Titta Secombe

Titta Secombe, 2013
Titta Secombe, 2013
Image: James Henry
Source: Museum Victoria
Don't lose your ground or your roots of who you are and what you are.

My rightful name is Diana but I've been called Titta since I was six weeks old. I was given that name by my auntie's cousin in South Australia, so it means more to me because it was given that way. My mob is Jardwadjali and Gunditjmara. Gunditjmara is from my grandmother and the other one's from my grandfather. I was raised in Horsham and most of my knowledge I got from my grandmother.

Nan was hard but fair. Mum was her last daughter so we were the last of the grandchildren. I was closest to my grandmother so she taught and showed me a lot. And that's from both sides, from the Wimmera area, plus down Western District where she grew up.

When my mum died six year ago I had a nervous breakdown so I pulled away from everyone. By coming to Yulendj and mixing with the small group of people it's bringing me out of my depression. It's one way of me healing as well. Meeting people from all across the board, it's making me feel good and you know where you sit. Everybody's put in and it's all joined and it's all connected like a river and it's still flowing through. Esther, her uncle married my grandmother. Eileen Harrison is my cousin on my grandfather's side. Eileen Alberts is a cousin on my grandmother's side. There's a bit of connection here there and everywhere. I learn from the other old Elders as well as I give them what I know in my area.

I'm excited to see that the stuff is still here and in good nick and it's there for me for generations to see. When they started to show us objects, Amanda was with me and Lisa and she opened this drawer and then there was the breastplate. It was from our area and I had my gloves on and I said to Amanda is it OK if I picked it up just to see what it felt like, I just want to see how heavy it is and see what it felt like around your neck. When I did that I seen the bloke's face that wore it, and I go ‘thank you and now I'm putting you back’.

They brought out the Wimmera necklace with the kangaroo teeth and the emu feather skirt and a shield. I was looking at the photo board and I took a photo of my grandfather, Captain Harrison the First. A couple of days after I went home and going through my photos of the objects that we've seen then I've looked at his photo and I've gone, oh my god, he's wearing them. Connecting pieces back excites me. I've always liked going back and doing research where people fit in dates and all that and this has made me want more. It's opening new doors for me to keep researching.

I found a few photos in there of cousins that have passed away. I found a photo of my mother before she was taken away, Stolen Generation. And that's where I found photos going right back, photos of the first Captain Harrison, my grandfather, and going back to find my grandmother's father. And getting those photos and keeping them not only for my records, for my grandkids, to say this was Nan's father, this is where we actually come from. Don't lose your ground or your roots of who you are and what you are.

I had children, three of them, two boys and a girl. I always said to them, if you didn't have a job you couldn't leave school and if you have a job, don't leave this one until you find something. Those were my main rules and when you left work at five o'clock, you leave work business, you come home and enjoy being with family at home. And that's still the same. I teach my kids in conversation. We might be watching TV and they'll just ask me. Or we're out driving somewhere and I show them. I've done that with my kids so I'll do it with my grandkids. It's the same way Nan taught us. One grandson he reckons that he's Bunjil's. The other one turn around and says that the old kangaroos are the old blackfellas coming back. I'm teaching them and they're bringing their knowledge, and they say they've been here before. I go with their little stories and we feed from each other.

I used to drive a 12-seater bus, pick up kids, take them to basketball. Come Friday night, basketball again, pick them all up, keep them out of trouble. Saturday take them to football then on a Sunday we'd go and do a Sunday trip for the footy. I'd be feeding these busloads of kids and I'd be the only parent on that bus. Those kids are all grown up now and they respect me as Aunty Titta. That's the thing I used to do for the community. Before any of that I raised my two brothers and my sister for my mum.

I was one of the first to work for the Community Justice Panel in Horsham. I set up a women's group and run the Werrimul Arts and Crafts workshop. I’ve taught women how to use sewing machines and overlockers and we started up a women's group at Goolum Goolum (Aboriginal organisation). I worked for Parks Victoria as the first female Aboriginal summer ranger. I don't like the word Indigenous, but anyway, the first Indigenous Summer Ranger across Victoria. When they put up boards or they talk about the Indigenous side of it, they always bring my photo up. I did the possum skin cloaks for the Commonwealth Games and I wrote myself a little book eleven years ago. I decided to put it out about 18 months ago now it's just going wildfire. I've had interviews all over Australia on radio and I've been to two book shows in Melbourne. It's not a story about AFL or VFL, it is a story about a possum skin football when it was first made and who it was made for. I wanted to write what I'd been told about possum skin balls for the kids of the area. I've been in and out of schools reading my book also doing culture talks for schools across the board.

I can't wait for this exhibition to open so we can go in and have a look and be excited first before anybody else. That's the bit that I'm waiting on, the end bit when it's all put together. I can say to my kids and my grandkids, I was a part of that, and be proud that I've done something for not only just for my family but for everybody back home. That there's part of them in there as well. We can say, this is what we've got. This is our showcase, come and see. We're not gone, we're here still so take a wander and have a look.

Hopefully visitors walk away with ‘I didn't know that’ or’ wow, that was good’. I worked for Brambuk where the public's coming in. Being light-skinned, that was the only problem I had. They expected to see real blackfellas and you're trying to explain to them Victoria don't have that. Where we are now, we're getting that across to the public and without them even knowing that they've been told, they can see for themselves. 

Image Gallery

Panel in First Peoples exhibition