THE 250 indigenous elders who met at the Brisbane Broncos Clubhouse for lunch yesterday shouldn't have been there.
With an average life expectancy almost two decades less than their non-indigenous counterparts, Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders are not expected to live long past retirement age. But if you ask Auntie Joyce Lea, 77, age is the great equaliser.
"Indigenous, non-indigenous, old is old," she said. "I think we are taken good care of, now. And we are well respected in the community. But we are all the same. We all get old."
The annual lunches, hosted by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, are often the only chance many of these elders have to see friends from their youth.
"We only used to meet at funerals," Auntie Janette Kirk, 72, said. "Many of these people go way back to the Boat House days. The Boat House was the first dance many of us went to. And we are not a nuclear family, we are traditionally a community. Everyone calls me Auntie or Mum. It is important for us to see each other smiling."
Joan McFarlane, 73, was seeing many of her colleagues, from her years working at the Golden Circle cannery, for the first time in decades.
The institute's services manager, Jody Currie, said the lunch at Red Hill was important for the elders' "sense of belonging". "It's a chance for urban Aborigines to come together and celebrate as a community and share stories," Ms Currie said.