7 August 2023

Pure joy: Proud dad was excited about challenge

| Matt Nicholls
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Proud dad Bruce Frank Martin holds Thiikel-ee’enh Wilfred Martin in his arms in Warrnambool, Victoria.

Proud dad Bruce Frank Martin holds Thiikel-ee’enh Wilfred Martin in his arms in Warrnambool, Victoria.

FATHERHOOD came naturally to Bruce Martin, who beamed with pride when his son Thiikel-ee’enh Wilfred Martin was born in June last year.

“It’s something he had always wanted,” said Clancy Hearps, who also appears to be in her element as a first-time mum.

“Bruce was someone who was always loved by children and I think that’s because his own inner child was alive and well.

“The mental image of Bruce in Aurukun for a lot of people is an image of him with lots of young children hanging off him.”

Being a dad certainly agreed with him, Clancy said.

“For anyone who had the pleasure of witnessing Bruce as a father it was as pure and joyful as you could imagine,” she said.

“He just adored Wilfy.

“Whenever he was with him there was this pride.

“If he was walking down the street holding Wilfy he had this real sense of pride about him. ‘This is me and my son’.”

When the time came to pick out a name for their soon-to-be-born son, Bruce and Clancy did their research.

“Wilfred is a name from my family and we chose all of his names after he was born, with the help of the family and friend Peter Sutton,” Clancy said.

Thiikel-ee’enh refers to the Whale Story from the lower Love River area, with which the clan of Bruce’s mother Dorothy have connections.

“Wilfy was born in Warrnambool, Victoria where there are also many local Aboriginal whale stories,” Clancy said.

“There was also lots of whale activity in winter at the time of Wilfy’s birth.”

Wilfy standing tall at 13 months.

Wilfy standing tall at 13 months.

While their son might have picked up fair skin from both Clancy’s side and Bruce’s father’s side, there is still plenty of Bruce in Wilfy.

“I definitely see both of us in him,” his mum said.

“There are moments when he’s all Bruce; his little character, for sure.

“He’s a big boy – he’s in the over-98 percentile (for his age) – and definitely doesn’t get that from me.

“I can see Bruce in his face. His whole facial expressions are very much his dad’s. And his nature is very curious, very perceptive and very energetic.”

READ ALSO David Martin: My son transcended all walks of life

Clancy admits she has a challenge to raise Wilfy as a single parent and to maintain his strong cultural ties.

But she’s determined to make it happen.

“It’s something I ask myself. I think first and foremost his relationship to his Wik family is something that I will try to facilitate as much as possible,” she said.

“They all adore him.

“I took him to Aurukun all the way from Victoria when he was just three months old.

“His grandmother (Dorothy) greeted him off the plane – she had been told to go to the airport because there was a big packet of smokes to pick up – and when she saw him her eyes just lit up and her arms went out … she took him off me and immediately started parading him around.

“Bruce’s siblings and all of his family love Wilfy and they miss him.

“I guess, for me, it’s my job to keep that relationship open and to take Wilfy back to Aurukun as much as possible.”

Clancy Hearps and Bruce ahead of the birth of their first child.

Clancy Hearps and Bruce ahead of the birth of their first child.

Before Bruce died, they had discussed living in Aurukun.

“We both wanted Wilfy to live in Aurukun and a big part of our challenge or heartache, if you like, is that housing didn’t become an option,” Clancy said.

“It’s a really difficult thing to have to accept that he won’t have that same exposure that a kid like Bruce did when growing up.

“Wilfy’s experience will be different but I’m certainly keen to make sure he’s connected to his Wik family and his Wik culture.

“I think he’s got his dad’s legacy to follow in that way as Bruce had to navigate both worlds and he talks about his dad (David) going to great lengths to help him get to Aurukun.

“What heartens me is that when Wilfy is older he’ll have the resources available to him.

“When he has questions and is curious it will be my responsibility to facilitate him learning and connecting with those relatives.”

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