Name: Aunty Honor Cleary
In traditional language, ‘yelangi’ means ‘meeting place’. At the Yelangi Pre-school at Indooroopilly in Brisbane, Aboriginal kids have been meeting Aunty Honor Cleary for more than 25 years.
Not only does Honor help the “little people”, as she likes to call them, the centre is also a major resource for the children’s mothers, which provides them with support. Every day at Yelangi, there is a “yarn morning” where mothers, teachers and Aunty Honor sit together and discuss a range of things. Whether it is advice or simply encouragement, Honor believes the guidance she can give to young mothers is just as important as the role she plays with the children.
“I only wish more mothers would come in to see how we can help them,” Honor says. “It’s hard to get mothers involved.”
The pre-school is celebrating its 25-year anniversary this year. Throughout that time, Aunty Honor has been a major part of Yelangi’s success.
“I work as a teacher’s aide and Elder around the pre-school, and at times work with the mothers and social workers if there are any problems,” Honor says. “I also help with the children when they finish, by helping them to adjust to the mainstream after they leave here. We have good qualified teachers here and the children are taught traditional dance and language
Honor is now proudly watching the second generation of families coming through Yelangi, something which fills her with tremendous pride.
“The most rewarding thing for me is when I see the second generation of children coming here and that makes me so proud,” she says. “Talking to the mothers and getting to know them is something that I love about my work. They really make me feel important to them because they all respect me so much.”
After long years of tireless work, it is no wonder Aunty Honor receives so much respect from her peers and those who are fortunate enough to know her. Her activities stretch far beyond the pre-school’s grounds to a group of 200 elderly people, which has enjoyed Honor’s meals and entertainment for the past 17 years. Honor has received the Order of Australia medal for her selfless work, as well as a Centenary medal for her youth and reconciliation work in the Pine Rivers district.
Although Honor has been watching over the pre-school for 25 years while raising seven of her own children, and has seen nieces and nephews, as well as six grandchildren come through the place, she isn’t quite ready to leave yet.