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.

Mind Garden Projects Launch!

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I am very excited to introduce Pinyas and Vincent, the headmasters at two remote schools in Papua New Guinea passionate about their students success through education. Through Mind Garden Projects, we will be supporting their schools to provide the basic resources they need to ensure their students have the best opportunity to receive a life changing education.

Help us to support Pinyas and Vincent provide a better education to children in remote villages in New Ireland Provence in PNG; by giving to our Crowd-Funding Campaign to reach the $17,000 target.

Support Mind Garden Projects here. 

Ussil Elementary School has a library without books, which affects the students’ literacy and numeracy skills impacting their grades and success later in life. Neikonomon Community School is so remote and lacking in resources that it takes Vincent a 12-14 hours on a round trip across open seas and trekking through jungle to simply print materials and get resources for his students and teachers.

We have an opportunity to support these schools and provide them with resources they need to ensure their students have the opportunity to gain a life changing education.

Join us to support Mind Garden Projects crowd-funding campaign

Our goal is to raise a total of $17,000 to support the schools with resources like books, stationary and power sources.

We are offering the following perks to our wonderful donors:

  1. Donate $20 and get a shout out on social media
  2. Donate $50 and get three postcards
  3. Donate $75 and get a campaign t-shirt
  4. Donate $100 and get a large photo and thank you letter
  5. Donate $250 and get a small canvas of a photograph from PNG
  6. Donate $1000 and get a large panoramic framed photograph
  7. Donate $2500 and get a wooden carving from PNG

To donate: https://www.chuffed.org/project/mind-garden-projects/ 

Please help raise awareness by sharing this video and campaign on Facebook & Twitter

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Thinking that Grows…

P1030098 After a whirlwind 6 months with the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy and a number of other initiatives, Kate (my fiancé) and I decided it was time to take 3 weeks off and head to warmer weather. We set off to my fathers land in Papua New Guinea to meet up with my parents, older brother and my older sister and her partner.

WARNING: This is not a holiday blog post… It is a blog post about how small ideas and conversations can grow into something special

We were fortunate to spend time on my Grandfathers land at Neikonomon on the island of New Hanover – it was my first time to walk this land. We spent the majority of our time on my Grandmothers land at Lafu on New Ireland. Both islands are located in New Ireland Province, which is north of the mainland of Papua New Guinea. It is a 3 hour flight from the Capital City, Port Moresby to Kavieng the capital of New Ireland. Lafu is a very special part of the world and being surround by our extended family only adds to the sense of paradise. No electricity, no phones and no internet is easy to deal with as you slip into village life. P1030004 Kate and I visited two schools in the New Ireland Province. Ussil Primary School, which is a 20 minute walk from Lafu, is a school that many of my family have or currently attend. We were asked to speak to students who were participating in a school holiday program to assemble photocopied reading books for their library. The Headmaster walked us around the small school and led us into the library, which could have been mistaken for a storage room as it contained empty shelves and old teaching resource books. Ussil has over 140 students and only a handful of reading books.

Have you ever been in a library with no books…? Until Ussil, we hadn’t.

After our time at Lafu, our family left New Ireland on a 6-hour boat ride from Kavieng to Noipoise on New Hanover. On the way we stopped at a small beach – it was the place that my father was born. Following the 6-hour boat ride, we continued up a small freshwater river to Wass and continued by foot for 40 minutes through jungle and shin deep mud to Neikonomon. My father grew up in Neikonomon and spoke very fondly of the small and beautiful village. The Neikonomon Community School had been closed for the past 3 years but a newly appointed Headmaster is breathing new life into the old school building. The school has 40 students enrolled in 2 classes but the demand for the school is much greater than the current resources can manage. Being such a remote school transporting resources is difficult and it is often overlooked by the Provincial and National Governments. Even simple things like printing or buying new stationary is a 6 – 8hr journey to Kavieng which costs fuel, boat hire, food and accommodation. P1030132 Following this experience and reflecting on our own opportunities through education we have both received. Kate and I are developing Mind Garden Projects to support schools like Ussil Primary School and Neikonomon Community School. Mind Garden Projects sources and develops education resources to support literacy skills in children and teens in schools across New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. Mind Garden Did you know that Papua New Guinea has over 840 languages and dialects across the mainland and provinces. The common language that is spoken largely across the country is Pisin, which is derived from multiple languages; but it is common for 3 – 7 languages to be spoken by individuals. However, literacy skills among children and youth continue to be low. In 2004, the literacy rate for 15 – 24yr old men was estimated to be 64% and 59% for women. These estimations vary across location but rank lowest in remote locations.

Mind Garden Projects is an opportunity to impact the lives of children and teens in New Ireland Province to pursue the future they want by supporting their education and the teachers that inspire them. Kate and I will be launching the Mind Garden Projects crowd-sourcing campaign in August. This campaign will raise money to support our first initiatives in Ussil Primary School and Neikonomon Community School.

How can you join us?

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