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Anna Heriot

I am a country womxn living in the city for more than three quarters of my life.

Anna Heriot
Image: Hazel Dooney

My life’s work is finding the heart of ceremony an a maker and master of ceremonies. These days I only do death ceremonies: living wakes, funerals, memorials and so on. I'm a Sociodramatist, so I think of systems and relationships, community, and generations past, present and emerging.

I have a deep interest in rituals, from the small habits that make our days more pleasurable to the ceremonies that mark significant transitions. Ceremonies are a way of clarifying what really matters to us, listening to stories, and bringing community together. My own experience – and my observation of others – is that ceremonies enrich our lives in celebrating the joys of life and coming to terms with the painful experiences like loss and grief which are part and parcel of being human. A time to feel deeply and actually to gather in joy.

What's easy for womxn?

The relief of living under the radar.

What's difficult for womxn?

Living under the radar. Last night I saw the movie Promising Young Woman, I thought it was a brilliant study of men, without stereotyping them. How to change their own culture is a slippery thing for men to address. Without their attention the situation for woman will remain difficult. In Australia it goes back to the first settlers who raped indigenous women and raped the land in their ignorance..

How do you maintain mental fitness/mental health?

I meditate, it’s really good for me. Every so often I forget.

What brings you joy?

My work, writing, reading, family, and friends. Singing and being with the groups I’ve chosen to join where there’s a collective intention to contribute well to our culture and society. To address the difficulties that arise when we humans get together with love.

How do you nurture your relationship with nature?

I got this idea a while ago I wanted to live in the city with an awareness of the ground. Feeling the earth through the asphalt and the concrete. Working out what is white fella business. I've been listening to Dr Mary Graham, philosopher and elder in the Gold Coast hinterland. We learned that preparations for 'cool burns' require awareness of the qualities and state of the wind, soil, creatures, temperature and so on - in short, everything. I've been sitting in my backyard Temple practising attention, feeling blunt and gradually more aware.

Where do you feel a sense of belonging/community?

In Wiradjuri country where I’m from, it’s a complex feeling because it’s stolen land. When my brother sold the land I felt relief, but still it’s in me, the Cookardinia kid, living near Jerra Jerra Creek on its way to the Thugga Swamp. I feel at home where I live, I’m very appreciative of the gift of this house. I’ve been a community worker all my adult life in various ways, so I feel I belong in many communities.

Where do you live/work?

Turball Jagera Country.

What are you working on?

I’m working on allowing things to come to me, widening my attention and saying yes. I'm also working on being my age, that is an old woman. I changed my age a lot in my teens to suit the jobs I was applying for and had to concentrate really hard to get hold of my actual birth date. I'm beginning to understand (I think!) that as I age I am increasingly aware of the different ages I have passed through on my way here. I've always thought life requires continual learning; now I see that learning to be an older woman who is in the last quarter of my life is scary and daunting and at times seems much harder. When I settle myself I find it also exciting.

As an elder I feel a responsibility to …

Notice things that are good for us as a culture and to let people know that in a respectful friendly way.

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