BUILDING THE FUTURE: Irene Daley reflects on the theme of this year's NAIDOC week.
BUILDING THE FUTURE: Irene Daley reflects on the theme of this year's NAIDOC week. Adam Hourigan

NAIDOC: Late start for great teacher

IRENE Daley says the words of this year's NAIDOC theme were just as relevant for her as they are for the next generation.

The Gumbaynggirr woman taps at a photo on the table when asked what the words "Because of her, we can" mean for her.

"It's because of her, my mum Irene, because of her I've been able to do all that I've done."

Ms Daley said her mother's tenacity in instilling values in her and in her nine siblings was integral to what she passes on to to her children and in what passes on to the next generations.

"They give you a whole set of values and directions, and the sense of family, belonging and identity," she said.

"They taught us a work ethic, they taught us everything about being a responsible person," she said.

"All they ever wanted was to put a roof over our heads, some food in the fridge and a few bob in your pocket - and I reckon if you've got family and friends and that, there's nothing more you need."

Like many of her family, Ms Daley worked on the railway after her schooling, but she said something else was always inside her and she wanted to bring it out.

"I had an English teacher and an art teacher and I just had such a love of those, I remember those teachers and thought there was something I could do," she said.

"So after leaving school in 1963 ... after 17 years on the railway I took myself off to university at 38 years old ... and in 1993 became a teacher."

Ms Daley said she enjoyed teaching primary, secondary and TAFE students art and English in her own unique style, and even taught an art healing course called Beyond the Dancing that showed her different approach to reaching people.

"There was art, but it had maths and English through it - they just didn't know it - they didn't realise they were learning," she said.

"I used to be that kid at the back of the classroom that didn't understand or catch on real quickly ... and I'd always want to give them responsibility but give them confidence.

"You never squash their enthusiasm and if they don't understand something, give them the opportunity to ask. I didn't want them to be afraid like I was."

Ms Daley said that one of the important lessons was the way her elders taught their traditional way of life and culture.

"They taught you all about going back to the old ways - you live simply so that others can simply live, they'd say - and it's been a beautiful part of all our lives," she said.

And Ms Daley said she still sees that in her two children, Michelle and Troy, and their kids.

"The kids come to visit, and (Troy's son) Clay will say first thing 'Nan, I'm going hunting and gathering,' and he'll come back with some witchetty grubs and wild carrots and wild flowers all on some paperbark for me," she said.

"And all the kids will follow Troy as he shows them through the bush, and they're all lined up behind him listening to him show what things are.

"It's all because of them," she said pointing again to the photo.

"And seeing that, it gives you faith that'll be the same for those kids going on too."

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