Regional roles led me home to Country

News story
Glenice Smith is a Perth-based Aboriginal Practice Leader for the Department of Communities. This is her journey story about taking on regional roles that led her home to her Mother’s Country and her Father’s Country.
Image of Department of Communities’ Glenice Smith in a culturally significant place in the Kimberley region of WA

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this story contains references to deceased persons.

My trip to Kununurra and my current deployment in the Midwest, working in Emergency Services for the Department, have provided me with unexpected and amazing opportunities. 

I was removed from my family on my first birthday in Port Hedland and flown to Perth where I was placed with my foster family in the late 1960s. During my time with the Tropical Cyclone Seroja recovery team in 2021, I was able to work in the Midwest and strengthen my connections with my Mother’s Country and family. This included a trip to Burringurrah Community, run previously by my maternal uncles.

This year, an opportunity arose to help with the COVID-19 response in the north of the State. I was deployed to Kununurra in the East Kimberley. My father’s Country. I had been wanting to visit for so long. Now in my mid-50s, I was sitting in the Kununurra office working away with a thought running through my head that I needed to pop into the local land council office to try to catch my mate who could assist me to meet my Uncle on my father’s side.

Well, I finally gave in to my urges and jumped in the car and drove around and… you wouldn’t believe it. I attended reception, where I was told my friend and my Uncle were both there and currently in a meeting. 

I teared up and said, “Please give them an urgent message.” 

I explained, “This is my father’s Country and I am here for the first time.” 

The lovely young lady said, “Welcome home”… and I started crying. They all broke from their meeting and she brought my Uncle out. 

He welcomed me, as did the other board members. Apparently, I am his Cousin Sister, my Dad reared him up. His cousin, who had spent time with my dad before he passed, was also there and she spoke to me about my father and was so happy to see me.

They are all urging me to come back with my kids. 

Being able to reconnect with my biological family this year, due to the places our work has taken me, has been remarkable.

Glenice Smith is a Miriuwung Gajerrong-Dawang, Traditional Owner on her Father’s side and Yamatji on her Mother’s side. 

Page reviewed 13 May 2022