Meet spritely Pauline, 72, and our newest graduate
By EMMA CORNFORD
DURING her 72 years, Pauline Gordon has become a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
She has lived through being a member of the Stolen Generation and has been a passionate proponent for the environment and indigenous rights.
Now, after overcoming huge odds, she has a degree.
Mrs Gordon recently graduated from the Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in Darwin with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Social Sciences.
"I was definitely the oldest person on campus," she said yesterday, proudly displaying her framed degree.
"The others were all a lot younger. The course was really good for me because all the things we were studying, about the stolen generation and things like that, we all things I'd been through. I'd seen them first hand."
The degree took Mrs Gordon four years to complete. Some of the course work she would do at home in Grafton, but she would also fly to Darwin to take part in workshops.
The degree is the latest in a long line of achievements for Mrs Gordon, a former Baryulgil resident.
After seeing the devastating effects of the asbestos mine, she her husband Ken were key in getting the Aboriginal Medical Service up and running to help asbestos victims.
"My dad was a real fighter for indigenous rights back in the 1920s and I think maybe I inherited a bit of that from him," she said.
"I was taken from my home when I was a girl in 1942 ... so I can talk about all of this because I've been through it all.
"It's easy for me."
Mrs Gordon has also travelled the world, speaking at indigenous and environmental forums in Norway, Paris, Rio De Janeiro and South Dakota.
"I just wanted to do something as a role model that might encourage the younger kids to do something like this and show them that they can do it," she said.
"I do believe in getting around and ... letting people know who we are as a people (and that) white Australia does also have a black history.
"I think that racial divisions happen when people don't understand each other and that's when you get discrimination, so if you just inform people about each other then there'll be less problems ? I truly believe that."
Mrs Gordon said she hoped to combine her degree with a Bible studies course as another way to help people in Baryul- gil.
"I've seen a need out there ... to talk about moral issues, health issues, education issues," she said.
Not content to sit still, Mrs Gordon is also in the process of writing two books about her experiences.
So what do her family think of her insatiable appetite for knowledge?
"They're really proud. I told them I was going to do it ? they weren't surprised," she said.
"They know what I'm like," she laughed.