Aunty Fran Bodkin
My name is Fran Bodkin and I am a descendant of the D'harawal people of the Bidiagal clan. I am an educator of D'harawal knowledge and holds a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences with five majors, one of which is Environmental Sciences, plus other post graduate degrees. Combining the knowledge passed down through my Aboriginal mother, my University education and unquenchable journey of lifelong learning, I bring a holistic understanding of the environment. She has published three books on D'harawal culture, stories and natural resources. Aunty Fran works tirelessly with groups as young as pre-school age right through to adult learners, sharing ethno-scientific knowledge passed down by traditional clans and which is being increasingly referred to by modern research, in order to promote a deeper understanding of how to care for our natural environment.
In the past I worked for the NSW Parliament for many years. I am an active member of Wollondilly Aboriginal Advisory Committee. During the 1970's, Aunty Fran played a key role in the development of Campbelltown Hospital, Campbelltown TAFE, Mount Annan Botanic Gardens (part of the Australian Botanic Gardens) and what is now the UWS Campbelltown Campus, all of which span a significant part of the Macarthur region in South Western Sydney.
My people are Dharawal and 'Yandelora' is an expression of theirs, used when departing, which means 'Let there be peace between people'. This is particularly meaningful to me as my people have had to fight long and hard for their survival against both local enemies and the arrival of Europeans.
My mother, my grandfather and my great grandmother belonged to the Bidiagal clan of the Dharawal people. Mum and Nan over the years, whenever I was home, took me to many places within Dharawal lands to tell me the story of those places.
I was born under a tree on the corner of Foveaux and Crown Streets in Darlinghurst. Dad was taking Mum to hospital when the wheel came off the car and hit the tree and that's where I was born. Given my passion for plants, it must have been meant to be.
By the time I left school, I had been in fourteen foster homes and twelve schools. The first time I was taken away was when I was in kindergarten.
Both Dad and Mum had taught me to read and write before I went to school, and Dad would take me to Central Station and make me memorise the names of the railway stations in New South Wales, then he would tell me that if ever I was taken away, or if I was lost, find a railway and catch a train home. I knew the way to walk from Central Station to home.
I became the very first Researcher attached to a member of parliament. The job grew and I began to do research for other members too, one of whom was Jack Lang, who was partners with my boss in a newspaper. I researched and wrote stories for the newspaper, and was eventually given page three each week.
I worked in that job from 1953 until 1981. Mr Lang and several MPs talked me into going to university, and I did. Here was a learning environment that gave you immense freedom.
In 1976 I met and married Gavin who is a Dharawal man, one of the few members of the Nattai clan left, and we had our son.
While I was working in the parliament I had this dream of having a botanic garden, a university and a hospital all working to understand, develop and use the properties of our native plants, so that eventually, people could have their medicine cabinet growing in their gardens.
I am now an Elder on Campus, and I serve on several committees at UWS. I educate the young Aboriginal kids at school and prepare them for university. We are trying to develop their curiosity about 'this land', and to develop their desire to learn about our planet, and the natural sciences.
We have to learn that we can live in harmony within the environment and do not have to destroy it.