Outback — Swimming the River
A cool story before we delve into the specifics of our project in the next post.
Swimming the River
“For most of the past 70,000 years, Aboriginal people have been crossing a harsh and unrelenting desert — and not only have we survived, we have prospered. The key to our survival was a close-knit community where we cared about each other’s wellbeing and where everyone contributed to the survival of our community.
A couple of hundred years ago, the first settlers arrived and in place of the desert was a river — new barriers to survival that we needed to navigate. Now we had to learn to swim that river, and the way to learn to do that was through schools, education and training. Unfortunately, in the East Kimberley we estimate that only40% of our families have learned to adapt to this new world and walk alongside their kids all the way to the river bank and teach them how to swim across to the new world. The other 60% of families don’t understand the importance of parents walking alongside their children, and by the time they leave school they haven’t acquired the skills to swim the river.
This river is dangerous. There is a strong current called welfare and those without the skills or motivation to cross the river get swept by the current towards two bigcrocodiles — drugs and alcohol.
Some of the people who have ended up in the jaws of the crocodiles have gone on to become parents. In turn, many of them have not walked alongside their children to the river bank and so the cycle passes from one generation to the next. In some families, this cycle has been going on for at least four generations. The by-products of this tragedy for many families in the East Kimberley who have been swept down the river are poor health and living conditions, homelessness and domestic violence, mental illness, foetal alcohol spectrum.”
The difference between the families who have learned to swim the river and those who have not is a result of three things:
In the East Kimberley there are plenty of opportunities and people here have adequate access to opportunities. The thing that is missing is individual and family responsibility. This is the thing that, if restored, can help us move forward and help rebuild our culture.