#1 Indigenous Australia: Tribal Roots, Schooling, Societal Challenges

#1 Indigenous Australia: Tribal Roots, Schooling, Societal Challenges

September 20, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


(A=interviewer) OK Stacey, how are you today?
(B=interviewee) Good thank you. (A) We are here in Picnic Park, Picnic Point – I haven’t
been here for a while – in Toowoomba where we both grew up. And we were childhood friends
so I wanted to ask you some questions in particular about indigenous issues. So I might ask you
to…might begin with, how do you identify? (B) I identify as an Aboriginal Australian,
one of the first nation’s people. I’m a proud Mandandanji woman from St. George (Queensland) and
had moved to Toowoomba at the age of 1. So I’m…I identify with my culture very strongly.
I’ve…I don’t know what to say…(A): Let me ask you about the tribe that you mentioned,
how is that, what are the different tribes across the country? (B) Historically there
are over 600 tribes across Australia so people may think of it as well, you know, we think
about it as different nations across the world where the 600 tribes within Australia were
like 600 different nations in one country (A) And each one had its own culture and identity?
(B) Yes. And each tribe may speak a different language and so, everybody has their country
where they come from. (A) So each indigenous person could trace their roots back to a particular
tribe or area of the country of Australia? (B) Yes, yes. So my country is at St. George, out
towards St. George all the way back through to…covers Mitchell, all those sort of areas,
and that’s the Mandandanji tribe. (A) And do your parents….they have different backgrounds?
(B) So my mother’s a Mandandanji woman, my father’s a Kamilaroi man from Wee Waa in New
South Wales. An indigenous person follows their mother’s blood line as to where they
come from (A) And that’s why you identify with that tribe? I didn’t know that. Interesting.
And we went to a primary school in Toowoomba and it was 99% white so I was interested to
know…cos we, you know, were best friends growing up and I don’t think I’ve ever really, we never
talked about those kinds of things (B) No we didn’t (A) So I’m interested to know how
it was for you going to that type of school where there were very few Aboriginal or indigenous
children. (B) Yeah, going to that school, you know, I sort of didn’t really notice the segregation between
myself and non-indigenous students. As you know like we have a close-knit group of friends
that we all hang around with and my culture or my colour was never an issue. But then,
you know, being a child we sort of didn’t really confront that issue very much but growing
up now there is a lot of racism within Australia. I’ve been subjected to it, my children have
been subjected to it, and it’s sad because, you know, you’d think that after all these
years that racism wouldn’t be an issue but it is I guess…I confront racism head-on,
if someone says something to me I feel is racist I will confront them directly (A) In
the moment? (B) Yeah (A) And in regards to like nation the country on a national level and talking about racism
what do you think are some of the biggest problems or biggest issues that indigenous
people have to do deal with? (B) I guess the lack of cultural understanding across Australia
is a big issue. It builds a lot of barriers, indigenous people have so many barriers that
they’re confronted with, health is one, education is another, alcohol and drug abuse. And I
guess there’s a lack of cultural awareness and empathy that people just think that Aboriginal
people are no-hopers and that this is the way that we like to live but it’s not. I myself
work in education so…it’s a really big role for me to play a part in our young indigenous
kids’ lives to make sure they obtain an education and, you know, are ready to take on the world
and are equipped with those skills to live in mainstream Australia. But, it’s sad, yeah.
(A) We were talking about your job earlier, what is exactly that you do? (B) I’m a Community
Education Counsellor at Harristown High School here in Toowoomba. We have…we’re the largest school
in the region with 1600 kids and I look after 220 indigenous children from Year 7 through
to Year 12 so I really believe my job is a very important one in providing the kids
(with) support and guidance so that they stay in school and remain engaged so that they
complete all the way through to Year 12. (A) Excellent. See we got through 5 minutes very
quickly so that’s Part One. Thank You.