TWO ABORIGINAL STORIES – a man and a woman

I’m Marlene, I am from the Yued People of the Noongar Nation with cultural ties to the Inguda People in the Yamitji tradition … and I’m an Alcoholic, sober in Alcoholics Anonymous since 1st May 1985.

This is my story.

My life today is a Gift from my higher power which I call God. In many ways it is an extraordinary journey and a path towards healing and truth through the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

My healing journey started when I found Alcoholics Anonymous in 1985. Prior to 1985 I was a daily drunk and drank at the Railway Hotel and places where I sought the company of other drinkers. Many of them have since passed away. My drinking began as a young mother with only a few drinks and by the time I was 38 I was an alcoholic where I drank every day. My drinking and my drinking experience took me to many dark places but somewhere in there I always hung on to the God of my childhood in Wandering Mission in the South West of Western Australia. I am a person that was forcibly removed from my parents and family. I always felt a sense of displacement and aloneness and this translated into my adult life. It is still with me even today.

My most traumatic experience was the death of my daughter Susan. I was only 18 years old when she died and I had never recovered from the trauma that permeated nearly every aspect of my life. Today I have been able to deal with her death with all the love and compassion through the spirituality of the Steps and fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
When I first came into the fellowship I was homeless and came into the care of Holyoak where I met Anita Day, a woman of high distinction and a great humanity. She always loved me and was always there when I needed her. I was unable to work until I had been sober for approximately three years as the alcoholic drinking had taken its toll on me.

Today I don’t drink, a day at a time, and on a daily basis I try to do my very best with the ability God gave me. Today on occasions God’s Holy Spirit gave me a ‘moment of grace’ where I have been able to forgive the people who have hurt me in my life and to make amends to my children for the hurt that I caused to them.

My sobriety took me to places aligned with the programme of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have met outstanding people in my travels throughout the world and my great joy was speaking on Robben Island in South Africa about my personal story and to share about matters which are part of the indigenous story in Australia.

I have been very blessed with the goodness of a loving and most generous God that I found in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Thank you.


I was born in an Aboriginal mission called Mogumber at Moore River. I was born to an Aboriginal mother who died the age of 27 – when I was seven years old. My father was African American who was out here during the war.  I don’t know if he drank as my grandparents and aunties and uncles brought me up. My Grandparents never really drank. We moved to Geraldton from Dongara when I was very young and I went to Convent Schools from the age of six, then I went to Christian Brother’s high school until the age of 15, when I went to Shark Bay and worked on the fishing boats.

At the age of 16 I took my first drink the night before my first trip to sea on a sailing boat.
There was a party and I had drunk a bottle of wine. The next day at sea in exceptionally rough conditions I was violently ill, both seasick and sick from the wine. I worked mostly on the boats for four years and never really bothered about alcohol.

I arrived in Fremantle in 1964 and got married in 1966 at the age of 22, and in a short time
we had two daughters. I could take the drink or leave it up until my mid-twenties when I started drinking heavily and losing track of time. My marriage ended in 1974, I was left with my four year old and six year old daughters. I drank more and more to try and heal the pain. I did not understand the effects of alcohol at that time.

I was raising my two daughters who were four and six years old, when another good lady said she would come in and look after the children – and look after me too – because she knew us, and knew my two daughters when they were babies. I couldn’t make the decision at the time; I was preoccupied with my drinking so she made it for me. She moved in while I was at work. She started looking after the kids and was there for me so I thought this was good. She cared for the kids including her two and we had a son together. We lived together for 14 years.

I had a good job on the waterfront and worked there from 1966 to 1996 during which time my drinking got worse. During that time I had been in and out of AA two or three times. I started to realise I had a problem with my drinking, I said I would never drink before lunch time or during work, but I did. I drank at lunch times, I was a binge drinker. For a while it started off every Saturday then it became every Saturday and Sunday, until it ended up being six days a week.

At this time I said to myself I’m going to go back to AA, but something would come up like
a football party or Christmas and I kept putting it off. I had two years of sobriety and 18 months at different times in the 80’s, but I was a dry drunk. I didn’t do the steps and stopped going to meetings and that always led to me picking up. It would always start off with just one drink and would take me years to get back to AA.

Towards the late 80’s I experienced having a blackout with completely no recollection of the day before. I forgot where I left my car, had an hallucination and was becoming paranoid. As it has been said, alcoholism is a progressive disease, it just gets worse. I was affected physically, mentally, and emotionally. My relationship finally ended in July of 1989 after 14 years and although it was extremely painful at the time, as I look back now it saved my life.

All of my children were grown up except my 14 year old son who eventually went with
his mother. One night, accompanied by my daughter, I went looking for my partner. I
couldn’t find her, but on the way home I said to my daughter that I wanted to get two stubbies. She said: “Dad, please don’t drink.” At that moment, AA came into the back of my mind, so I called my mate, who took me to the Mosman Park meeting. I remember we arrived 20 minutes late on July 18th, 1989. I found it hard to concentrate on the meeting. I was in and out of the meeting to the phone box, ringing home to see if there were any messages. After the meeting I met two good ladies; one said something like: “I care”, and the other said: “pick up the phone before you pick up a drink”.

My mate who is still my sponsor has always been there for me when I needed AA, and today we can help each other. Today I know the first drink does the damage and in my recovery I know that I need to give some of what I’ve received back to A.A., such as service; carrying the message; and helping the alcoholic who still suffers.

By 1996 I had retired from the waterfront. After having one year’s break, I obtained a part
time job at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre, where I worked as a night supervisor. I
ended up working there for five years during which time I studied at university and achieved my degree and worked as a counsellor. Then I went to Broome working for five years and was A.A. Secretary for the Broome Group. All of these good things have come from AA. I am currently working today in Perth.

When I came back to A.A. in 1989, a few month after I was sober I went to an A.A. and
N.A. combined dance, they were dancing sober, and it occurred to me that I’ve, never danced without drinking. Someone asked me to dance, I said OK, and since then I’ve never really stopped dancing. Alcoholics Anonymous has taught me how to live and enjoy life sober and also how to enjoy the good and how to handle the not so good times.

AA has taken me overseas to world conventions in San-Diego in 1995 – where there were over 60,000 – and Minneapolis in 2000, with over 80,000 sober alcoholics. All that was lost is now back!

The things I have lost in drinking including relationships have all come back. My ex-partner
and I remain good friends today, thanks to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. The fact that we have a good relationship has proved a real plus for our families. Many positive things have happened since I’ve been in AA. I have been able to study and go to university. I have a Bachelor of Applied Science-Indigenous Community Health, with a specialisation in Counselling. I’ve also gained a Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy. All this is due to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. The most important thing today is that I’m sober and have a loving supportive family, the wonderful fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, and my Higher Power.

One Day At a Time I have not drank alcohol since July 18th 1989. My brother and other family members have died from alcohol and related causes. My ex-defacto saved my life by leaving our relationship, thus causing me to go to AA, today we remain the best of friends.