Celebrating the life of Aunty Dot

Dorothy Betsy Peters AM. Picture: JESSE GRAHAM

By Jed Lanyon

The Yarra Ranges community came together on Tuesday 1 October to celebrate the life of Indigenous Elder Dorothy Betsy Peters AM or ‘Aunty Dot’ as she was known by many.

Hundreds of people gathered at Don Road Sporting Complex to pay their respects to Aunty Dot, who passed away at Healesville Hospital on Thursday 19 September aged 89.

As a mark of mourning and respect, the Australian and Indigenous flags were flown at half-mast from all buildings and establishments occupied by the Victorian government.

Aunty Dot was born and raised in Healesville in 1930 and was a much-loved member of the community upon her return to the town in 1969.

Healesville Indigenous Community Services Association (HICSA) CEO Anne Jenkins spoke at the funeral service and described Dot as a truly lovely lady and an inspiration to all.

“Aunty Dot was an incredible inspiration through her actions, and an understated force of great power and influence, one who has made a significant contribution to the lives of all Australians.

“She is an unreplaceable connection with time and culture, and leaves behind an unfinished chapter in the story of who we all are.

“Aunty Dot worked tirelessly to the very end, supporting and advocating for community.”

Ms Jenkins said that HICSA’s core values of respect, caring and sharing, were words borrowed from Aunty Dot’s way of life.

Healesville residents left flowers beside The Memo Hall where Aunty Dot’s portrait is currently featured as part of a temporary art installation.

Aunty Dot was the mother of Andrew Peters and the grandmother to Jackson and Max.

“Ma didn’t have an easy life but she found a way to find happiness in everything she did,” Andrew said.

“Mum knew how she wanted people to be treated in her ideal world. And she tried to live that way every day.

“In conducting her Welcome to Country acknowledgements, she always acknowledged what she saw as her non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters.

“She was reconciliation, in one small, smiling, coughing, gummy ball of absolute love.”

From 1980 to 1991 Aunty Dot worked as an Aboriginal Educator at Healesville Primary School.

She would educate the students about Indigenous culture and passed on the art of basket coiling, which she had learned from her grandmother.

Aunty Dot was responsible for the creation of the Victorian Indigenous Remembrance Service in 2006.

The event started at Healesville RSL where a didgeridoo was played alongside the ode as a way of honouring her father, who had died as a prisoner of war on the Thai Burma railway.

Now, the event is held at the Shrine of Remembrance each year to honour the thousands of Aboriginal service men and women who have served and continue to serve in the Australian Defence Force.

In June, Aunty Dot was recognised as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) as part of the Queen’s Birthday 2019 honours for her significant service to the Indigenous community of Victoria.

Some of Aunty Dot’s other achievements include, founder of Yarra Valley Aboriginal Elders Association, Honorary Elder and founding member of HICSA, a member of Victoria’s Aboriginal and women’s honour roll and a Centenary Medal recipient.

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