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Aunty Phyllis Andy & Josephine Jakobi: Shaped by the lake.

Two icons who have been shaped from growing up on the water's edge.

Mar 8, 2022


Words: Andrea Lane

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We live here beside Lake Tyers.
We grew up here. Loving this place.
We’ve become Elders now

We wanted to capture this moment at Red Bluff, which rises at the very, very eastern tip of the Gippsland Lakes. Two lifelong, lake-connected friends. Under a gorgeous Gippsland sky.

Hmph. Then a week sped past. Trying to align all our planets. For a snap of stars, inky skies and old friends. With a BOM-watching photographer predicting the clouds. Argh.

But here we are. Almost cracking it.

Two crazy-busy women who never stop long enough these days.

‘Cos they never stop caring. For community. For Country. For creativity.

A year or two of lockdown has kept us all apart.
No time even for a cup of tea.
Must do better next year.

For community. For Country. For creativity.

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These two old friends are a reflection of each other. Different stories, shaped by the same environment. Growing up on the water's edge. Learning resilience.

Knowing the lake and the bush as home. Tough lives. Unfathomable stories now. Stolen lives. Glorious lives.

Each with a deep empathy for the other. For different reasons. But really knowing. Feeling.

Aunty Phyllis, after being removed from the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust as a young girl, camped at Red Bluff with her family for decades, defying the natural oppression of tough lives. Now, Aunty Phyllis is an ordained priest. The first ordained female Aboriginal canon for East Gippsland. Marking births, deaths, marriages and everything in between.

Walk anywhere with Phyllis and you’ll be stopped again and again by friends in the street. Friends of her children. Friends of friends. Friendly co-workers. Long-time admirers. The community who have been ‘blessed’ by Phyllis.

You'll be awestruck. And very chuffed to be in her company.

Ditto Josephine. Born into a family who survived on their knowledge of bushcraft and self-sufficiency while living in the heart of the Lake Tyers Forest.

Even now, at 70-something, Josephine is known to camp in the middle of that forest for months on end. In this bush’s wildest moments. We are all lame Gippslandian knockoffs in her shadow.

Generations of love for the Lake and a deep respect for the ecology. Josephine married an eager young fisherman and raised a family on the land. A frugal fisherman’s life. An eternal forager. Josephine has flourished into the most extraordinary, generous Elder. With her passion for art. For nature. For ecology. For justice. For friends. For family.

Standing here, embraced, are two amazing women who have shaped this place with their endless, uncomplicated generosity.

Aunty Phyllis Andy & Josephine Jakobi by Emily Hollingsworth.
Aunty Phyllis Andy & Josephine Jakobi by Emily Hollingsworth.

Aunty Phyllis is currently a director on the board of Wurinbeena Ltd. The Wurinbeena Gallery hopes to reopen for summer trading at 14 Myer St, Lakes Entrance in December.

Josephine Jakobi is Curator and CAREtaker at FLOAT3909 – the floating arts residency on Lake Tyers, now at the heart of her vision for a floating observatorium.


Gippslandia - Issue No. 21

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