“We haven’t been funded because the Government hasn’t been listening to the people on the ground. The Government does consultations, but they go away and the bureaucracy gets a hold of those documents and when it comes back, it’s probably unrecognisable from the interview that was done on the ground." Dean Gooda
“When I talk about culture, I talk about the country. The country is alive. The river, the land they’re all an energy system. I think all of us, whether we are young or old, need to connect with nature and the environment because it helps build our resilience. It’s also a healing mechanism - this relationship between land and people – we need to have this connectivity to country.” Dr Anne Poelina
“There are lots of people around here who have lost young people to drugs and alcohol. There is a lot of suicide here.
Just when our young people are starting to become a man or woman, we are losing them. It takes time to heal the wounds for the ones we have lost. Sometimes we just want to sit under a tree and cry.
Napaghi (white person) really don’t understand our culture and what we are about. Their negative attitude toward Yolgnu is growing and so is our problem.
Instead of thinking about dying, instead of hurting themselves, we want our young people to help themselves, to look at the world with a better worldview.
We need some support. We are suffering out here in our remote areas. Help us so we can help our young.
It would be a great privilege for Yolgnu to have and run our own healing centre. We have wanted this for a long time. A place where we can go and sit and do the healing ourselves.
Balanda (white people) can give us medicine from the hospital, but the Yolgnu way of healing is by having family, the whole family and community there for support. This is the right way.
Sometimes we need to go out of the community and heal ourselves. We need to go somewhere where we can sit down and learn who we are again. We need to have that confidence in ourselves to start all over again to help our young people.” Djalinda Ul Amari, Yirrkala, Northern Territory
“The Government provides money to stop suicide, but there’s no outcome. There are no changes in what is happening with young people, why?
They have the power and the money to make change, but nothing. They are dealing with people’s lives. They think they are doing things well, but they are not. There is a lack of the right kind of support. Our young people’s lives are at stake.
When you have strong cultural support, you feel you have foundation. A painter, a craft maker, a gatherer, a hunter, a dancer, these skills are the Yolgnu discipline for a healthy Yolgnu. That is what young people are missing out on - their cultural identity.
When we are being taught our culture, we are receiving support from our Elders. Not only a family Elder or an Elder from a particular tribe, it’s the whole group of Yolgnu tribes that are behind our cultural identity.” Sylvia Ngulbinditj, Millingimbi, Northern Territory
“A healing centre here in Yirrkala is what is needed. It would help in many ways: on an emotional level, the re-teaching of Yolgnu Lore and how to live our lives the proper way like our fathers and grandfathers did.
A healing centre would work for at-risk youth with drug, alcohol or sniffing problems. They could sit down and be still in the community. They could be taught and listened to. We could explain the whole concept of how one should conduct themselves in daily life.
Healing can occur in terms of talking and listening and explaining how you can become a better person, not just for yourself but the impact on your immediate family, your community. The healing centre would be important for the exchange of knowledge between Yolgnu people to keep culture strong and to keep young people alive.
The healing centre will be a strong beacon for young people to get their feet back on the ground. To find their way and be inspired to live life differently.
In essence, the healing centre would give them the tools to be better people, to be stronger, to be able to withstand peer pressure and other pressures in life. Like ripples in the pond, one person sees someone saying, “no I’m going to live my life differently now.” And others will follow and change too.
We have strong, articulate, intelligent and very wise Elders who have a dream about how to help not only disconnected youth, but community in general. They want to help and pass on their knowledge before their time on this earth is finished. Then it can be passed on to the next generation and so on.
We have a site for the healing centre. We need support, encouragement and financial assistance to make this happen. There is a great need for it.” Mayatili Marika & Djanambi Marika, North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
“We haven’t been funded because the Government hasn’t been listening to the people on the ground. The Government does consultations, but they go away and the bureaucracy gets a hold of those documents and when it comes back, it’s probably unrecognisable from the interview that was done on the ground.
We have always heard of policy development from the ground up, but in my 25 years working in this area with government and community, I have never seen this happen. I have never seen them take and implement what the community is asking for if it doesn’t fit into the funding guidelines. It’s lost.
So again, we end up with ideas on suicide prevention that come from Canberra and bear no resemblance to what is needed in the community and on the ground.
That is a big frustration. There is funding, but the Government decides how we are going to spend it.” Dean Gooda, Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia
> Elders' Views, Part 2