Cultural and creative life

Wisdom of our Elders – the story of Elvis Fields

Elvis Fields looks back on the strong Aboriginal community in Redfern and the organisations that supported him

Elvis at Wyanga with handcrafted coolamon and bundi stick. Photo by Vicky Haines.
Elvis Fields

This article is part of a series by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living and working on Gadigal land. The series, a joint project of South Sydney Herald and the City of Sydney, is curated by Wiradjuri woman Aunty Norma Ingram.

My name is Elvis Fields and I live in Surry Hills where I have lived for 27 years. I was born in Walgett, NSW, and my totem is the kurrajong tree. I was brought up on a merino sheep station out west where so many Aboriginal people came from all over to work.

Elvis at Wyanga with handcrafted coolamon and bundi stick. Photo by Vicky Haines.
Elvis at Wyanga with handcrafted coolamon and bundi stick. Photo by Vicky Haines.

My family moved to Orange in the 1970s as part of the Aboriginal Resettlement program and then to Sydney in 1983. We moved into Louis Street, Redfern, on The Block.

The Block was a very interesting place to live in the 1980s. There were so many Aboriginal people who lived there who came from the different Aboriginal countries from all over Australia.

Redfern was a big melting pot of different Aboriginal people but everyone seemed to be very friendly and we all got on like just one big family.

I couldn’t read or write until I was 40 years old. I went to the Eora TAFE College in Abercrombie Street, Redfern. It was so comfortable to be there because most of the students were Aboriginal and many of the teachers were Aboriginal also. It was so comfortable to learn in such a supportive environment. I have maintained lots of friends who I went to Eora with.

It was there that I wrote my first book, Wieja the Green Tree Frog. It was published by Blakes Education Department in the 1990s. I have since written 2 more children’s books which I and my family are so proud of.

I started attending Wyanga Aboriginal Elders program, Redfern, in 2020. Again, I met so many great people. At that time there were only 3 men who were attending. I felt really good sitting with the Elders and listening to their stories; learning from them about their lives growing up under the Aboriginal Welfare Act.

I started making Aboriginal artifacts back in the bush. I now get my own wood from my Aboriginal country like Walgett. I get box tree, yellow box, giddjee. I make coolamons, digging sticks, bundi sticks and spears. I also do traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremonies for local schools and talk to the young ones about Aboriginal culture.

I love living in the local government area, going to Wyanga, doing my art and artifacts and cultural activities, and catching up with my people.

This article originally appeared in the South Sydney Herald.

Learn more about Aboriginal culture and history at the Sydney Barani website.

Published 6 July 2023, updated 10 July 2023