Woman Taylor, Cheryl (1948 - )

Born
1948
Wagin, Western Australia, Australia
Occupation
Aboriginal academic and Educator
Alternative Names
  • Collard, Cheryl (Maiden)

Written by Anna Haebich, Curtin University

Cheryl Taylor was born in Wagin, Western Australia in 1948 to John and Dot Collard (nee Davis). She grew up in a strong extended Noongar family with a keen sense of social justice and speaking up for their rights. Cheryl's parents were important role models. They fought for recognition of her father's service in World War 2. They stood up for families on the town reserve and prevented children from being removed by Native Welfare officers by hiding them in their yard. They were hard working and self-supporting, sharing the physical labor of seasonal farm work and chores at home. Cheryl's mother and aunties showed her the strength of Noongar women in the family and the power of culture and story telling. Being the eldest child with six brothers Cheryl learned gender politics early and to assert her difference and strength. From this she developed a strong sense of identity and pride in being a Noongar woman.

Cheryl was of the generation growing up between the policies of assimilation and self-determination when old controls were lifted and new choices opened up for families. Aged fifteen, Cheryl was chosen to attend high school and board in Perth and her parents reluctantly agreed. The break with her Noongar family was deeply upsetting and her school performance suffered as a result. Cheryl married young and lived for 22 years with her husband and three children in Three Springs north of Perth. She kept up her studies by correspondence and eventually returned to Perth to study for a Bachelor of Arts at Edith Cowan University. She completed a Master of Arts Degree in Human Rights Education at Curtin University and now lectures in the Bachelor of Education Regional and Remote (BERR) program at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies.

Committed to the movement to bring Aboriginal knowledge and ways of transmitting this knowledge into the tertiary environment, Cheryl is a role model for students who call on her for vocational and personal advice. She talks of 'decolonizing' Noongar identity to balance and relieve the tensions and confusion they face. She is transmitting cultural knowledge to her grandchildren in regular meetings at her home where they learn about the Noongar kinship system and values and their family history. They are given Noongar names at special naming ceremonies. She hopes that like her they will develop a strong and proud Noongar identity.

Cheryl has had ample opportunity to consider the nature of Noongar women's leadership, drawing on her own experience and that of her mother, aunties and cousin who are well known actors, who performed in plays by her uncle the playwright Jack Davis. In 2003 Dot Collard (1922-2009) published her life story titled Busted Out Laughing. Her cousin Lynette Narkle's most recent role was in the award winning film The Sapphires. One of her dreams is to follow family tradition in using drama and theatre to transmit Noongar culture.

Cheryl sees 'leadership' as being shared across the Noongar community: 'there are elements of strength amongst all of us, some of us are better at some things than others'. Leadership qualities include: listening more than speaking out; being an example rather than a voice; sharing not imposing; and being conscious and respectful about kinship. She explains that it is about knowing 'what is right for you and what you're strong about. That if you're true to you then people observe that in you and that's what they value you for' (Interview).

After 35 years of work and study, Cheryl sees herself becoming more diplomatic and reflective, looking at justice in a different light as equitable opportunity for all, being more tolerant and wise. Still she can be a 'political animal' who speaks out for good reason but, she adds, 'that isn't politics it's my right' (Interview).

Published Resources

Books

  • Collard Dot and Harp Beryl, Busted Out Laughing: Dot Collard's Story, Magabala Books, Broome, Western Australia, 2003. Details

See also