There are so few moments in Australian history to be proud of in terms of our relationship with the First Australians. Rudd’s National Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008 was one of them. Ten years on our child protection services are removing Aboriginal children from their families at an even greater rate than any other time in history.
As an employee of a child protection agency I had the opportunity to speak to some of our Aboriginal staff about their reflections on the Apology, their personal experience of the Stolen Generations and their thoughts on the future.
I haven’t yet met anyone who would choose to re-live their teens. This formative time is a universally awkward and painful experience for a whole range of reasons. For youth workers it’s an experience they draw on daily to help young people build resilience through their hardships. It’s a job that requires a huge amount of compassion, empathy and patience.
Working with the Sydney Youth Services team in Belmore, I’ve come to understand that there is a unique set of challenges for young people caught between cultures. For many first and second generation Australians their families have a very different set of expectation to their peers. It can be a big source of conflict for young people who are still negotiating their identity.
Leonard Perelini is a proud Australian-Samoan man who has provided countless hours of support and guidance to young people in South-West Sydney through Barnardos Streetwork program. His passion for his work is evident in the relationships he has with his clients. It is a passion borne of a family tragedy Leonard experienced as a young person.
Earlier in 2017 I had the privilege of spending time with Mele Sulaki-Latu. As a proud Tongan-Australian Mele understand the cultural challenges that other young people from migrant backgrounds face as they find their place in the world. She is a strong and confident role model for the young women who’s lives she has touched.
This level of care and investment in young people’s lives is vastly under-rated in our society and economy. Our community is better off for the work that people like Mele and Leonard do.
Real reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians must be built on a foundation of truth telling. It’s not the first time someone has expressed that sentiment but given the lack of progress in Australia, it won’t be the last.
As part of my work with Barnardos Australia I spoke with two Senior Aboriginal Advisors, Vivianne Freeman and Raylene Popovich about their experience of the ’67 referendum and the stolen generation. I’m really grateful to both these women for sharing their personal stories on the eve of the anniversaries of the ’67 referendum and the release of the “Bringing them Home” report. I regret these aren’t my finest examples of visual production but I believe it is important we share these extraordinary stories.
While Raylene was a young child when the referendum was held. She wasn’t born as an Australian citizen. She speaks about the effect this had on her identity as an Aboriginal Australian.
Vivianne Freeman is a proud Wiradjuri woman. Here she shares her family’s extraordinary story of their escape from the Brungle Aboriginal mission in NSW.
In November 2016 I had a chat with Waterloo Estate street artist Roberta Finnegan about how she got started doing street art and what inspires her art.
At the age of 79 Roberta has taken up street art as a protest against the destruction of parts of her community. Chief amongst these concerns is the NSW Government’s proposed demolition and replacement of the Waterloo Public Housing Estate where she lives. Roberta is part of a group of local residents running the We Live Here 2017 campaign. The campaign’s aim is to put a human face to the Waterloo Estate and become a voice for a community facing eviction.
Irene Doutney retired as a City of Sydney Councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor in September 2016. She represented her community and The Greens on Council for 8 years. Not everyone has heard of her – self-promotion was never her thing. But if you’ve been involved in community activism in the inner-city you’ve probably come across her.
Irene was always an unlikely politician. When I first met her as an inner-city Greens activist I thought of her as a warm, unassuming lady who was always ready to roll up her sleeves and support campaigns in any way she could. She volunteered in Greens offices and attended lots of rallies but I would never have guessed she would run for office.
Irene surprised me in 2011 by hiring me to work in her office at Sydney Town Hall. For five years I got to work closely with her and witness her unrelenting commitment to the communities she represented. It didn’t matter what was going on, personally or politically. Irene just kept going.
Continue reading “Represent: Irene Doutney’s journey to Sydney Town Hall”
My friend Bishop Laryea was born in Teshie, Ghana, before migrating to Australia as a child. On a trip back to Teshie in 2011 Bishop decided he wanted to do something to support the young people in his home town. As a result Africa Youth Initiative was born. It was the first youth centre of its kind in Ghana and Bishop plans to open more across Ghana and Africa. I made a short film about his inspiring work.
Constantine Anagostou opened his Hurlstone Park his business on Crinan Street in August 1966. He arrived in Australia only two years earlier at the age of 22. Today he is one of the last shoemakers.
“I love what I do and I take my time. Nobody can tell me ‘keep on moving!'”
13 Crinan St, Hurlstone Park
Con’s cats Bobby and Jerry live at the shop. He comes to the shop to feed them everyday even when he is not working.
Con’s shoes come with a lifetime guarantee. No so much the life of the shoes. As long as God keeps him alive he’s happy to fix them.
Con used to make 50 pairs of shoes a week plus repairs and orthopaedics. “Now I make one pair and I’m happy”
Con opened his shop in August 1966.
Con is unimpressed with the cheap shoes I’ve brought him to fix.
Con is one of the last shoe makers in the country. “Nobody left. One in Queensland. A couple in Melbourne”
Con last had apprentices in 1980. He has turned down work at Ultimo TAFE teaching shoemaking. After the previous teacher died they couldn’t find anyone to take the class.