Elsie remembered for her passion and generosity
By EMMA CORNFORD
A WOMAN with fire in her belly and an irrepressible sense of humour was how Elsie Joan Bancroft was remembered yesterday.
Elsie, who died aged 78 last week after an illness, was a highly-respected Aboriginal elder, well-known for her passion and generosity.
The service at St Patrick's in South Grafton was a blend of traditional Aboriginal and Catholic ceremonies, representing two important areas of Elsie's life.
Elsie's Aboriginality was a characteristic everyone spoke of during the service. In particular, it was her passion for Reconciliation, which she preferred to call 'co-existence', which was remembered.
It was reflected in the echo of a didgeridoo, the wafting haze of the smoking ceremony and the clack of the clapsticks during the service.
Hundreds of Gooris from throughout the North Coast attended the funeral, as well as many non-indigenous people who were touched by Elsie's life.
"My sister was a woman of real power and strength," said Rex Marshall during a tribute to his older sister.
He then read a poem Death of a Rose, penned as a tribute, which ended with the lines: 'In our memories you will always be very close to your family. Goodbye, Goori rose.'
Poetry was a prominent feature of the service, marking Elsie's love of prose and her own writing talent.
"I think her life is best told by her, because it was so finely expressed through her poetry," said her longtime friend, Bill Dougherty.
He then recited a line from her poem Last Goodbye: 'The head of the clan has gone to dreamtime in the sky. Arm in arm we cry our final goodbye'.
Elsie's eulogy was read by two of her grandchildren, Geordie Gorogo and Charmaine Davis.
Born at Mimmiga Gaugin in 1928, she was one of nine children to Jack and Tottie Marshall. When the family first came to Grafton in the 1930s, they lived in a hollow log outside of town for more than a month before they moved to Queen Street.
When she was around 20 she married Toby Bancroft and had eight children.
Charmaine also spoke of Elsie's love of travelling.
"She used to say the car wouldn't start unless she was in it, because she was the battery. Because of her spirit of adventure she was always prepared with packed lunches and a change of clothes," Charmaine said.
"Many driving times she put her faith in her family and they would end up lost, or going too far and running out of petrol, so she would always then be prepared."
A fan of cards and an active member of the community, she was also a joker.
"She would often make us laugh with her off the cuff remarks and sayings, but at the same time wouldn't suffer fools lightly."
As the final procession left the church behind a cross embellished with intricate Goori art and an Aboriginal flag, Charmaine's parting words rang true.
"Elsie would not want us to be gloomy, that was her way. We love you Mum, sister, Nan, Aunty and friend. You will always be a part of us. Farewell for now."