Bundjalung Elder Aunty Bertha Kapeen will be sadly missed. Published with permission of family.
Bundjalung Elder Aunty Bertha Kapeen will be sadly missed. Published with permission of family. Patrick Gorbunovs

Hogan pays tribute to Aunty Bertha in parliament

Wednesday 10am: PAGE MP Kevin Hogan has paid tribute to the legacy of Aunty Bertha Kapeen in parliament yesterday.

In his speech he outlined her contributions to the community.

"Aunty Bertha Kapeen, a great community leader and advocate was a remarkable woman," he said.

Tuesday 11am: TRIBUTES have been flowing in thick and fast on our Facebook page as people honour and remember Aunty Bertha Kapeen.

"One very special lady," Sue Johnston wrote

"RIP Mrs Kapeen, you are an inspiration," Margaret Ross posted.

Many people recalled how they had met her and what she meant to them.

"I had the privilege of meeting Aunty Bertha many times as I taught her granddaughter who was in her care," Angela Parr wrote.

"Such a wonderful woman. Her passing is a huge loss to the Bundjalung community."

The Bunjum Aboriginal Corporation wrote on their Facebook page that all programs run by Ballina Aboriginal Child and Family Centre and Bunjum Aboriginal Corporation will be cancelled this week out of respect of Aunty Bertha Kapeen's passing.

Aunty Bertha Kapeen with her grand-daughter Alkirra, who wrote a touching poem to her nan after her passing.
Aunty Bertha Kapeen with her grand-daughter Alkirra, who wrote a touching poem to her nan after her passing. Alkirra Kapeen

One of the most touching tributes to the Bundjalung elder was from her grand-daughter Alkirra Kapeen, written on her own Facebook page.

Nan to walk into your room and see you smile,
I walked over and hugged you all the time,
you always made me smile and always had stories to tell. ...
I loved sitting with you everyday and listen to the memories you had to share
You showed us that life cant be all that bad
there is always a light at the end of a tunnel,
You were so strong,
You had faith in us all,
You had great sprit even if the day was dull.
you weren't just my Nan
you were my best friend
I know you had to go,
now I feel I'm alone
but I know you're close.
when I feel the warmth at night I know its you giving me a good night kiss,
when I feel my chest getting tight I know that's you giving me a big hug,
when I feel the wind brush through my hair
I know your whispering hello to me ..
when I see the sun shine I know you're happy,
when I see that bright star I know that's you watching down on us all and smiling
now a beautiful angel watching over us all,
we pray to you each night.
Loosing you Nan broke my heart and every day without a doubt I think of you and shed a little tear, for a Nan I loved so dear.

A final farewell to Aunty Bertha will be held at 11am, St Mary's Anglican Church Ballina this Friday.

Tuesday 6am: HAVING lived a full and worthwhile life is how Aunty Bertha Kapeen will be remembered.

The Bundjalung elder passed away over the weekend leaving behind a legacy that showed a life of fighting for the rights of her people.

Only last year she was part of the Bundjalung Ballina Grandmothers Against Removals where she had reported a story new born babies being taken from their mothers while still in hospital.

"She did so much for the community," daughter Thelma Kapeen said.

Born and raised on Cabbage Tree Island to Robert Bolt in 1935, she was one of 13 children.

In 1955 she married David Kapeen at St Mary's Anglican church in Ballina and they had eight children.

"She became the first Aboriginal post-mistress on Cabbage Tree Island, until it closed down," Thelma said.

"She was always busy working, coming home and looking after eight kids (four boys and four girls) and her three grand-daughters."

Aunty Bertha's heart was full of love, not only for her own children but that of her community.

She was intricately involved in the opening of the Aboriginal Child and Family Centre at Porter Park in 2013.

 

 

MILESTONE: Turning the sod for the new Ballina Aboriginal and Child Family Centre at Porter Park (from left) Aunty Julia Paden, Aunty Bertha Kapeen and Ballina's mayor Cr David Wright.



Photo Graham Broadhead / Ballina Shire Advocate
MILESTONE: Turning the sod for the new Ballina Aboriginal and Child Family Centre at Porter Park (from left) Aunty Julia Paden, Aunty Bertha Kapeen and Ballina's mayor Cr David Wright. Photo Graham Broadhead / Ballina Shire Advocate Graham Broadhead

"She was also a life member of the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG)," Thelma said.

Aunty Bertha had a creative side to her and belonged to the Saltwater Women's art group where she painted, did weaving and also tie-dyeing.

Not only that but she had also written two books.

The first was a children's book called Henry the Mullet which she would often read at NAIDOC celebrations to little ones.

The second book, according to Thelma, was called Werluwana and was all about her 20 or so years with the AECG.

Facebook tributes have described her as a wonderful nan and a strong and remarkable woman who will be missed deeply.

"She was the most wonderful mother that anyone could have," Thelma said.

With 30 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren (her first great-great grandchild is expected in September) and a wide network of family and friends, her farewell service at St Mary's Anglican church, where she got married, is promising to be a very large affair.



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