I have had the amazing pleasure of traveling across Australia, attending schools, youth conferences and universities engaging young people along the way. It has been a great opportunity to meet people that share the same passions, frustrations and drive as me.
On reflection of my past 3months of travel I realised it has also been the unexpected encounters that have made my journey so memorable and special.
It has been in conversations with older generations that have had the most impact on my journey, not only as the Australian Youth Representative but as a young man. Whether it be sitting around a table in Tennant Creek listening to the local police officers share their frustrations with the growing sense of institutional mentality in the communities or their ability to list 6-10 young people who have great potential but lack the direction and drive to break the strong pull of the negative cycles. Or whether it be sitting in a mens talking circle at the Native Title Conference listening to elders discuss the growing concern of the disconnection of young people with culture and feeling at a lose of how to rekindle the spark of pride in the next generations.
These are the moments that I will remember for years after my role is completed. These are the moments I’ve sat quietly listening to the tone of disappointment, waining hope and frustration spoken by people who desperately want this generation to take up the flag and fly it for the future of Australia. This frustration is real, this sense of disappointment is real.
I recently spoke at the closing address of the 2011 National Native Title Conference in Brisbane I spoke on the need for older generations to ignite the fire in young people through history, sharing struggles, victories and loses. If you understand where you come from, who you are, you have a sense of pride and worth. This is where the fire starts.
I’ve listened to old Aboriginal men and women speak of the pride they felt when they cast their vote for the first time, how they dressed up in their best and walked down to the ballot boxes as a family to finally have a say in the direction of their country. Tears surface but the warmth from their smiles express that the tears come from a place of pride and a sense of accomplishment. We marched, we fought, we waited and finally we voted.
These are the stories that offer me strength when faced with challenges and adversity. They provide me with fortitude, knowing that amongst the struggles and disappointments there is hope and the fire that drives this hope is alive and it flickers under the surface, under the social strains, under the layers of age and time.
I’ve seen and felt it time and time again. Walking into a community, a building, a conversation where the air is so thick that you feel pressure on your chest and each step is an effort. It is in these situations that the unexpected happens, you feel the warmth of the fire, see it in the eyes of someone or feel the force of their very words moving through you.
This is where the fire starts and I believe the older generations need to drive this and be that spark in our communities, breathing life into the hearts and minds of our generation, creating the understanding that the job isn’t done, progress has happened but we still have many miles to travel on this journey.
It is true that my generation has not lived through the struggles of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and our living memory is that of the NT Intervention and the 2008 Apology but this does not limit our ability to become the torchbearers for our generation and cause, this does not stop our ability to take up the flag and fly it for an equal, just and unified Australia.
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