"Culture is the main thing we should bring back into the community. The workers who are coming in, even the police and the hospital staff, they got to know and understand cultural awareness before they come into the community. It’s no use coming in and enforcing the Western way.” Estelle Bowen
"I know many senior people who are extremely wealthy in knowledge. They are very proud, strong and healthy people who are poor in a Western material sense. I think we need to find that balance within ourselves. Some of us will find it easier than others and some will have a preference for a strong cultural base and focus less on a wage economy. No matter which way you go, a strong cultural identity is all important for the physical and spiritual benefit of our people" Wayne Bergman
“It was our own local boys that took our son to the lock up. They put him in the back of the police van’s cage and they never took his belt off. My job was in mental health and I knew what needed to be in place, but it wasn’t.
So they just left his belt on. No one pulled up to check on him, they just kept on driving from Hopevale to Cooktown. Somewhere along the way, he took his belt off, put it on top of the bar and around his throat.
My daughter took her life in the same year as our son. She really missed her brother. She knew there was no justice for him…"
"Culture is the main thing we should bring back into the community. The workers who are coming in, even the police and the hospital staff, they got to know and understand cultural awareness before they come into the community. It’s no use coming in and enforcing the Western way.” Estelle Bowen, Hopevale, Queensland
“I haven’t lived here for 10 years. Returning recently, it’s more noticeable how much has changed and how many people we have lost (19 people) in my lifespan alone. It is way too many.
I have lost a lot of friends and family in all kinds of different ways: to suicide, drugs and alcohol. And then there are those who haven’t died, but hurt themselves by sniffing petrol.
I know a lot of people who have lost parents at a young age, who don’t have parents or who have had parents who have been alcoholics or drug addicts, so they end up doing the same thing as their parents.
A lot of young people don’t know how to deal with all their sorrow and pain. It just keeps getting bottled up inside and they release it through self-harm.
They need extra support. They need one-on-one support because they don’t know who to talk to when they’re feeling upset. Quite often young men get upset. Instead of sitting down and talking about it; they turn to violence. They take it out on themselves or other people.
People who are coming out of jail back into our community don’t have a rehabilitation system nearby. There is support for them. Instead, they come back, reoffend and go straight back in. We see it all the time.
From a personal perspective, my brother spent 9 years of his life in and out of jail because there was no healing centre to help him reconnect to a normal lifestyle in the community.
It’s fair enough to say we can send them off to Darwin or somewhere in NSW for rehab, but they need to be able to reconnect with their own community, not somewhere else.
Our people are offending very young. They are being put into the jail system at a very young age and they are learning bad habits at a young age.” Ruby Alderton, Yirrkala, Northern Territory
“The Pelican catamaran (Pelican Expeditions) came up to us for a number of years. During the time Pelican was operating in the community there were no suicides. Then funding ran out and Pelican stopped coming. That’s when the deaths started again.
Pelican Expeditions took people out on country. People were able to sit there; they had someone to talk to. We were also re-immersed in cultural activities. The young people and us old people were able to open up. Even the Elders we took out there were suffering from their own loss. They were able to get it out and talk.
When Pelican took our young kids out to Lizard Island with the Elders, the teachers at school would say there was a positive change in these kids when they returned. Ask these teachers to put it in writing and they won’t do it. Why?” Des Bowen, Hopevale, Queensland
“Balanda (white people) have been trying to fix Indigenous issues forever, for generations.
Maningrida is probably one of the youngest communities and it has been hand fed with government money. If you are hand fed all the time, you’re going to sit down and expect that all the time. You’re not going to empower yourself.
Balanda (white people) cannot fix community issues. Community issues need to be dealt with at a community level.
This is a confused generation. We can’t discipline our kids or someone rings welfare. So how do you discipline your children? What a confused generation we are. We’ve got to act white and then we’ve got to act black, and these two worlds they just don’t come together.” Noeletta McKenzie & Marita Wilton, Maningrida, Northern Territory
“Grog, suicide, gunja, smoking, it’s taking us nowhere. We can’t fix our families. We’re trying to get our kids to follow culture, trying to keep our culture moving with us, but nobody is supporting us with this. I’m angry because nobody is helping us with culture.
We need to hold this culture until we die and along the way hand it on to our children. Why don’t Balanda (white people) listen to us? Balanda (white people) come here and they use us…
We need to become stronger and build up our community. Give us more power so we can stay on our own land. Support us to take our people out onto country. All we ask is for you to help us, so we can change things. We are losing our own countrymen. We are losing our lives.
Stop thinking blackfella doesn’t know anything about healing. We are living with these problems. We are the best informed to deal with them. We tried to become a Balanda (white people), but no, we are black.
We are living black and this is how we have to stay. We have to pass this onto our children. Don’t use us. If we lose our culture we are lost, without it we are finished as a people.” Andrew Dowadi, Maningrida, Northern Territory
> Elders' Views, Part 3