Building a new dreaming

How an Aboriginal community, and a young Sydney man with a laptop and microphone, fostered a generation of musicians, actors, dancers and film producers.

Stephen (centre) with young leaders Stanley (left) and Jobe.

Kangaroo-Sit Down

Music and laughter can be heard for miles. The community’s only pool is packed with people escaping the summer heat. Elders are sitting around the stage, tapping their toes to familiar old tunes. A giant slide and little mopeds are keeping kids of all ages entertained.

Situated on the Traditional Lands of the Wadja and Gungulu peoples, Woorabinda means Kangaroo-Sit Down.

It was established between 1926 and 1927 by the Queensland Government to replace the Aboriginal reserve at Taroom. Every year the community re-enacts the 200 kilometre walk from Taroom to Woorabinda to honour their ancestors.

Can you do anything with horses or music?

But alongside the pain and suffering, there is resilience, strength and hope. Today’s community event is an opportunity to celebrate survival, success and opportunities.

Migaloos (white fellas) come and go in Woorabinda. Some pop in for the day, like officials, others a few weeks or months, like maintenance crew or builders. Few stay for years.

Stephen came to Woorie, as it’s affectionally known, with plans to stay ‘just a short while’.

Stephen backing up young singer Delphin Adams.(photo courtesy of the ABC).

Building trust

Stephen combined his passion for music and multimedia with his skills in youth work, to provide a creative outlet for young people.

“From pressing ‘record’ on a laptop, you get these amazing stories and amazing young people challenging themselves to get their voices heard. They realise they do have an important story and that their story does matter, and their voices do matter,” Stephen says.

Red Cross regional manager Sam Meeks says Stephen built trust among the community’s adults through his work with the kids.

A voice

The video project planted a seed.

“We have eight-year-olds doing the sound engineering!” a beaming Stephen says. “It showcases the talent, resilience and strength of Woorabinda young people, to challenge themselves and grow.”

Listening, learning, sharing

Stephen grew up in the suburbs of Sydney and had very little knowledge about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He had never heard of Woorabinda, and, never worked in an Aboriginal community.

“Since I’ve been in Woorabinda I’ve learnt everything that I never thought I needed to know, all the lessons that I never knew there were to learn.”

“Having spent time in Woorabinda and being adopted into a family here. That’s given me a deeper understanding of issues. I will never feel the impact of intergenerational trauma and I acknowledge there’s things that I will never understand fully in the cultural connections.

Friendships and families

The big community celebration also marks Stephen’s last day in Woorabinda.

The Hill family have adopted him and so too the whole community. Families from both sides have opened their homes and hearts making lifelong friendships and connections.

“I’d like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners, the Wadja and the Gangulu people, and acknowledge the Elders that came to Woorabinda when there was just dirt and trees and to not only build houses, but build a community out of 52 different tribes. I can’t imagine what that would have been like, to say, “We don’t have a choice in this. Let’s make it the best we can.”

Vera Duncan and Fifi Miller helped organise the Woorabinda Youth Festival in 2015.

Let’s make reconciliation real: Join us and make your own commitment to reconciliation.

Words by Kerry Klimm — Australian Red Cross

Australian Red Cross

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