To the Defence Service in Canberra and to the Principals and students of Great Lakes in the Land District of Tobwabba Yuri Worimi Country Kattung language area, thank you very much for attending what was a very moving day on Tobwabba, 12 November 2012.
On this day, the last surviving WWII widow, Mrs Joyce Simon, was the special guest of honour for the Tobwabba Memorial Service at 90 years young. The comments were all the same: that Aunty Joyce was getting around like a 60 year old. How great it was to have her in our presence; it was beyond my ever thinking thoughts to have this reality at a time when our cultural history certainly needed a reminder of our commitment as Original women of cultural history in itself.
My thanks to all who participated, and especially the sponsorship provide by Coates Hire Service, who were most generous with their sponsorship offer and Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service, who did not hesitate to provide the necessary equipment Tobwabba Original Workers Network (TOWN) needed to make this day go according to a plan.
I feel that TOWN has filled a void that has long been a forgotten part of our genuine cultural history and reality in our connection to the past and the present. What we have lacked in such resources to accomplish our mission was fulfilled in sponsorship support and TOWN’s dedication, commitment and perseverance.
Tobwabba Memorial Service was not simply about that one day, but a focus on respect of our law, land and people in showing a duty of care to our Ancestors buried at Tobwabba and of course, a special guest in Mrs Joyce Simon, wife of WWII soldier Mr Toki Simon, who took five bullets whilst at war and then returned to the front line to finish the job. Such bravery is beyond speculation. His brother, Robert Simon (Bob), was a prisoner of war in Changi, and the Leon and Slater families all served in WWI and WWII in New Guinea and Malaya. Len Leon, Bill Slater and Will Paulson, ex-army reservist, all have a camaraderie which is part and parcel of being family.
This is cultural history in the making; this is Tobwabba in the beginning, and it will be the future, as the unveiling of the Tobwabba Memorial also took place, with Aunty Joyce Simon as a special guest to unveil the Tobwabba Memorial Plaque.
I would like to thank everyone who had a part in giving time and effort in getting Tobwabba to this point. There is more to be done of course; but for now it is a great ‘big thank you’.
Photo: Elvina Jean Paulson (far right) and Aunty Joyce with two daughters, Rozie and Barabara. Aunty Joyce’s son, Victor Simon, who fought in the Long Tan Battle in Vietnam RAR 6 Company D and daughter Gail were not present.
This interview was found in issue 70 of Manning Great Lakes Focus