INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: CELEBRATING REMOTE INDIGENOUS LEADER’S

World Central Founder Shelley Madden Interviews Charmaine Patrick, Darwin, Age 34

See Charmaine’s INSPIRATIONAL journey from remote community of Ntaria in the NT to a marathon in the streets of New York on YouTube:

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

Well, my name is Charmaine Patrick and I’m a Western Arrente Warlpiri woman from Hermannsburg (Ntaria), but I’ve lived in Darwin now for 10 years. I’ve got 2 gorgeous boys, Renathan who is 18years old now! And my little Mickey my youngest son who is 11 this year.

I work at Western Desert Renal Dialysis, and I work full time supporting renal patients in Darwin. And I have a husband, and he helps me a lot.
Everything I have is better because I have a good husband, we have been together for 5 years. I think a good relationship and marriage is very important to my happiness, and I have a good life.

Can you tell us about the marathon you ran in 2013?

I used to smoke since I was 13, but all my life I was wishing to quit smoking before I turned 30. I didn’t know about the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) till one of my old managers Maurice from the MacDonnell Shire Council, and Mark the GBM (Government Business Manager) at Ntaria told me about the marathon, and encouraged me. Mark’s wife who was in Adelaide, contacted her husband the GBM in Ntaria about finding someone interested in the Indigenous Marathon project.

They found me and asked me if I’d try out, and if told me that if I’d do it I could end up in New York doing a marathon. I said I couldn’t do it because I was smoker, and I wasn’t fit enough. It was hard because my family was saying, ‘you should try doing the marathon’. But I felt like it was too hard because of smoking, and too hard to quit, because I had been doing it since I was 13. I was in my late 20’s then.

But after a couple of weeks, I thought I would put in an application. Then the manager and the GBM said I need to start practising running now. I am so happy how much support they gave me. One day they took me to Alice springs to get running shoes – for the first pair of running shoes I’ve ever had! And it was so hard wearing those shoes. I wasn’t used to wearing any. Then I started my running.

All the time the GBM used to take me out for running training in the afternoon. When the car came, I used to quickly have a few drags of a cigarette and then jump in the car to go running. The GBM sometimes smelt the smoke and asked me, have you been smoking? I would say ‘no I haven’t’. But he already knew.
It took me a couple of weeks to stop that.

We started running on the softball oval at first, and it just killed me. My lungs would burn, and I felt dizzy, and my body wasn’t healthy, and my mind kept saying ‘you gotta do something about it’.

Then one day I had the beep test the next morning. I didn’t even know what that was till they explained it to me that I had to keep running faster and faster to keep up with the increasing speed of the beeps. After the beep test, I went back home with 2 packets of smokes in my bag, and half a packet in my pocket, but never got back to smoking after that beep test. My sister was home when I got there, and she said ‘light me a smoke’. And I said no, and after that beep test I never smoked again.

All the time, I kept going further and further in my running till I was running from Ntaria to Ellery Creek turnoff! I found myself there one day and couldn’t believe myself. And I thought, I can do this. I never turned back to the cigarette again.

So then I got to travel around everywhere with the Indigenous Marathon Project. I’d never left the territory, but then went to Canberra, Gold Coast, Sydney, Alice Springs, and then New York where I ran 42kms! I finished that with my now healthy lungs, in 6hrs and 20mins. I had to choose cigarettes or marathon. I just say to the people who helped me, ‘you just opened the door for me, and now I have a good job and play other sports; like volleyball with my husband. And I keep on running’.

What motivated me the most, was the strength I found in being a single mother at the time. Moving forward and doing something on my own gave me strength. I got the strength to run, for my son’s sake. And they are proud of having a Mum like me now. They are so soft and hard, and I am so proud of them.

Charmaine with her sons and her marathon coach

What have you been doing since then?

I did another marathon in 2016 back at home in Alice Springs. I did 42.2 kms and finished in 5hrs. I wanted to get back to running at home, as I don’t want to stop, because marathons have changed my life, and I wanted to show my town and people that I am still going, and that I did change.

Every year my husband, and my kids do ‘City to Surf’ in Darwin. My husband and I do 12 kms and by son Mickey did 4kms last time. Now I also play Women’s footy, softball, and play volleyball with my husband. I plan for our next marathon every 2 years. This year will probably be Melbourne in October.

What are five things you value most?

1. My relationship
2. My beautiful sons
3. Family
4. Work
5. Opportunities that they are all having. I just love to get out and show people that there are lots of things there for us

Charmaine’s family send off: far left Charmaine’s Mum. Charmaine second from right

Have you had any women in your life who have mentored you? How has their support impacted you?

I’ve had a couple of women in my life. Like in my running career, and they supported me a lot. The Ntaria GBM’s wife Jo Weaver was so supportive. As soon as she heard about me she came to Ntaria and mentored me to go into the Marathon Project. I also got support from the school teachers, the school principal, a VET, the shop workers, and most of all my Mum.

I especially couldn’t have done without my Mum Lillian’s support. She really helped with caring for my kids when I was doing marathons and travelling with the IMP squad. They kept in touch with me, supported my kids to keep attending school and took good care of them. That was the first time ever that I left my kids at home. I thought about it a lot, I couldn’t have done it without that support.

One of the women police officers helped too by looking after my passport at the police station so it didn’t get lost. That shows just how supported I was. It was like everyone put their hands up to help. And that’s why I didn’t want to quit too.

What advice would you give to young girls about their future?

I really encourage young girls to go ahead with what opportunities that are given to us. There are a lot of there, and if they are given to us, we need to take that opportunity and think about our future. And make the most of it you know?! Every year I encourage young people from the community to follow my footsteps and go out to America and do the marathon.

America was such a really a big trip that I never thought would happen.
Before I went, I was dreaming a lot, that from the highest building I would look below and see a lot of yellow cars and think ‘where am I now’. And would wake up and think ‘what was that’. When I went to New York, it was so different from Ntaria. The weather was different. Everything was different. It was such a different feeling, that sometimes I found myself and I wondered if it was real or not. I couldn’t believe it when my dream came true, as I looked down from the Empire State building, I saw all the city, and so many yellow taxis.

The flight was so long; 15hrs. When I was there and thinking about my family back at home and wondering, why am I so far away? But I knew I came to do a job; and run that marathon. When I did the marathon, I felt like I wasn’t racing at all. I was just so amazed, and I couldn’t believe I was running through all the streets of New York.

And at the end I was crying and thanking my family and my community and all the people who helped me get there. That big race changed my life from the darkness to the light. And now I feel like my health and everything in my life has changed. I didn’t see that before. And all the opportunities have opened up since then. I’m a strong woman to be positive for my kids. We are the mothers in the sights of the kids, 24hrs a day, so I have passion not to fail and want to keep it that way for them.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Like I said, I’m proud to be a Mum. I’m proud to be an auntie, a sister, and a strong woman for the members of all my families. And now I’m looking at my families, and Elders that were strong before us. I love my Grandmothers. Yeah, we’ve grown from a strong family.

 

World Central celebrates Charmaine on International Women’s Day: Celebrating Remote Indigenous Leaders

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