kapululangu and is living in her daughter’s house surrounded by her extended family. Children play around her, babies are nursed, grannies and great grannies of all sizes/ages sit around her bed, or come to her bed just to have a look. There is always someone is in her room, often reading the Bible to her or singing song. Her daughters from her brother (ie her nieces) sleep in the bed beside her every night. They had travelled from a distant community immediately upon hearing about her illness with the sole purpose of being there for her. Together they, her family, are holding her Spirit.
Kapululangu’s (now four) Marlpa and I go over to see Maudie in her new home twice a day (at least). We are privileged to be charged with the responsibility of caring for her physical well-being. No longer able to move by herself, we make sure that she is clean and comfortable. The Balgo Clinic doctors and nurses are on constant vigilance waiting to be called to assist. Our whole community is alert, waiting.
And there, amongst all this bubbling, effervescent busy-ness of life, lays Maudie’s fragile yet noble body, gasping to maintain a tenacious hold on breath, yet filled with her indomitable Spirit/soul eased by a faithful knowing that she will soon return to the Tjukurrupa (the Universal Life Force).
Maudie has seen it all. A Djaru woman born in the desert before the arrival of Kartiya (Strangers) in her ancestral homelands, she grew up with the world changing rapidly around her. She grew to marry a stockman and, like other women around her, came to labour on a cattle station in the kitchen and laundry.
She raised her children on the cattle station, but when her daughter was taken (“stolen”) to attend school and live in the dormitory of the Catholic Mission in Old Balgo Maudie would walk hundreds of kilometres just to visit her, and then walk back to the Station again. Maudie moved to Balgo in the late 1960s after she, along with countless other Aboriginal people, were evicted from the cattle stations and thus barred from their own ancestral Country.
Maudie is the last standing of the four Women Elders who formed Kapululangu in 1999. Answering the Elders call, I had only recently arrived to live in the old Culture Shed that stands on the Women’s Law Ground in Balgo, when they came to join me. My Pimiri/aunty (Yintjurru Margaret (Bumblebee) Anjule Napurrula), my Ngawitji/grandmother (Mungkina Dora Rockman Napaltjarri), and another pimiri (Nanyuma Rosie Napurrula) … and the gentle, wise, always-accepting Martingali Maudie Mandigalli Napanangka-Nungarrayi. Twelve other Women Elders soon came to join them/us and, thus, Kapululangu flourished and became Australia’s only Aboriginal Women’s Law and Culture Centre, as status that it still holds today.
The Elders had the vision which came to be known as “Kapululangu”. They’d called me to join them because I had the skills to be their cultural conduit between worlds. I was their advocate, their intermediary between Aboriginal and Kartiya domains, their instrument for obtaining resources that are tightly held in Kartiya control, and their apprentice. Kapululangu was, and is, a true hybrid, a fusion of Two Ways - Aboriginal and Kartiya.
And yet nothing could, or can, happen at Kapululangu without the Elders. The Elders are the beginning, the middle and the end of Kapululangu. And when the Elders end Kapululangu will be no more.
Well, certainly not the Kapululangu which we have known. Perhaps, hopefully, some form of Kapululangu will remain. But the Old Ways, the Kurralkatjanu Yiwarra, will have gone. When all of the original Elders have gone it will be time for a new version of Kapululangu. What form it will take will depend on the Young Elders as they step forward to take their place as the community’s Elders. Kapululangu will be shaped by their visions and their needs.
Maudie is not the last original Kapululangu Elder … there are four more living here still. So for now Kapululangu continues. But time is running short. And we need you to join us.
The Kapululangu Elders invite Marlpa to come join them. We are looking for good-hearted women who want to spend time with our remarkable Elders while at the same time caring for them so that they can continue to live on their Women’s Law Ground, in their Country, close to their families for as long as they can. Kapululangu believes in the right of our Elders to live at home and to die in Country.
So, if you are interested in Gifting Service to this remarkable group of Aboriginal Women Elders you can visit the Volunteer page on our website at www.kapululanguculturecamps.com. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the other ways to support the Kapululangu Elders are… sharing this Page or post, networking, and talking-up for Kapululangu. If you’d like to make a donation you can find info on our website too…
please see www.kapululanguculturecamps.com
We thank you for your support!
Zohl de Ishtar for the Kapululangu Elders
(Thanks to Paul Francis for the photo of Maudie)'
My thoughts go out to Maudie and her family and friends. If you would like to leave a message, you can leave it here.