Today I was at the Graduation of our Literacy students in The Northern Territory.
The students all seemed so young, innocent and beautiful! There were two groups of students there. One group comprised of 9 to 11 year olds and the other of 6 to 8 year olds.
All in all there were about 48 students in total.
The children all went through the graduation hoops of making a short speech, reading a passage from a book they liked, (the older ones) and sharing in the reading of a story (the younger ones). I’m always impressed in the confident way they do this as people believe Aboriginal Children are so shy.
I made a speech and gave out the graduation certificates.
Many tears were shed as child after child came forward to collect their certificate and once again confidently and a bit embarrassingly, pose with me for a photo.
Afterwards, the Principal shared their life stories with me. There were some black African children who had spent considerable time (years) in Refugee camps. One child had even witnessed his father shot dead before his very eyes! But it was the Aboriginal children’s’ stories that really got to me. One child with a sensitive face framed by black plastic-rimmed glasses had, very graciously and sensitively welcomed me to country. He was there with his sister. Their parents were addicted to drugs and had been taken to be brought up by their grandmother. Another was a victim of domestic violence. Another had been taken from the school for a whole term by his dysfunctional mother and had only recently returned. Story after story was told to me of dysfunction and neglect and I found myself being overwhelmed by the need that was just in that one cohort of kids in two classrooms in a couple of schools in Northern Australia.
Later, I sat on bean bags with the kids as they goofed off with each other after behaving so well during the ceremony. I deliberately chose to sit next to that little African boy and the Aboriginal boy living with his grandmother. The little African boy was very guarded as he showed me his book. I could see the alert wariness in his eyes. The little Aboriginal boy talked to me in a very gentle kind way and I could see in the competition between the awful experiences he had undergone and the lovingness exhibited by his grandmother, that, so far the lovingness was winning big time.
This whole experience gave me just a taste of how impossible it must seem to governments to deal with ‘The Aboriginal Issue’, as it is called. All governments can do when society is faced with a problem, is set up bureaucracies and throw ever more copious amounts of money at an issue. All that can do is highlight the need (with statistics to show it) for even more monies to be spent. True, money is needed but there will never be enough.
At its heart it’s a spiritual issue. It’s an issue of acceptance, loving and belonging IN ACTION. Years ago I took a bus load of homeless, Sydney street kids into the bush with a couple of Aboriginal Elders. The effect on these kids was transformative. The Elders, through their cultural roots touched a beauty and sensitivity in these westernized alienated cynical kids that led to amazing conversations as these kids shared their loneliness and lostness with, firstly those Elders and then with each other.
It all begins with a sense of belonging and being loved for who you are.
It’s not just an Australian issue. It’s at once an intensely personal and humanity wide issue of realizing, accepting and acting on the fact that we are all, every one of us, of value, no matter what the colour of our skin or body shape and acting upon it.
The solution is as simple and complicated as that!
Then every little child on earth no matter where or what their family of origin, will be cared for by all of us as we accept the responsibility this realisation brings us. This then will mean that we can all begin to live in a way that will mean these darling Aboriginal Children can find some hope.