Yorta Yorta Elder Aunty Pam Pedersen sets a shining example for all through her dedicated work in the Koorie Court system, her active involvement in many Aboriginal organisations and her remarkable sporting achievements. Hayley MAC yarns with Aunty about NAIDOC and her achievements. Born in 1943, Aunty Pam is the youngest daughter of Sir Douglas and Lady Gladys Nicholls. Pam and her siblings Nora, Bevan, Lillian and Ralph spent most of their childhood in the Melbourne suburbs of Fitzroy and Northcote. Pam remembers her home as a hub for the community and her parents as insightful leaders and fighters for the rights and welfare of Aboriginal people. She would often come home from school to a house full of people:
Mum would find beds for whoever needed them. We’d share our bedrooms with whatever guests we had. While Aunty Pam has followed in her parents’ footsteps, being involved in many activities to support and assist the Aboriginal community, she has also forged her own path. As a young woman she worked in child care, education, and in various offices in Melbourne as a secretary. In 1978 she married Erik Pedersen and is mother to 2 children, Adam and Kim.
A dedicated Elder involved in social justice
Aunty Pam recently worked with Jesuit Social Services, a social change organisation, where she assisted young people and their families who had come in contact with the criminal justice system. She worked for this organisation in a capacity building role. In the past she has worked with the Victorian Department of Education, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Victorian Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Prevention Service. For 22 years she was a valued staff member of the law firm Maurice Blackburn.
Aunty Pam is a dedicated Elder sitting on the Children’s Koorie Court, County Koorie Court, Melbourne Magistrates Court, Heidelberg Children’s Court and the Adult Parole Board of Victoria. She began her involvement with the Koorie Court in 2004 and continues to make an outstanding contribution. She offers wise counsel to young people appearing in the court, generously sharing her own experiences and supporting young people to think about their behaviour, their position in the community and the importance of a law-abiding lifestyle.
At times, the work can be challenging and confronting but Aunty Pam is recognised for her calm disposition throughout the most difficult of cases. In her words: ‘If I can help any of our young people, just to give them a good talking to so that they may stay out of trouble, it's a bonus. And I'm there to try and do the best job that I can for our young ones and also the elder people as well.’ Aunty Pam regularly attends Koorie Court Reference group meetings, assists in training Elders for ‘newer’ courts and speaks at seminars and conferences on her experience in the court. In addition to this, she takes an active role in many community organisations, volunteering on numerous boards and committees including the Aborigines Advancement League, the Tarwirri Elders and Respected Panel Nillumbik Reconciliation Group. She has also been a director of the Worawa Aboriginal Girls College at Healesville and an ambassador for the Victorian NAIDOC Committee.
If you can dream it, you can achieve it
When not involved in community and social justice matters, she can probably be found in the swimming pool, riding her bike, or pounding the pavement. As a young woman Pam was involved in athletics, but it was later in life that she became serious about health and well-being through sporting activities. At 50 she decided to get active, initially for her own health but then as a way of getting the message out to community members that they needed to take care of their health through regular exercise, healthy diets and community and social interaction. From walking she progressed to fun runs and then to triathlons. She competed in her first triathlon at the age of 59. In 2016 at the age of 73 she completed her nineteenth Mothers’ Day Classic Run and is on track to make it twenty in 2017.
Aunty Pam has represented Victoria and Australia at the World Masters Games, in swimming (both in the pool and open water), in running and cycling (doing half marathons and triathlons) and in sailing events. A sporting highlight was being a member of the winning crew in the 1996 Melbourne to Devonport Yacht Race. In 2005 she was the NAIDOC National Sportsperson of the Year. Her proudest sporting moment was to represent her people in the opening ceremony and baton relay for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Aunty Pam is always keen to promote the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle. While she inspires the community through her own sporting achievements, she is also involved with several sporting organisations. She is an ambassador for the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, a member of the Carlton Football Club Reconciliation Action Plan Advisory Group, a member of the AFL Dreamtime Working Group and on the board of The Long Walk. Aunty Pam has received numerous awards over the years outside the sporting arena. These include an Australia Day Federal Award and ‘Koorie Women Mean Business’ awards in 1997, 2002 and 2004.
Her motto is, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it”.