Adulthood is when I have learnt a lot more about my Aboriginality. I had a good childhood in Gladstone, Central Queensland, albeit without my natural dad raising me. Us kids had to make our own fun. We were the BMX generation and were always on bikes heading out to waterholes to swim and socialise.
I understand the plight of Indigenous kids and any other kids whose dads weren’t in the picture. It still hurts. It’s a huge issue for us and I don’t know if we ever recover from the obstables that experience places in our paths.
There was minimal teaching of Aboriginal culture, art, craft, or language in the schools I attended. There was even less about taught colonisation and the massacres of Aboriginal people and nothing about how to understand it all. I realised as an adult how much this pivotal part of our history was never exposed. And it may be another obstacle that I might never recover from. Do people understand that? That this is where I’m coming from?
I now understand that math and English are important tools for us as students in a modern world, but also that Identity and nationality are the other side of the same coin. I think I understood this when I was growing up but was just a kid. Just a little black kid. I now sort of understand when Indigenous kids play up. You know what? I was one of them. I played up in class and at school. Maybe it was because I didn’t learn my culture and language in the classroom. But you know, I think I made up for it on the sports field. Striving to prove myself and watching the other Indigenous kids doing the same.
Sports days were a special thing. The sports field levelled the field and often put us in the foreground and put me on an even footing. Somewhat equal. Somewhat...
I loved sports days. Watching my cousins compete, and achieve on the field gave me lots of pride and many of my favourite memories. Sport brought us Indigenous kids closer. It gave us closer understanding of and stronger belonging to each other. If there were fights on the playground, everyone knew that us Indigenous kids would come from everywhere. We couldn’t help it. It was instinct. Natural instinct. Probably the most powerful instinct as a kid is the instinct to protect your friends and family. It was then and there that we understood identity and so did everyone else. But this didn’t mean we were better off in school because it was only a survival thing.
Class stayed the same. And school was a struggle. Class was hard. It was hard to relate and connect to the non-Indigenous teachers and a non-Indigenous curriculum. I can only articulate this as an adult. I can only understand this as an adult. When I look at Indigenous kids today, I know. I understand what they go through. I see how the rage builds up; and it’s a rage for the ages. It stands the test of time.
But I tell you what, we had a sense of humour! We were always laughing. I think it’s that native humour. It’s still with us. Still with me. I sometimes wonder where it comes from. Then I realise it’s native.
We had no mobile phones or technology back then. Kids got around without those and had to use public phones if there was an emergency. But you had to get to the phone first. Times have definitely changed.
Many of the swimming holes that I frequented are no longer used today. I think I’m very lucky in that the swimming holes I went to as a kid were actually significant places, back in the colonial days, in the development of Gladstone.. Now I get to use my imagination after reading about the actual local history of my town. I can visualise and theorise about what happened here and there in the landscape. It’s very special to me.
Yes, of course, both good and bad things happened to my people in these same places and I visualise and imagine them too. It’s important to remember that the good things happened for thousands of years. I mean thousands of years of uninterrupted ownership and occupation of our lands. Singing, dancing, hunting for hundreds of generations on some of the most beautiful country. How magical! Praise to the ancestral beings. Praise to the creator!
To swim in the same places my mob had swam for hundreds, thousands of years. That is profound and means so much to me. Whenever I drive past those places I think about it and tell my children. I tell them of the beauty of our occupation. I also tell them that bad things happened to our people. Where? Everywhere. That hurts. I am wracked with pain and anguish over that. This is what they call it intergenerational trauma.
But I did have a wonderful childhood, only realising the magnitude of my Aboriginality as an adult. I feel privileged to know the history of my town; to have grown up close to and visiting the areas that were significant to the local Aboriginal mob, and to the town as it developed. I read the history and my mind takes over. Then I see the Ancestors there. I see that creation and Dreamtime there. Wow, what a sight it is! The most beautiful country there and my ancestors in it... The people there. The waterholes there. We are truly blessed to remember. I remember. My kids will remember…..
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|Gladstone, QLD, Australia|