Proud Waanyi/Kalkadoon woman, Sandra Creamer, has overcome domestic violence, economic hardship and racism during her life. But never allowing her “spirit to be broken” has underpinned her desire to become a solicitor and find her “true purpose”.
Joshua Creamer, Sandra’s eldest of four children, is a barrister from Brisbane specialising in class actions and native title – on Monday, he moved his mother’s admission to become a solicitor. Never before has an Aboriginal man moved his Aboriginal mother to become a solicitor, and Sandra “couldn’t be more proud”.
Moved my Mum’s admission today. From Mt Isa, youngest of 12. Her mother died when she was a baby. Only went to grade 9. DV survivor. Humble. A leading figure in international indigenous rights. A role model for all those indigenous mothers who put their dreams on hold. pic.twitter.com/9LSbNg2JoI— Joshua Creamer (@JoshuaCreamer) July 27, 2020
“As a single Mum, I am so proud of all my children. Joshua has achieved so much…he helped me raise his brothers and sisters when I became a single mother,” she says. “Having him admit me as a solicitor is surreal and it actually brings tears to my eye.”
Growing up as one of 12 children, Creamer and another Indigenous girl were asked to leave boarding school after just a year, for no apparent reason. Sandra went on to business school in the city, but after falling pregnant, returned home to her family.
Described as “the most humble person I know”, Sandra’s son Joshua says few would understand the obstacles Sandra has overcome in order to pursue her legal career.
“Born in Mount Isa, the youngest of 12. Her mother died when she was a baby. Mum was only one of two indigenous kids in her boarding school, the first two indigenous students to ever attend the school; she was asked to leave in grade nine.
“In a domestic violence relationship for over a decade. I still remember my stepfather pinning her against the wall with his forearm while he repeatedly punched her with the other fist,” Joshua said.
When Sandra left her abusive relationship, she raised four children as a single mother. Joshua says money was tight and they “rarely had enough food in the house” but the education of her children was always a priority.
For the past 15 years, Sandra has been one of the leading figures in the international Indigenous rights forum, travelling the world to fight for the rights of Indigenous people around the world. Her next goal is being admitted to the bar.
“She is an important role model for all those indigenous mothers out there whose dreams were never supported and who put their life on hold for their families,” Joshua said.
Sandra says women in domestic violence situations need to know that while their abusers may harm them physically, “don’t ever let them take your spirit”. While COVID-19 and social isolation has exacerbated levels of domestic violence she urges women to “dig deep inside yourself to find the strength to continue”. “This will not last forever. You will not be trapped forever. Find the determination to change your situation.”
Sandra is passionate about Indigenous women’s education. She says it is a crucial element of empowering women of colour and helping them to achieve their true potential.
“It’s not an easy path. I didn’t have it easy: I had to do my studies remotely and I spent a lot of times at libraries, because I didn’t always have a laptop at home. I just read everything I could get my hands on.
“Getting an education is extremely powerful. If you empower women, they are the ones who will make the changes we need.”
Sandra is the chief executive officer of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance and Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland. She is the former co-chair of international organisation, the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus, and works with the International Indigenous Women’s Forum.