Uncle Francis (Frank) Laxton was born on 17 December 1939 at Warrnambool, Victoria. At 82 years of age, Frank is a revered Elder who continues to lead cultural ceremonies at significant cultural and community events, and a valued media spokesperson and cultural communicator for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Frank grew up on Framlingham Mission, within the embrace of rich Aboriginal culture. As a child, he experienced firsthand both the great joys and terrible issues faced by Victorian Aboriginal people, including racism, discrimination and poverty, and the redemptive power of strong community. He has many stories of Framlingham, including seeing Archie Roach taken as a child. After leaving the mission, Frank drove trucks for 40 years. Later, he conducted cultural surveys for government departments as a community leader.
Frank moved to Ballarat in 1990 with his wife Rhonda and two daughters, and he joined Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative (BADAC) in 1991. BADAC delivers more than 64 culturally safe programs or services and cultural events to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Ballarat, Moorabool, Hepburn, Golden Plains and into western Victoria. BADAC is a significant employer of Aboriginal people, with 150 staff, 40 per cent of whom are Aboriginal.
Many people from Framlingham moved to Ballarat and supported BADAC’s activities, including Uncle Ted Lovett OAM.
A life-changing accident occurred for Frank in 2009 when he fell off a ladder and woke up in the Royal Melbourne Hospital. However, this didn’t slow Frank down. He retired from work in 2014, and kept contributing to his community, particularly through BADAC.
Ballarat was a central location during the Stolen Generations decades, when children were forcibly removed from their families across Victoria and interstate and were placed in one of Ballarat’s five orphanages. Transgenerational trauma still resonates in the Ballarat Aboriginal community today. To assist his community though these times, Frank and his family fostered more than 20 children over a 10-year period.
Frank was Chairperson and a Board director of BADAC for over 20 years. His contribution is significant and enduring. He models strong community leadership and demonstrates not only the transformative power of community, but what can be achieved by one determined person. Frank is a dedicated, driving influence for BADAC, guiding and shaping its strategic direction and services. He has said: “Since 1991, BADAC has been a big part of my life. It has been good to me. BADAC is all about community”.
Frank also headed up BADAC’s first maintenance team and trained Aboriginal young people in work skills, including building, plastering, and painting. The team still thrives today.
Frank remains active at BADAC, supporting the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), representing BADAC in the media, and leading significant ceremonies and celebrations. He was bestowed BADAC’s Elders Recognition Award in 2015.
For three decades Frank has also supported some of Victoria’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised community members: Aboriginal men who have spent time in the justice system, including those who have been incarcerated for lengthy periods.
Frank has dedicated many hours supporting those men to connect or reconnect with their Aboriginal culture, to build self-respect and pride, empowering them to make better choices in their lives and to strive for a healthier future. This included working as a Crime Prevention Officer during 1991-1993, where Frank visited many Aboriginal men in prison.
Frank has supported those men at their most vulnerable time—when exiting the prison system—sourcing accommodation, driving them to do shopping, and assisting them to navigate the many changes that occurred in society while they were incarcerated. At 82 years of age, Frank is still conducting prison visits.
For 30 years, Frank has generously given his own time and resources, and shared his culture, strength and warm heart to each person he visited, and to many other people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, from all walks of life.
In the 2021 Victorian Senior of the Year Awards, Frank was awarded a Council on the Aging (COTA) Senior Achiever Award, in recognition of his extraordinary community leadership supporting Aboriginal people with culture, employment and secure housing over most of his adult life and into retirement. In 2022, he was nominated by the Grampians Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee and also awarded an Adult and Elders Justice Award in the Victorian Aboriginal Community Justice Awards.
Frank has made a lifelong contribution to Aboriginal communities and culture. He is renowned within community for his strength and knowledge of Aboriginal culture, and his unwavering faith in people to improve their lives. Every person Frank has encountered has been lifted by his generous heart, great warmth and compassion.
Reviewed 28 October 2022