Home Ground Advantage – a yarn with Bonnie
August 21, 2023
Bonnie Welch (nee’ Cavanagh) is a proud Taungurung woman, descendant of John Franklin, self-confessed sports tragic and the kind of deadly person you always want on your team. Growing up, Bonnie set her sights on being either a physio for the Geelong Football Club or a Forensic Investigator. She opted for the path less travelled and completed her criminal justice degree, going on to contribute fourteen years with the Victorian Police in the State Forensics Services Centre in Macleod – despite being told there was no way she’d get a job in Forensics. But she didn’t give up on her sporting ambitions either, she is still a mad Geelong supporter and has been involved – both on and off the ground, with her beloved Broadford Football/Netball Club for twenty years. Bonnie’s passion and determination is now focused on her family and her mob. As Mum to beautiful two-year old daughter Georgia Reign and as the Executive Manager of the Community and Culture division of the Taungurung Land and Waters Council and guide for wawa biik, her future ambition is clear and her drive is even more tenacious.
Tell us about how you've come to work for your Taungurung mob?
I always wanted to work directly for my mob at some point. In my mind though, it was the confidence that was missing for quite some time. I wanted to be fully equipped to bring something to the mob so I could represent them proudly and strongly and that they could be proud of me too. When I saw a position open that really suited my skill set, coinciding with the birth of Georgia and my desire to be closer to home and Country for work, it was a no brainer to apply. I haven’t looked back since and just love everything about working for TLaWC. The team is equally as passionate as I am to support, unite and elevate the Taungurung Nation to great heights. The leadership was also a key factor for me as the organisational values, vision and purpose resonated strongly and I knew with the leaders and Elders involved, we would do some deadly things now and into the future. Image: Bonnie and Aunty Jo with the Kyneton Police
What are your passions outside of work?
I am a sports tragic, mainly AFL. I have been the President of the Broadford Football Netball Club for the past five years and involved for two decades, so it is very much my second home and a passion of mine. I still play netball achieving Life Membership recently for games played at the Broadford FNC. I love everything that sport brings including a sense of purpose, connection, fun, friendships and life-long memories. I am also obsessed with water including water sports and fishing. Living on Country is so special to my family and I, so when we moved back on from Naarm, it of course had to be near water, so Nagambie is now home. However growing up in Broadford, Broadford will always be home, home. Image: Bonnie with Uncle Mick Harding
Is there a part of Taungurung Country that is most special to you? Why?
Everywhere quite honestly! I have so many memories across Country it’s really hard to refine, particularly with it being so beautiful! From Mount Buffalo, Nagambie, Seymour, Eildon, Mansfield, Broadford, Kilmore, Heathcote, Yea, Alex… My family and I have so many stories and connections to place, I just find myself very lucky. I often speak about how when going off-Country, you can immediately sense when you get closer to Taungurung lands. Heading back over the Great Dividing Range gives me that feeling of safety, excitement, and grounding – home. I took this photo on the Goulburn River in Nagambie and I just love it! It was a quiet, warm summer’s day, sun peaking through the trees, gentle movement of the water, peaceful. But the best part is it kind of looks haunted with a ghostly figure in the reflections across the water! Not edited whatsoever, so I like to think its perhaps an Ancestor coming past to say wawa!
What are you most proud of?
I must set the scene to this question by acknowledging my parents who have really defined who I am today. Being young parents from disadvantaged backgrounds, their love, tenacity and sacrifice gave my sister and I such strong foundations for the success we are having today. Through this, it makes me super proud when I can make an impact on people’s lives through the learnings and opportunities I have been given along the journey, be it through my volunteering, friendship group, my team at work, or the Taungurung community. But ultimately, I am proud to make any positive impacts which are grounded in the values instilled in me by my parents. I am also really proud of the work our organisation is doing to create exciting and lasting opportunities for the Taungurung Nation. The future is looking bright! Image: Bonnie, her sister Jaimie, Dad Anthony and Mum Shelley on Bonnie's wedding day
What or who inspires you?
My sister. She is the most beautiful person inside and out, and a very hard worker. She is a wife and mum to three young kids, volunteers a lot of her time to community and works shift work. She is also my unofficial personal assistant as we both lead such hectic lives but she manages to always keep me on track. I swear she has two brains working in there because her multi-tasking is next level and seriously keeps me in line. She also has excellent advice and always has your back.
What do love most about leading wawa biik experiences?
I am a people person, so its nice to connect with others and share pieces of the Taungurung story, including my own. Any opportunity where we can educate and bring others on our shared journey is one to cherish. The experiences are really deadly and I am constantly learning each time. Being outdoors and connecting with Country is also very special. It grounds you and allows you to heal. Image: Bonnie with Uncle Shane on a wawa Euroa experience
Finally....what are your aspirations for the Taungurung community?
That we are always positively united, strong, healthy and proud. We have been here for tens of thousands of years and our mob's resilience, passion and knowledge is to be celebrated and empowered to ensure healthy lives and healthy Country for generations to come.