An inspiration and delight to all who knew her
Frances Bond was a proud Wakka Wakka and Waanyi woman, born on 30 May 1949 to Arthur and Ruby Bond on Cherbourg Aboriginal Mission, South East Queensland. She moved to Melbourne as a teenager, where she lived for her adult life. After Frances died on 19 August 2014, she was returned to her Wakka Wakka Country, Cherbourg.
Frances made Victoria her second home, having first visited at the age of 13 when she was brought down to Melbourne by the Harold Blair Aboriginal Children’s Holiday Project, which provided holidays in Melbourne for children from Queensland mission stations. Frances holidayed with the Project annually until aged 16, then her family paid for her to live with the Melbourne family she had lodged with each year.
She first secured employment at Reeves Australia in Box Hill South and studied at night school. Over the following decades she continued studying and training, gaining four TAFE Certificates and two Diplomas (in Business and in Community Education), advancing her career and prioritising her extensive contributions to community.
Frances was an inspiration and a delight to all who knew her and was ever ready to learn and focus on making things better. She said: "I’ve often thought that my energies are centred around healing and around helping people to achieve at their standard, setting goals and being able to heal themselves and achieve." Her goal was to educate and to heal through every avenue she could find whilst empowering people to work with the tools they had, within their own unique circumstances.
For her, giving people strength ran far deeper than education. Frances appreciated the role of her heritage: "For my growing up, that family system was really important ... for my generation, we were denied our culture and our language and our history, but our language survived. We kept it regardless. It’s a matter of a retrieval program now, to get that all back and pass that on to our children. I think that’s a major thing, to educate our kids on our history – and that’ll empower them, make them strong with pride in their culture – whereas they’ve only ever been made to feel ashamed of themselves for being Aboriginal. I think that’s the main thing: to empower people to be strong."
Starting as a typist, Frances worked in administrative positions from 1966 through to 1993, including for the Victorian Government’s health and education departments, and in 1992 as private secretary to the Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Following this, she worked as a secretary for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, and then from 1994 through to 2000 she worked for the then Commonwealth Department of Employment, Education and Training and Centrelink, mainly as an Abstudy applications assessor. Frances’ final employed role was as administrative officer in the Aboriginal Education Unit, Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.
She retired from paid work in 2003 to devote more time to voluntary work. In addition to tireless contributions to Woor-Dungin Incorporated, her voluntary work included Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation, Whitehorse Friends for Reconciliation, Eastern Indigenous Family Violence Network, helping to set up Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place, Banmirra Arts, being a longstanding Board member of Ilbijerri Theatre Company, and also Chairperson of the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Action Group.
In 2005, as part of her role as an Ilbijerri Board member, Frances participated in the Indigenous Capacity Building Program run by the Reichstein Foundation. She regarded this program as special for the culturally safe environment it provided. Her work on domestic violence had given her a strong perspective on this: "I guess that’s what I’m about, making sure people are safe – emotionally, culturally, and every which way."
Frances was then involved in building the Victorian Government’s 10 Year Plan to address Aboriginal Family Violence, launched in 2008: Strong Culture, Strong Peoples and Strong Families – towards a safer future for Indigenous families and communities.
Frances was a founding member, Board member and treasurer of Woor-Dungin, established in 2006 as a coalition of Aboriginal organisations, philanthropic donors and pro bono service providers to enable Aboriginal organisations to access resources and to achieve self-determination. Frances also encouraged and supported young women to step up and take on leadership roles within Woor-Dungin.
In 2012, Woor-Dungin experienced financial crisis and nearly folded. Despite being diagnosed with cancer, Frances volunteered to raise funds by offering her services as a massage therapist and donating all proceeds. As her cancer progressed, her health deteriorated, yet she never complained of being unwell and continued to actively support Woor-Dungin.
Frances always found opportunities to promote reconciliation, hosting reconciliation lunches at Woor-Dungin where philanthropic people shared a meal with Aboriginal people – the first of many practical reconciliation activities she initiated to bring philanthropy and Aboriginal community closer together. "There was a real need for us to learn how to open the doors of communication. That was the most important thing, to open the doors of communication between the Aboriginal community and philanthropy. That’s why I’m passionate about getting this off the ground," she said.
Woor-Dungin has honoured its founders by instituting the annual ‘Aunty Frances Bond and Aunty Glenys Merry Award’ for achievement in reconciliation and respectful relationships.
Frances has left a legacy in all the organisations she founded or supported. Her work on reconciliation continues through the organisations she worked with, where local communities are inspired to become strong in culture and health, and community spirit continues to grow.
On 8 November 2002, Frances said: "My vision is to empower everyone to be in control of their own destiny, living their lives to the fullest of their capacity by caring and sharing, with and amongst each other. To create a world free of guilt, shame, greediness, dishonesty, et cetera."
Frances was known for her patience and her generosity. She had a huge heart, deeply cared about people, always made time for a yarn and she is remembered for her smile.
Reviewed 30 April 2021