Firm Foundations

For the past few years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to engage young people across Australia and the world at various conferences, workshops and events. I am often asked to share my story and what led me to the path that I have been so blessed to follow, but in doing so I never begin at my story because the path that I am on has been made strong by both my parents, their cultures and their faith. I have simply made decisions in my life that have always been informed by strong values and passions instilled in me from an early age.

My mother is Aboriginal. She was born in Bordertown, a very small town near the border of Victoria and South Australia. It is through her that my siblings and I are connected to the Wemba Wemba, Wergaia, Jardwadjali and Gunditmara Aboriginal nations of western Victoria. My mother grew up in a time of great division between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Until she was 11 years old she was classed by the Australian Government as ‘fauna and flora’ and not classed as a citizen of Australia. It is very hard for people to understand the impact this has on someone’s identity, not only being ‘state-less’ but not even being considered human.

Mum and DadShe spent most of her formative years living in a tin shed with dirt floors in a paddock on the outskirts of Bordertown. The walls were made out of crushed kerosene tins, and most of their furniture and toys were collected from the local rubbish dump. It is true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Growing up in a time when it was government policy to forcibly remove Aboriginal children from families and place them in state schools and homes, my mother and her 8 siblings were fortunate to never be removed, but for my Grandmother it was a time of great worry, danger and suspicion. My Grandmother, who is turning 100 years old in September this year, remembers nights when my Grandfather was away shearing or on odd jobs, when she would have to open the door with one hand and a shotgun in the other.

My father is from New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. We don’t know how old he really is because he was born on a beach in New Hanover, so he got to pick a date for his birthday. Each year it changes depending on when he wants presents from us. His father was from Neikonomon, which is located in the mountains of West Lavongai, and his mother was from Lafu on the west coast of New Ireland. From an early age, my father always had a curious mind. He fondly recalls leaving school at a very young age and following his father around New Ireland, who was a medical practitioner. He speaks 5 dialects and would often disappear for weeks, sometimes months, walking and exploring different villages across the Province. I think this is why he is such a people person. My father came to Australia over 30 years ago to follow his calling to become a Minister.

Their stories and individual journeys still amaze and inspire me. They met in a very small rural town called Cootamundra, in New South Wales, where they both attended Bible College. The story of how they both came to Bible College is a novel in itself; filled with courage, faith and determination – which I hope to write one day.

Faith has always played a significant role in our lives, as well as being at the service of others in our communities. My father once told me that he didn’t like the term ‘a sense of responsibility’ because it means doing something because of an external requirement, but if service is your core, if having a servant’s heart is what forms the flesh on your bones then ‘a sense of responsibility’ is not required because helping others is just an extension of yourself. It has been this idea that has driven me in my life. It has brought me courage when pursuing opportunities or overcoming challenges, because there is an ultimate belief that my life has purpose.

This path has enabled me to work with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across Australia to empower their voices on issues that impact them. Issues like climate change, mental health and suicide.

Below is a campaign called ‘unity in the community’. Our team of young people developed at the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy in 2014. We engaged 50 Indigenous young people from across Australia – provided the tools and skills to develop youth-led social action campaigns. Here is just an small insight into the talent and passion in our communities.

The Man Cave

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This has been one of the questions that Hunter Johnson, Jamin Heppell and I have been asking ourselves as co-founders of The Man Cave; a preventative mental health program that engages boys and young men through workshops that deconstructs masculinity and redefines what it means to ‘be a man’ in Australian society today.

Since October 2014, The Man Cave has worked with over 240 boys aged 14 – 18 years of age through workshops that engage schools and communities. Our workshops provide a safe space to have meaningful conversations that we, as young men, don’t often have the opportunity to have, that explore our masculinity, our vulnerabilities and our mental health.

In a recent online article with Generosity Magazine, co-founder Hunter Johnson wrote that; The Man Cave was created to combat the epidemic of mental health disorders and emotional illiteracy facing Australia’s youth. We fundamentally believe that instead of crisis management and band-aid solutions, we must focus on preventative measures and mental wellness strategies that become life-long tools.

This article also notes key statistics that impact communities across Australia:

As a preventative program, we believe that developing a deeper understanding of self and others, we can address these issues that plague our society.

In March, we were fortunate to work with 63 students from three schools in Tamworth, NSW to launch the 2015 Tamworth Schools White Ribbon Program.

The Man Cave workshops exist to:

  • deconstruct traditional masculinity and the role of mass media in shaping the stereotype of what it means ‘to be a man’
  • develop emotional wellness and positive psychology strategies and heighten understanding of their correlation to mental health and domestic violence
  • provide practical skills such as mindfulness, meditation and self-awareness to guide the challenging transition for boys into adulthood.

Our program incorporates positive psychology, sociology and research, in a professionally facilitated full-day program that is fun, impactful and enables boys and young men to define what it means to ‘be a man’ for themselves – which is often, being a (hu)man.


Rosie Batty; the 2015 Australian of the Year, who has risen above her own personal tragedy and the great loss of her 11 year old son, Luke, who was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father in a very public assault, said at the launch of the public campaign ‘Not Alone’ that:

“When we consider that 2 women a week are being murdered (at the hands of partners or ex-partners), and when we consider 1 in 3 women has experienced physical violence, and when we consider 1 in 4 children is also affected by violence, we realise it is everybody’s problem.”


TMC Team.001We want to grow The Man Cave to impact more boys and young men across Australia to support them to take the inevitable journey from boyhood to adulthood but with the life tools to not only survive, but to thrive.


The Man Cave has the ability to accept tax deductible donations.

Contact me for information to make a tax deductible donation to The Man Cave

 

Stay up-to-date on all things The Man Cave on Facebook

A Gathering of Inspired Minds

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The National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy (NIYLA) brought together 50 Indigenous young people from across Australia to connect, share and lead youth-led campaigns on issues they are passionate about. It was an amazing week, and one of the toughest I’ve endured as a facilitator. It had up’s and down’s but amazing things happen when you get like minded people together.

We gave the 50 young people less than 48 hours to identify the issue they were passionate about, plan their campaign; what is was going to achieve, who it would be targeting and shoot a campaign video. We set the expectations high and we are so proud to say that they exceeded every single one!

In less than 12 months, NIYLA has brought together 100 Indigenous young people from across Australia in 2 National Gatherings, launched 10 youth-led national campaigns on issues they are passionate about and has reached thousands and thousands of Australians.


 

How can you support NIYLA and the amazing #Fifty4Change Campaigns?! 

Share, Like & Comment on the youth-led campaign! If you know an organisation that might be interested then send them a clip and connect them to the campaign teams! 


Below are each of the 2014 #Fifty4Change Campaigns! Check out their Facebook page and campaign clips!

Yarn Up 4 Change: (Mental Health)

We are a group of twelve Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people from Across Australia who are encouraging our friends and families to have a yarn about mental health issues in our communities. Our vision is to break the stigma associated with Mental Health issues and empower our communities to identify issues and seek help before it becomes an issue – WATCH THEIR CAMPAIGN CLIP

Step Up, It’s Your Responsibility: (Juvenile Justice)

Step Up, it’s your responsibility is a group of nine Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people whose vision is to minimise the number of Indigenous youth coming in coming into contact with the juvenile justice system by promoting role models by asking communities to step up and be positive role models in the lives of our young people – WATCH THEIR CAMPAIGN CLIP

The ATI Project: Aspire to Inspire (Education; lifelong learning)

The idea of being helped or saved has changed we are no longer trapped in side a box, we are breaking down the walls, we are aspiring to learn, we are aspiring to change. Aspire to Inspire is a group of 8 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people whos vision is to empower communities to share their aspirations and inspire others – WATCH THEIR CAMPAIGN CLIP

Beat the Boredom to Break the Cycle: (Healthy Lifestyles)

We are a group of young Indigenous people from across Australia who would like to see change in our community through making healthy lifestyle choices. We are concerned about the youth of our community being bored and turning to drugs and alcohol as a relief from issues surrounding them. Our vision is for a world where our young mob live work and play in a health way – WATCH THEIR CAMPAIGN CLIP

Put Unity in Community: (GBLTIQ Young People)

Unity in the community is a youth based initiative designed by twelve Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people with the ambition to bring about positive change to the perception of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer community. Our vision is to fight discrimination through awareness and support – WATCH THEIR CAMPAIGN CLIP


 

NIYLA Brands all

 

We believe that leadership is about putting your values into action. Our young ones have identified their shared values and are putting into action through their social action campaigns!

What are you going to Put into Action?