NIDA Mum – Veronica Mocke

To celebrate Mother’s Day, we sat down with a few students whose mothers played a huge role in them choosing a performing arts career and/or training here at NIDA.

Our final chat was with third year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) student, Papua New Guinea native and mother, Wendy Mocke, and her mother, Veronica Mocke.

Photo (L–R): Veronica Mocke and Wendy Mocke

Describe your mother.

WENDY: My mother is a fierce and hardworking woman – she is the root of our family tree. She had eight kids, but never stopped working. Today, she runs several businesses in Papua New Guinea so works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but is still involved in everything our family does. Such a great role model! She’s basically one of my heroes.

What do you like to do together?

WENDY: We love going to markets together because she enjoys going treasure hunting. I think it’s a stress relief for her. We like to go on walks around our home area, talking while taking in the sights.

When did you first realise Wendy had a talent for acting?

VERONICA: We have always known of Wendy’s interest in the performing arts. Even as a small child, she was very different from the rest of her siblings because instead of delving into sports or athletics, Wendy was more interested in performing in plays and even creating performances herself. As a child, she was somewhat shy and a bit awkward, but was always comfortable and confident when performing.

How has your mum encouraged your journey towards becoming an actor?

WENDY: In our culture, it’s rare for a woman to be as vocal and as forward as my mother is. Watching her raise eight children and still pursue her career was something that pushed me to make my dreams a reality. Fast-forward a few years, I’m in a similar position – I have a seven-year-old daughter and I’m working towards becoming an actor (a career that most people think will lead to failure). Seeing my mother work tirelessly towards her goals made me realise I could do the same, even as a mother.

When I got into NIDA, my daughter and I lived in Queensland and the first thing most people asked was, ‘NIDA is in Sydney. How are you going to balance that with motherhood?’ That’s when I had to make the toughest decision of my life – there was no way I could bring my daughter down with me. She’s in a good school and has so many friends. I didn’t want to disrupt that routine, especially since we spend so many intense hours in classes here and do a lot of studying over the weekend. I wouldn’t be able to devote as much time to her as I wanted. So my baby girl is currently living with her paternal grandparents – I get to see her every single holiday. This is the sacrifice I’ve had to make for the last two and a half years… only six more months to go!

For the longest time, I put my dreams on hold to support my family. My parents sent me to study in Queensland when I was 12 years old. I had always acted in school, but once I finished high school, I had to go to a business college because that was the norm in my culture. You finish high school, go to uni, graduate with a business or law degree – or something else just as ‘serious’ – and then make money to support the family. And so I did that – I got a ‘traditional’ job to financially support my siblings and make sure they had the same opportunities I did. But when I applied to NIDA, I had reached a point in my life where I decided to start doing things for myself… things that would make me happy. And I remember when I told my mother I had been accepted into NIDA, she was very supportive. She said, ‘It’s your time. You need to go and do what you need to do. Women are amazing – we can do whatever we put our minds to.’

What went through your mind when Wendy said she wanted to be an actor?

VERONICA: When Wendy was younger, she was unable to fully pursue her dreams because of other commitments and obstacles that she had to overcome. She’s also always put family first and put her dreams on hold. We (her family) have always known that becoming a professional actor was her passion, so when she told us she was finally going after it, we thought it was about time for her to do what was always in her heart.

In what ways are you like your mother? What habits or quirks have you adopted from her?

WENDY: I love looking at people’s old stuff – going to garage sales and deceased estate sales (I know that sounds weird). My mother doesn’t like buying new things because she believes old items have a lot more history. So I find myself doing it even when I’m not with her.

I also get my determination from my mother. Growing up, she had this resilience that I really admired… and still do. She never gave up on anything. I’m glad she passed that on to me.

What part of yourself do you see in Wendy?

VERONICA: I see my determination and strength in her. I always worked full-time while raising Wendy and her siblings, and taught them to be hardworking, self-sufficient and driven. I thought it was particularly important to instil these qualities in my daughters because I wanted them to know that women are able to do and be anything that they put their minds to.

I know there might be more than one, but name one specific moment during your artistic journey where you felt your mum really had your back.

WENDY: I’m in the process of writing a play (that has been in the pipeline for the last few years) and finally told my mother about it last year. It’s about things to do with our culture, particularly where she’s from in Papua New Guinea because it’s set in her village. It deals with certain topics that are traditionally taboo for women to talk about. I thought she’d be apprehensive about me writing this particular story. To my surprise, she got very emotional and said, ‘You need to write these stories because it’s about time that our stories are told.’

What would you like to tell Veronica this Mother’s Day?

WENDY: I hope that one day, my own daughter values me as much as I value you.