As an Aboriginal elder, who cares very deeply about the health of her people, Aunty Pam Pedersen from the Yorta Yorta people, literally jumped at the opportunity to be one of Richmond’s participants in our partnership with VicHealth and its This Girl Can Victoria campaign.
“This year I’ll be 75 and competing in my 5th or 6th half marathon. So I’m still out there showing my people, if you dream it you can achieve it.”
But it hasn’t always been this way for Aunty Pam, daughter of famous Aboriginal activist and Fitzroy player, Sir Douglas Nicholls, whom the AFL’s Indigenous Round is named after. Twenty-five years ago she felt unfit and overweight and despite thinking she wasn’t good at sport and people might point and laugh, something had to change.
“When I was turning 50, I looked at myself and thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I really need to do something about myself, because I wasn’t active at all.
“So I started walking and then I thought the walking is too slow, so then I started to run! I’d always be last, but I didn‘t care. People used to wait for me, and the kids, they were absolutely gorgeous. They’d come up to me and say, ‘you’re such an inspiration!”
Despite her incredible optimism and sunny outlook, Aunty Pam, who this year was given a clean bill of health after battling breast cancer, still faces her own fears of judgement around how she looks.
“My main goal is to be healthy and unfortunately I’m putting on a bit of weight and that bothers me.
“I mean sometimes, some days, I have really bad days because I think I look terrible today. But I think I can’t let it bother me too much ... I have to get over it and just strive, strive you know, to get going and do things.”
Throughout her fitness journey, Aunty Pam has tried numerous sports from walking to running, swimming and triathlons. Each sport presents it challenges, but she’s determined to continue to be a role model for her people.
“Get out there and show non-Aboriginal people that us Aboriginal people are just as capable,” she says.
VicHealth research reveals that worrying about being judged stops many women from being physically active. In fact, 41% of Victorian women feel too embarrassed to exercise in public. Which is why campaigns like This Girl Can Victoria are so important. Empowering women to be active whenever, wherever and however they choose, in a supportive environment.
After tackling many obstacles Aunty Pam is proof that, “This girl can run and achieve.”