This story was first published in August 2012.
As a member of the original Sapphires, Lois Peeler traveled through Vietnam, enteraining American troops during the Vietnam war. Now, using her considerable knowledge and talents, she helps to shape the lives of young Aboriginal women through the Worawa Aboriginal College in Healesville.
Growing up, what kind of career did you want to pursue?
Growing up was pretty tough – I thought being a receptionist would be pretty good!
… and as a little girl, what did you imagine working life to be like?
Sitting behind a reception desk in a corporate environment. I later put myself through a course to gain confidence and ‘polish’ – when I graduated I became Australia’s first Aboriginal model.
Who is most surprised by your achievements?
Friends and acquaintances
How have women helped shape your success to date?
I come from a long line of very strong women who have influenced my life. My Grandmother was a strong cultural influence and my Mother was a leading figure in the fight for Aboriginal rights, my mother and my Aunt Margaret Tucker were awarded for their work in the Aboriginal community, a cousin Molly Dyer established the Victorian Aboriginal Childcare Agency, another cousin Naomi Mayers has been a leader in Aboriginal health through the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern and my sister Hyllus Maris, a visionary, founder of Worawa Aboriginal College, a poet and a writer.
Who inspires you?
All of the women in my family and I have a deep respect for Lowitja O’Donoghue.
Who do you regard as your mentor?
No one in particular, I have many friends in different fields that I feel are ‘mentors’.
If you could change another woman’s life, who would it be and why?
In my current position I focus on the young women who attend Worawa. Fostering pride in their Aboriginal heritage, building self- esteem, exposing them to experiences that will make a positive impact on their lives and guiding them in making a healthy transition to adulthood.
You are a role model for women, how do you think you can assist in their success?
By sharing my story
What is the best path to success in your field of endeavor?
A strong belief in what I am doing and commitment to the vision
How would you describe your ideal work day?
When nothing unexpected occurs.
What’s the key to successfully balancing work and life?
I’m probably not the best person to ask that question of
If you had an afternoon to yourself, how would you spend it?
A relaxing spa
What makes you happy?
I am very much enjoying being a grandmother and a great grandmother. I love spending time with my family.
What brings you sadness?
The sad state of affairs in many of our Aboriginal communities and knowing how the many issues is impact on our young people.
What personal attributes have you used to overcome adversity in your life?
I have been able to draw on the strength of pride in my heritage and knowing my cultural values and an absolute belief in my own convictions
What are your career goals from here?
Retirement! – maybe write
What are your life goals from here?
To help make a difference in the lives of young Aboriginal women through using my knowledge and experience.
What book/film/artist/soundtrack changed your life?
What’s your motto?
When life knocks you down, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again!