PODCASTING – using the internet to make digital spoken word recordings available for downloading to a computer or mobile device – is an increasingly popular way of sharing stories and at the Newcastle Podcast Festival Awards on Sunday 21 February, a local connection took out one of the categories.
Coonamble-born Donna Welsh Meehan and her niece Denise Murray headed along to the glitzy presentation gala event and came home with the prize for the prestigious Podcast of the Year category.
Donna’s story was recorded in an interview by Karindy Clarke for the Newcastle Libraries in 2020 as part of their NAIDOC Week podcast series “Newcastle’s First Storytellers: Always Was, Always Will Be”.
Donna and her family are part of the stolen generation.
She and six of her siblings were taken from their mother Beatrice in 1960 when Donna was five years old.
Her brother Barry was nine, James (Widdy) was seven, Robbie was four, Kevin (Sooty) was two and twins Jayne and Wayne were just six weeks old.
The children were separated and Donna was adopted to a family in Newcastle.
Beatrice later gave birth to four other children – Kim, Sonny, Frankie and Debbie – who all grew up in Coonamble.
Donna did not find her Coonamble family until she was twenty seven.
She says she came ‘home’ to discover that her family had always expected her to return.
“Coonamble will always be my belonging but I live in Newcastle and work here,” says Donna
In the Podcast Donna shares her experiences of working on Awabakal Country, her response to the Black Lives Matter March, her Chaplaincy Ministry with the teenage Aboriginal boys at Frank Baxter Kariong, being an Indigenous Radio Producer for fifteen years, and also her autobiography “It is no Secret” which was published by Random House in 2000.
She is now an international author as her book has been published in French and in a Readers Digest compilation in New Zealand.
Donna is a strong advocate for the power of storytelling.
Her story has been recorded in ‘Novocastrian Tales’ by Elephant Press, ‘Stolen Children – Their Stories’ by Carmel Bird, ‘Real Australians’ on the ABC, ‘Mums the Word’ on SBS, and in the Awabakal Co-op Booklet ‘Because of Her, We Can’.
In 2012, Donna spoke in Parliament at Canberra on the fourth anniversary of the National Apology and received the Prime Minister’s Community Award for her contribution to Aboriginal Education and the Arts.
“Kevn Rudd phoned me one Thursday night and spoke to me,” she said. “He asked my permission to share my story in Parliament!”
“I went to Parliament and was taken to morning tea.”
Donna has worked in several government positions including Education, Community Services, Health and the Awabakal Co-op and is currently on staff at the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle where she worked for many years as a social worker and Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer. She has been a keynote speaker in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
She says she acknowledges Coonamble everyday and is proud of her family.
“I believe in the strength, capacity and resilience of all Aboriginal people”.
Donna says the Podcast awards evening was a very glamorous event and she enjoyed being in a room with so many people who have found their voice.
“Everybody’s story is important, everybody’s story is powerful,” she said. “You need to follow your dream. I guess that’s what I’ve done, not that it’s what I set out to do.”
“I just had to prove myself.
“I started out trying to prove to the white people that I could do what they could do. And then I just wanted to prove it to myself,” she said.
“I just kept on striving and working.”