Celestine Rowe believes family is ‘the most important thing’. And that’s why the mum of four is thrilled that her children are growing up connected to their wider family and their country in Central Australia’s Western Desert region.
A Pintupi-Luritja woman from Papunya northwest of Alice Springs, Celestine spent her childhood with a foster family in Adelaide from 12 weeks of age. She was unwell as a baby, which meant frequent hospital stays and led to her being placed in foster care in South Australia.
While her foster family was kind, she felt something was missing. By the time she reached her mid-teens, Celestine moved back to the Northern Territory to reconnect with her biological family. She also reconnected with her Lutheran heritage and today worships at St Paul’s Ferryden Park, which incorporates Adelaide Aboriginal Lutheran Fellowship.
‘I was missing a sense of belonging – I grew up without my family, but I knew that they were there’, says Celestine, who is a stable hand in Adelaide. ‘I just had a big hole there. I felt I had no family, and I don’t want my kids to be feeling the same thing.’
Around the time she returned to the Northern Territory as a teen, Celestine met celebrated First Nations poet Ali Cobby Eckermann, who became her mentor. Thanks to Ali, Celestine began writing poetry and, since the age of 16, she has been performing her work around Australia.
Despite being based in Adelaide for work, Celestine and her children, aged 6, 7, 13 and 15, visit their Central Australian family regularly.
‘The family’s the most important thing because it comes back to who we are and where we’re from, and it’s our connection’, she says.
Celestine’s Christian faith also informs her views on family and why God wants us as part of his family: ‘I believe that’s so we feel like we belong to something.’
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