Re-release: A story of two-way learning and healing

Episode 153 December 20, 2023 00:29:55
Re-release: A story of two-way learning and healing
Emerging Minds Podcast
Re-release: A story of two-way learning and healing

Dec 20 2023 | 00:29:55

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Show Notes

In this episode, Nancy Jeffrey reflects on her own lived experience and wisdom, gained through many years working in and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, families and children in metro, rural and remote communities throughout Australia.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: This is a rerelease of one of our earlier episodes from the Emerging Minds podcast channel. We will be back in 2024 with a fresh series of engaging conversations with families and practitioners, talking about supporting family life and the mental health and wellbeing of children in our care. [00:00:19] Speaker B: Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast. [00:00:24] Speaker C: You. [00:00:28] Speaker D: This podcast is part of a series called listening to the stories of healing that explores the many diverse stories of First nations peoples. We will look at the many diverse experience of aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples and how these narratives have shaped the amazing work that is happening in the First nations communities across Australia. Here at emerging minds, we like to call it the secret garden, the stories and experiences that non aboriginal people don't always get to see or hear. Whilst these stories include sadness and hurts and sometimes can feel uncomfortable to listen to, it is through listening to these narratives that you will get a glimpse of the deep wisdom, knowledge and healing practices of families and communities and understand why our First nations peoples are the oldest continuing culture in the world. [00:01:19] Speaker E: Welcome everyone. My name is Rosie Schellen from emerging minds. Firstly, I'd like to introduce Nancy. Nancy Jeffrey is a proud Wawonga woman from the Northern Territory who works with the Healing foundation as a portfolio lead in Darwin. Nancy's role within the Healing foundation is to work with the community and organizations to co design what healing looks for their own community and implement strategies that support healing from a bottom up approach. We're also really honoured to start this series with Nancy as she is part of our national consultancy group and the first aboriginal woman on the board of Emerging Minds. Welcome, Nancy. It's a real honor to have you here today to share your story. Did you want to tell us a little bit about yourself? [00:02:01] Speaker C: I come from a family of twelve siblings, my mum and dad. My mother's a Wonga woman, my dad is fourth generation australian, but scottish descent, which I'm really proud of. It's been a really hard journey for us mob because we didn't know our country, we didn't know where we were from. And unfortunately in my mum's lifetime, she never got to know either. We were still looking for that. So it took us 35 years to find the story of our people and the only way we found it was over in England, in the books of the stockman and the past colonizers, if you can call it that. Yeah. So it's been a really emotional, hard journey. But once we learnt where we were from, we knew the country. We all went out and we put a plaque and was supported by the minister at the time, which was Nigel Scullion, who came along with all of us, Wongamob, that just did a ceremony and put a plaque up at Barrunney station that depicted our story of the slaughter in 1834. So, yeah, 2014, we did that, which was really amazing and really grounded me as a person from then. [00:03:13] Speaker E: You're saying, Nancy, that your mother has just connected back. Was she displaced from community? [00:03:19] Speaker C: Yeah. Well, there was no records of where we came from, and so my aboriginal grandmother, who she passed at 45, so she didn't get a chance to tell the story of our mob and other aboriginal women that were related to our family, taught my mother life skills, like the gathering and the hunting and how to survive out in the bush and that. But we never knew our story, so there was something missing for us. Yeah. And we lived out in Arnhem land up until I was three years of age. But before that, my older siblings were removed because my dad was a white man and mum wasn't married to him. So they were removed and taken to garden point for schooling, as they say, for better education and all of that. And the story I love about that is that my dad, at the time, there was no roads, it was horses, there was no vehicles, no nothing. He rode into Darwin City and he sat on the steps of Government House for three years and just camped out. Just camped in front of government steps. And until they said, yes, you can have them back, but you can have them back under these conditions. You can have them back if you marry her in the white man's way and you bought them all into the city to live and they go to school. And it was really ironic because my father was a very clever man. He could have taught us everything in education wise, but, yeah, they were the conditions. Otherwise, we would never have seen my siblings again until they were 18, until they were allowed to leave the mission. [00:05:05] Speaker E: Thank you for sharing that, Nancy. So they were out in a mission? [00:05:09] Speaker C: Yes. [00:05:10] Speaker E: Was that part of the stolen generation policy? [00:05:12] Speaker C: Yeah. There's a particular garden point mob, which my siblings are a part of. Yeah. [00:05:18] Speaker E: So even the experiences within families are quite different. Why is that? [00:05:22] Speaker C: That's something I could never understand as a child growing up, how angry they were. And if you could imagine, Rosie, you've been taken from your mum, taken away, and then you come back and I remember the day picking him up in this little white ute, and here's this little blonde three year old in the front. And my sisters were a lot darker than me, and they've just hated it from the day one, where did she come from? Why are these kids. There's these two little white kids, myself and my sister. It was really hard for them and I didn't understand. They were really hurting and they were traumatized. And until I became an adult, I just thought, wow, now I get it. It was really hard. [00:06:08] Speaker E: Yeah, that must have been really hard. That myth that aboriginality is being only dark skinned. [00:06:13] Speaker C: It's a myth because you feel it inside yourself. There was always something missing inside, in not belonging and not knowing where our country was or anything about our grandmother. And therefore, and we've only ever had one photo of my grandmother and you can hardly see her. So we can't sit there and say, oh, you look like her and you've got her features. However, the people out in Arnan land know, and they can look at me and go, Juana's your grandmother and wana is her skin name. That way. Yeah. So it was just mind boggling as you got older. [00:06:52] Speaker E: How important has that been for you and your grandchildren to know this? [00:06:56] Speaker C: Amazingly important, because my daughters are very, very fair skin, beautiful blue eyes. And they struggled. They struggled identifying. But I tried to keep that same concept that mum always taught us. Be strong in what you are and who you are. And always identify as an aboriginal and always identify as your father. Because if you don't identify as that white side as well, you're really not a whole person. [00:07:24] Speaker E: Thank you for that. What do you think your mum would be thinking now that you can share this with your children? [00:07:29] Speaker C: Look, my mum would be so proud. In her family, there were seven girls and one boy, and not one of them had reached the age of 62. So we have all these milestones in our lives. We've experienced death from a very young age with my eldest brother and all of that. So we have these milestones and we continue to have our family dying young. [00:07:55] Speaker E: Can you expand a little bit on that, Nancy, around the constant pain as a result of the deaths within the community all the time. It's something that non aboriginal people don't always experience or fully understand. [00:08:07] Speaker C: Yeah, we all are connected and you're in constant grief and loss and there's no time out because you're just surrounded by it all the time. Aunties, uncles, grandparents. It is. It is constant. And you sort of sit there. You're expecting it all the time, expecting it, expecting that something's going to. This has been too long without a death. We're like, oh, hang on, it's been six months. This is just an everyday thing for us. And it's never ending. [00:08:38] Speaker E: Thank you so much for sharing that. I know it's not always an easy thing to talk about. Let's talk about something a little brighter, a little bit about your role within the healing foundation. [00:08:49] Speaker C: Absolutely. And I'm loving this job to bits because I get a chance to go across the country and sit and yarn with our elders and our youth and come up with solutions on what healing means for them. That's our main purpose. The healing foundation was actually created after the apology, and there was sort of like a referendum across Australia asking aboriginal people, what do you want? And that's what they said. They want a peak body of a healing foundation who could deal with our stolen generations and move them forward, help them move forward. And that's been just amazing because the funny thing is, I've grew up with a lot of them women, and I never knew. I never knew their story. And when you hear their story, it's like, oh, shit. It sets you back thinking, wow. That's why you were how you were, because you were so traumatized, there was no hope for you. You didn't see the hope. But to tell their story was, it's huge. It's absolutely huge. And I take my hat off to each and every one of them that can do that, but we also do it in a really safe environment. [00:10:02] Speaker E: Rosie, thanks for that. Nancy, what do you mean by a safe environment? How would you create that where a community can come together? And why would that be helpful? [00:10:12] Speaker C: Safeness is their environment. That's safe for them. So if it means yarning under a big tree or just pulling a mat out and putting some fruit down, and they'll all come. They'll all want to yarn with you. As an aboriginal woman, you really have to tap into traditional owners of that area, whether it be Adelaide or it be whatever in the northern Territory, you have to know every clan group, every skin group in that community. You cannot just go to the traditional owners, because that's really, to me, that's not right, because everyone's living there together. Because of policies, past policies of government, we're forced to be there. So therefore, you have to talk to them and get their advice and listen to their advice. When non aboriginal organizations go out onto our communities, they've got this agenda from government. You need to find the skin groups, and if there's 25 of them in one area, you get a representative and a strong representative who is upheld in the community from each group to come together as what I call our management committee. And they have to be paid. They have to be paid good money for their knowledge. And in the past, as aboriginal people, we've given so much and getting nothing back. It's that expectation that's out there that think that we can give away our knowledge. [00:11:39] Speaker E: Why is it important to make them part of the management committee? Why does this help the process? [00:11:44] Speaker C: Look, it actually shortens the time of the process and the outcome of what they want, not what we want or government want us to do what the community want. And the beauty of that is half of those women or men that we have on there, that real traditional people, English is their fifth language, so they don't understand what you're talking about. If you're going to do jargon that comes out of a textbook, you just got to be real and honest with them and ask them questions that relate to their environment as well. [00:12:19] Speaker E: Do you want to tell me a little bit what that does for community when you're actually making them the expert? [00:12:24] Speaker C: Well, it gives the kids something to aspire to. It gives the children to sit back and go, I can be just like her. An example of one mother who was actually my first client and she was an amazing woman, but she was having difficulty at the time, so I helped her through it and then she come and asked if she could work with me and I said, absolutely, let's get you trained up in early childcare. And her little girl just looking at her eyes and the kids on the communities looking up to this woman to say, we can do this. We can get a vehicle, we can get our own house even. Because you got these great role models and mentors that are really keen to make something of their lives and it's there in every community. You just have to tap into it and you have to do it the right way. And the most important thing for me is that having locals work with their own mob, then you're going to get the outcomes that everybody wants. You're not going to get it with continually having inconsistent people coming out there with different messages all the time. And I call it with the magic wand. They go out there thinking, oh, yeah, just out of social work school. Yeah, I can make a change in this community and within a month they're burnt out and they're gone because they didn't do their homework, they didn't consult with the traditional owners and they didn't consult with the community themselves, which is really easy to do. [00:14:01] Speaker E: You were talking a little earlier about having many different language groups together and you said that that's part of policy. Do you want to expand a little bit on that? [00:14:10] Speaker C: Okay. So an example would be what I. In the northern Territory where they are at the moment, which they call, in the white man's words, port Keats. It was called Port Keats. There was 25 clan groups out there, and they all had their own areas where they lived, and they managed. They didn't cross over. And it was all the protocols of traditional ways of, if you wanted to come into that country, you sat on the border. There was no lines like our australian map. You sat on that side and you waited until someone said, yes, you can come. And in saying, you can come, but you must abide by our laws. Then government came in with their policies and sent the missionaries out there to bring our people together. So they made them. They forced them to live in this one area of Port Keats and the riots and the wrong ways of, well, I guess, skin groups crossing over and all the white man's influence really, on the alcohol and the drugs. And they had a club out there. I tell this story often about the old traditional owner there, and he went and sat with every one of the Klan groups, and they were over the alcohol in the community. They just had enough of the way people disrespected and their elders and culture went out the door. As you know, alcohol does a lot of damage, and mentally, physically, emotionally, the whole lot. So he had the jack of it one day, and he just got in his bulldozer and knocked it over. He went to prison for know. It's just like, really, he did the right thing. He absolutely did the right thing. [00:15:59] Speaker E: Thank you for that. Nancy, do you want to describe a little to me what it's like working within these communities? [00:16:05] Speaker C: You can go into those communities and you can tell where the white people are living, the non aboriginal people are living, as opposed to our mob. And they got six foot fences with barbed wire up the top of it so that the locals don't get in. You go down to the wharf on the barge day and there are crates and crates and crates of alcohol that our people are just seeing come into this community, but they're not allowed to. And I know it's the traditional owners that don't want that, but then in saying that, my rule is you want to go to a dry community, then you be prepared to be dry, too. There shouldn't be a license for non aboriginal or aboriginal people working on community because that was the expectations of us. You can get a permit to drink. No, this is a dry community. So we have to do what the people want us to do, because you have to role model that. You can't go out there and sit on your veranda and crack a coldy and expect people not to see that and then break in and then blame them. Do you know what I mean? [00:17:16] Speaker E: Yeah, I really get what you're saying. What are some of the secret garden within these communities? The strengths and the skills that might not be visible. [00:17:26] Speaker C: There's so many strengths, and there's a survival. There's our knowledge in teaching our young ones the right way and not the wrong way. There's strength in their moieties in knowing who you can marry and who you can't. In the non aboriginal world, it's your 1st, 2nd, 3rd cousins and all of that sort of stuff. But with aboriginals in most communities up in the territory, they know their bloodlines, and it's not second and third cousins and that you just can't cross that line. When you cross that line, then everything's lost. The bloodline's lost, the stories are lost, the stories are mixed. And that's another strength, is our stories, the stories that we carry with us. And just being able to connect to country is a huge strength that non aboriginal people don't understand. Quite a lot of when we go into another person's country, we've got to acknowledge that. Yeah. One of my rules as a manager of, when I was a manager for 17 years on communities was that we don't go in the community unless we're invited. And that's their strength that they should hold and no government or anyone should be telling them. They should be able to say, yeah, come on in. And if it's for the children, they are so open and want help, and they won't say no if you're the right person. So I think that's their strength. They see through us and their language. They keep their language so strong. And I envy that because we never got that. We didn't know. [00:19:06] Speaker E: I think you put that so lovely about respecting and acknowledging different people's country. But that also has a system, doesn't it? [00:19:13] Speaker C: Yeah. There's already an ingrained system that's already been passed through the generations that people just don't understand. Like when we had to explain to our head office, they're going, why are we paying these women? They're there, we're training them. No. Yes. You got to pay them. This knowledge that we're tapping into that doesn't belong to us, belong to them. Sorry. Or myself either. Being an aboriginal woman doesn't mean that I'm going to go to another community and they're going to go, yay, she's just like us. Doesn't work like that. It's an earned respect. And if you do the right protocols that are expected on those communities, then, yeah, you'll succeed. [00:19:59] Speaker E: So in many ways, you're talking about the trust you build. [00:20:02] Speaker C: Yes. And it can take a long time. For example, when I first started with the organization, and I won't name the organization, but in 2004, with a play scheme on urban Darwin, urban communities, and I watched them for 30 years, have nothing for these kids, and these kids never went to school. It was a cycle that was just. It was horrible to watch as an aboriginal person outside of that. And when I got the opportunity to go into these communities, even though they knew me, they knew my family and knew all our stories, it still took 18 months before they trusted you. Really fully trusted you. But the thing that people don't understand is am over watching. Someone's always watching those children on communities. You know how they say the whole child is a community's responsibility? It's like that on all of our communities. Seriously. And then when the intervention came, it just destroyed so much strength in our men. Our men went low. Their self esteem was. And they're still trying to get back up there, Rosie. And it's a hard fight for know, you had all these horrible signs outside our communities saying that no pornography, no grog. And could you imagine as a non aboriginal person, if the government came to your place and put that sign out front of your gate, what would you do? It's like, no, it's not good enough. And I was actually there in whatever when the army came in and it was so intimidating. It was scary. The women ran with their kids because they were in fear of another stolen generation, because their children had an earache. They'd think, are they going to take them from me and say, I'm not looking after them? And all of this stuff, it was so scary. Really scary for them. [00:21:59] Speaker E: Yeah, I bet it was. I suppose it has people thinking of themselves, what value do I really have here? [00:22:04] Speaker C: Yeah, what can I bring to this? Which is. Yeah, no, it demolished our men's strength, which was really, really sad to watch because there were some really strong men and they stopped standing up and they stopped talking. And they're only just. And that's back in 2008, and they're only just starting to come back in strengths. And it's taken a long time. [00:22:29] Speaker E: Yeah. That healing does take a long time, doesn't it? It's something that doesn't just happen with a magic wand. Do you want to describe a time or a non aboriginal worker that did a really good job in these situations? [00:22:43] Speaker C: That example of the management committee, that was her idea. And when she said it to me, I'm like, you, so get it. And she's done that for all her know. I'll give you a really good example. And one of the urban communities in Darwin. And she'd come for a run with me just to see how I was operating. And she'd only visit once a month from Brisbane and she would let us take control of that. And anyway, she'd come for just a drive out to this community. And then she sat in the car because I said to her, come on, you've got to go talk to her. You're the social worker. And she said, no. No way. She said, I have no idea how to speak with this woman. You go and do it, Nancy. And anyway, I went out over to her and this beautiful woman, she said, I don't want my kids to go back to country because every time they go back to country, they get sick. And she said, nancy, can you mind them for me? Can you care for my kids? And me in my own heart was like, yes, in a heartbeat. But then I was like, boss, come here. Come here and listen. Just see what she got to say. And she just taught me a really lovely way to say, no, I can't do that. The child protection laws and all of that kinship placement and all of that has to come into play. And I thought, wow, that just changed my whole thoughts and concepts of, she wasn't my manager or she was my manager, but really she was as equal as I was. But I had the knowledge. Does that make sense? But if I went to her city, she had the knowledge, I didn't. So it was a journey where you did it together and sometimes she would sit back and let you do it and lead the way and, yeah, ask our advice on how it should be done, which was where I started my healing journey of being able to get rid of this chip on your shoulder. Because my family was. I used to call us the black and white minstrels because half of us were really dark and half of us were really fair, like myself. And it was really hard growing up not in Darwin, but in Melbourne in particular, after the cyclone, going to school with my brother and identifying as brother and sister. That put this real horrible chip on my shoulder about the whiter of Australians. I'm thinking, oh, my God, you're not all like my dad. What's going on here? It's wrong. And this white woman changed all of that for me, changed the whole. And she started my healing journey of going, you know what? Yeah, we are the experts, and yes, you do have to listen to us, and we'll do it in a really nice, soft way and not just know, get angry about it. Just take your time. And. [00:25:49] Speaker E: Yeah, is what you're describing. Two way learning? [00:25:53] Speaker C: Yeah, two way learning. And that's what it's always about. And I remember in Tui Islands, we took this big director came over to us, and we had no vehicle back in those days in middle of the wet, and we walked from the airport, and he's like, do you do this all? Yes, we do. This is what we do. This is what we have to do, because we're on a shoestring budget because you won't buy vehicles. Anyway, I took to this little yarning circle with our women, and they knew that he was coming, and they were happy with that. And he was standing there, and we had two employees over there who were just amazing women who helped me do a young parents program. And anyway, one of them looked up and said, you sit down. Stand up like that. Sit down here and listen to us. And she said, you know what? She said your organization might have this big name across the world. She said, but here in Tiwis, it's us first. You mop underneath. So always remember that. It was gold. It was just gold. He was just gobsmack going. And then the beautifulst thing happened was there was the biggest thunderstorm and lightning, and he was running for cover, and we were just walking through. And then by the time we got to Darwin, back to Darwin, which was a 15 minutes flight by a little plane, he had ordered two troopies for us over there, vehicles. And yet we lobbied for it for so long with our head office. And they're like, no, you don't need it. Come out and we'll show you. So, yeah, it was huge. Learning curve. [00:27:37] Speaker E: Yeah, thanks for that. Nancy, do you want to just tell me a little bit, what do you think it would mean for this worker to know that you respected her in this way? [00:27:47] Speaker C: Oh, look, she'd say, no, it wasn't me, it was you. And that's what she would do. She honestly would. But she has been a real integral part of all of our lives up there. And even in my job now, she's believed in us. And without her believing in us, we'd still be back and I'd still be back with that chip on my shoulder, going around swearing at everybody and saying they're all, but it's not like that anymore. It's like, you know what? We can do this and my kids can do it and my grannies can do it and I'm going to show them how they can do it. [00:28:26] Speaker E: That's really an amazing legacy for your children and your grandchildren. [00:28:30] Speaker C: Yeah, I hope so. I hope so, Rose. I hope one day my little Larakean, my eldest granddaughter, stands up and says, I'm here because my grandmother taught me all this. I'm going to bring me to tears a little bit. But one day it will happen and she'll be able to do a welcome to country, in her country and stand proud to be, even though she's, well, she's darker, but even though she's light skinned and can be proud of her heritage and where she comes from and all of them really, thank you so. [00:29:03] Speaker E: Much, Nancy, for sharing with us today. It's been an amazing listening journey and a real joy. [00:29:09] Speaker C: Excellent. Thanks, Rosie. [00:29:13] Speaker D: Thank you for joining us in our podcast series, listening to stories of healing. [00:29:23] Speaker B: Visit our website at www.emergingminds.com au to access a range of resources to assist your practice brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health led by Emerging Minds, the National Workforce center for Child Mental Health is funded by the australian government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health program.

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