12 Jul In My Blood It Runs has a message about the love Aboriginal…
When my boys Dujuan and Colin were born I was just a teenager. They are 13 and 14 now, and my two younger ones, Clevone and Nyiesha, are four and three.
I am proud of my kids and how strong they all are.
I, and all parents, want to give my kids a good future. But being a parent is hard, and being an Aboriginal mum is exhausting.
Every day you hear that you’re not good enough. I hear it in newspapers, on TV, from politicians and social media and all over Australia.
‘Mum said it was time to go to the hospital’
I was 15 when I had my first baby, Colin. We were in Hidden Valley Towncamp under a tree talking to my grandmother, Sandra, in the yard of her house. I was laying down under a tree to get away from the sun, talking to her, and she was cooking a nice warm soup.
I was moving around, uncomfortable, as I didn’t know what labour pains felt like. My mum, Carol, came out and said: “Are you right? Why you moving around?”
Mum had birthed lots of children. She said, “I think it’s time to go to the hospital.”
We just jumped in with night patrol, who were cruising past, and went straight to the maternity ward. It was a false alarm, so they sent me back home.
A week later, it was the longest labour ever. Being in labour is the most painful feeling; I thought I was going to die.
Then, 14 hours later, I held Colin in my arms for the first time — it was all worth it. I was shaky, but I fell in love.
Raising bilingual children
I love being a mum. I have company all the time and someone to love every day.
It makes me so happy when my kids start speaking in Arrernte because they are learning the language of their old people.
All my children are bilingual and are learning Arrernte and English at the same time. I’d speak to them when they were little babies, singing to them and reminding them: “What’s this? What’s that?”, “Shut the door!” and then repeat, “Marteme!”
I grew up at Sandy Bore homelands and Atula Station in the Northern Territory with the old people.
We ran around making cubby houses, collecting wood, going hunting for Akngakerne (echidna), aherre (kangaroo), atyunpe (big goanna), alewatyerre (goanna), yerrampe (honey ants) and yalke (bush onion), and learning from the land with my grandmas and grandpas.
We’d stand around at night by the fire listening to their stories, or go and visit sacred sites.
We went to school out there, and then moved back to town to Yipirinya school, an Aboriginal school fought for by our families, and eventually high school at a Western mainstream school.
‘Being a teen mum is hard’
I was 14 when I got expelled from school. I couldn’t stay in town because I was getting in trouble, and so my mum and dad found a solution to keep me grounded and on the right track.
They decided to send me to my aunties in Borroloola, right up in the north of the Northern Territory (also where we sent Dujuan for much the same reason).
It was there I met Jim Jim and had Colin. Dujuan came a year later.
We brought up the boys on country, surrounded by family like how I had been in my early years. I discovered so much joy being a mum and having the responsibility of being truly needed.
After some time, Jim Jim and I had problems in our relationship and so I took the kids back to Alice Springs, and spent most of my teens being a mum. Being a teen mum is hard. You stress out when there’s no help and worry about what the future holds for your children.
‘Our kids don’t like leaving their identity at the school gate’
Part of the reason I wanted to be part of the In My Blood It Runs film is to show Australia what is happening to our children and parents with schools.
When our kids don’t attend school, us mums get warnings and our welfare payments are suspended. That’s our money for food, to look after all the kids — to live on.
But as the documentary shows, there are lots of reasons our children find school unsafe. The painful history of the Stolen Generation means many children still live in fear. For some kids, the curriculum and space is foreign — they don’t like leaving their identity at the school gate.
Of all my children, Dujuan was the one I worried about the most, because he was, and still is, so independent. He has his own mind. He refused to fit in and pushes back at the system. He’s strong and his spirit is strong, too. He has a gift from the land as an Angangkere, a traditional healer.
I am now helping other young mums, some of them teenagers like I was, to learn to look after a newborn baby: how to burp them, walk them around, speak language to them, know when to smoke them to keep bad spirits away, help them get fat and healthy, know how to lay them down properly, keep them up to date with immunisations and appointments, learn how to bath and breastfeed them.
Teaching them how to be mothers makes me feel proud of being a good mum.
‘We Aboriginal parents do love and care about our kids’
Sometimes when I see how hard it is for my kids, I feel sad.. Lots of our families are struggling. We want the best for our kids. But it’s not easy. Even though our families and communities are strong, we still find it hard.
Dujuan is famous now, but he can’t live with us here in Alice Springs. This town is a hard place for a cheeky, smart kid like him.
We had to find a solution to keep him safe, and sent him away to his father. So while I’m sad he can’t see his younger brother and sister grow up, I’m happy he is with his father and not in the justice system.
I hope after watching this film everyone understands how hard it is being an Aboriginal parent in Australia. We are trying to stay strong for our kids. We need to love and protect them.
I want you all to know that Aboriginal parents love and care about our kids. I hope this film sends that message to Australia.
In My Blood It Runs is available on iview.
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