Carol Major: A pillar of strength in Woorabinda

Carol Major understands what community means better than most. She is a pillar of resilience and strength in the Woorabinda community.

She has a deep understanding of the transgenerational traumas caused by the forced relocations of Indigenous Queensland children from their homes to Woorabinda.

Carol was one of them.

“We were taken off our mum and dad from the Act [The Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act in Queensland] and put into the child service system until we were 18,” Carol explains.

Carol has 13 other siblings. At the age of eight, Carol and nine of her siblings, who were between the ages of 16 and 17, were moved all over Queensland, eventually relocating to Woorabinda when a dormitory opened. Her other siblings stayed with her parents in Hughenden, a town five hours south west of Townsville.

“We arrived in Woorabinda on 23 May 1968 and we stayed in there until they were 18,” Carol says.

Carol, who excelled at school, was eventually taken on a different path to her siblings. In 1972, she moved away from Woorabinda and attended the Sisters of Mercy school in Rockhampton until 1978. After finishing high school, she worked as a nurse in Maternal and Child Health at a hospital in Clayfield in Brisbane.

In 1979, Carol decided it was time to find her parents, so she went back to Hughenden. Carol said it was important for her to see them.

“I went back, not to blame them but to thank them and love them,” Carol says.

“It was heartbreaking for my mum to have her nine kids taken. [At the time] I didn’t understand the traumas they were doing through,” she says.

After visiting her parents and her siblings in Hughenden, Carol decided to stay there and she had her first child in 1979.

Eventually, she moved back to Woorabinda.

Although Carol is well-respected in Woorabinda now, she started working in the community in 1985. It took her a long time to get where she is. 

“I didn’t get the respect until 1990,” she says. Carol puts this down to being in Woorabinda.

“I know myself, I broke a lot of barriers,” she says.

“The different agencies that come in, they don’t understand the transgenerational traumas,” Carol says.

“We know the gaps. It is our own problem with our own solutions, with help from different agencies,” Carol explains.

“Everyone knows me now. Even the departments respect me. They always call me Auntie Carol. For big funding bodies, I am a first point of call.”

Among her many roles, Carol worked with Central Queensland Indigenous Development (CQID) in child protection and wellbeing for ten years. Recently, after years of study, Carol was sworn in as the first Indigenous female pastor in Woorabinda on the 20 May 2018.

“My work as pastor coincides with my other work,” Carol explains.

Carol is also currently working as Team Leader of Gumbi Gunyah Women and Children Wellbeing Centre, a Red Cross centre in Woorabinda.

“I love what I do. I love working for Red Cross and I love putting my other hat on with the ministry. I am balancing two lives in one.”

In her current work with Red Cross, she is helping complex families and empowering women. 

“I implement new strategies, but I can only get [those] from the family,” she explains.

“I know the identity issues they have, but they know it better than me. It’s in their home. They have the issues. They tell me. I try to close that gap,” she explains.

Carol wears many hats. She is a Justice of the Peace. She is finishing her law degree.

"I'm becoming a vet next year. Woorabinda doesn't have a vet," she explains. 

The second reason Carol is becoming a vet is because her family loves animals.

She is also studying for a Bachelor of Commerce to become an internal auditor. Carol plans to use her auditing skills to audit council records on all Indigenous communities in Queensland.

“Don’t ask me how I get time to do this,” she laughs.

Carol says the great support she receives from her husband and children enables her to achieve so much. But, no matter how busy she is, she is never too busy for her children and grandchildren.

“My grandchildren play rugby or netball on the weekends and I always take time out to take them.”

Carol thinks it is important for her children and grandchildren to see the work she is doing.

“The stuff I’m doing I am passing onto my children,” she says.

Between Carol and her husband, they have raised 60 street kids in Woorabinda, including four biological children.

“My children would bring other children into my home – street kids – who we got attached to,” Carol explains.

If Carol’s children saw kids at school who were sad or needed a bed for the night, they would befriend them and bring them home.

“They would say, ‘Well why don’t you come home? My mum will look after you,” Carol says 

“Even today in Woorabinda they recognise me as Auntie Carol, Mum Carol – all different types of names I’ve been given. All because I had that time to give to those children that were looking for love and couldn’t get it,” Carol explains.

Carol is still looking after children in Woorabinda today.

“Most of them are all grown up now,” Carol says.

“Now I’m down to just three out of the 60.”

She is also working to reconnect with one of her biological sons – Kapun.

“In 1985, I went through a patch of domestic violence. I placed my son for adoption,” she says.

Carol has reconnected with Kapun in recent years. One of her proudest moments was that he could be there to witness her being ordained in 2018.

“I am so blessed he witnessed me becoming a pastor,” she smiles.

“We just clicked. He and I talk 24/7.”

Although Carol and Kapun did not see each other for 35 years, they are going to write a book together. Kapun already has the title – ‘The boy that found his way home.’

“That’s deadly man,” Carol said when he suggested the title.

“Let’s go with that.”