Senior Wiradjuri elders Aunty Isabel Reid and Aunty Kath Withers have been officially recognised for their lifetime of dedication and contributions to the First Nations communities.
Wagga Wagga City Council unveiled the two plaques for the 39th and 40th Baylis Street Walk of Honour recipients on Thursday (25 May).
As the oldest living survivor among those removed from their families as children, Aunty Isabel has dedicated her life to advocating for Stolen Generations survivors receiving redress.
The inaugural director of the Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation is passionate about First Nations education and has advocated for juvenile justice and reparations for survivors of the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls.
Aunty Isabel was the Wagga Wagga Citizen of the Year in 2014 and was appointed as the inaugural member and chairperson of the Stolen Generations Advisory Committee in 2016.
Aunty Isabel said she felt overwhelmed by the celebration in her honour as she had not done the work for the accolades.
“I’m very privileged to be able to get such an honour … I’m so pleased,” she said.
“It’s wonderful to think people did recognise me for what was happening and why I did it.
“I just kept going and doing things for the community and I’m a community person.”
Aunty Isabel wants more younger First Nations people to speak out about their mental illness and tell their stories.
Aunty Isabel said she was most proud of being herself.
“Education didn’t come good for me because I didn’t get it in the homes, but I decided that what I did have in life would be for the community as well as for myself and my family,” she said.
“As time went on, I knew someone has to speak up, you have to have a voice. It’s important to get out there and tell your story. And that’s what I did.”
Aunty Kath Withers has dedicated her life to the foster care of more than 100 children over several decades and has supported families in crisis.
She has contributed to many educational initiatives and supported Wagga Wagga early childhood centres, where she taught the children about Wiradjuri culture through Aboriginal Dreamtime stories.
The renowned and award-winning artist has works of painting and weaving displayed in several public and private collections nationally.
Aunty Kath received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 and the NSW Community Service Award in early 2023.
She said she felt privileged to be recognised for the work she had done in Wagga.
“I took the first kid off the street when I was about 17, and I have nurtured a lot of kids when I was younger,” Aunty Kath said.
“Every child needs somebody.”
Aunty Kath hopes more people will become foster carers as ”the kids need the care”.
She said the proudest thing in her life in all these years was her family.
Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout congratulated both widely respected elders on becoming the 2023 Walk of Honour inductees and thanked them for their contributions to the communities.
Cr Tout thanked Aunty Isabel for the work she had done for the city, region and state.
He said few people would have been able to dedicate themselves to foster caring work for more than 100 children.
Aunty Isabel’s plaque is at 140 Baylis Street and Aunty Kath’s is at 83 Baylis Street.