The impact of events in our lives can echo through the generations that come after us and likewise they can take generations to heal. For Brunswick Heads and Huonbrook girl Sandy Greenwood, an Aboriginal actress, writer, and producer from the Dunghutti, Gumbaynggirr and Bundjulung tribes of the east coast of Australia, the stories of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother still resonate in her life today.
Currently Sandy is exploring these stories as part of her debut one-woman show Matriarch at the Melbourne Fringe Festival’s Deadly Fringe.
The show delves into the effects of the Stolen Generation on four generations of Gumbaingirri women going back to the 1940s as well as what it’s like being a fair-skinned Aboriginal woman in today’s society.
‘My mother was part of the stolen generation; she was one of 14 children stolen from my grandmother,’ said Sandy.
‘My grandmother and great-grandmother raised the kids in the bush but they were taken from them at Ku-ring-gai Creek to orphanages.’
The show explores the story of strength and resilience of Aboriginal women against the extreme challenges in their lives, said Sandy.
She combines this with an exploration of what it is like being a fair-skinned black woman who grew up with her language and culture yet still has people telling her ‘you don’t look Aboriginal’.
‘When people are saying it they don’t understand the impact it has,’ said Sandy.
‘It’s not about the colour of your skin; it is about who you are within, and by telling your story you are telling your truth.
‘As a fair-skinned black woman who looks white but was raised black, I have always existed between both worlds. I have come to understand how valuable this can be in terms of bridßging divides through my work. I want audiences to get an exclusive insight into the women of my Gumbaynggirr, Dunghutti, Bundjalung heritage and also glimpse what life is like for Indigenous women like me in contemporary Australia.’
Having been living and working in Los Angeles for the last four years, performing a show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and even getting to work with Robert De Niro on the film Killer Elite, Sandy is looking forward to touring her show around Australia. She is particularly excited about bringing her show back to the north coast and is hoping to have it here in mid-January 2019.
‘I really want to take it through these tribal homelands,’ she said.
As a student at Mullumbimby High School Sandy knew even then she wanted to become an actress and had great support and inspiration from her teachers, particularly Mrs Thompson.
While Sandy is here in the first half of 2019 she will also be running a series of Bundjalung cultural workshops with her mum, well-known elder from the Byron Shire, Lauren Jarrett.
Lauren is a master weaver and the workshops, open to everyone, will include basket weaving, cultural dance, storytelling and healing.
‘Going back to culture and being on country is really healing and everyone and anyone who is interested in learning about culture is welcome,’ said Sandy.