I cried when I watched the footage of the young aboriginal youth being abused by NT police on Monday night. If you didn’t see it the footage was 18 months old and released after a long FOI process. It was taken around 6 months after the end of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
Issues such as this are complicated. I get it. I grew up in Darwin where I lived alongside it. I went to school and university there, worked there, got married there had three children there. I have seen the devastation that is caused by alcohol, domestic violence and petrol sniffing. I have also seen the state of housing, education, nutrition and lack of employment opportunities and seen first-hand overt and covert racism at its very worst. The continuous cycle of disadvantage makes it hard to pinpoint where it starts and where it might end.
I went to school with Marcia who lived in the church boarding house that homed her and other aboriginal kids from remote communities. Separated from their families and their culture to receive a Christian education. I know Jamie who left my place of employment when he brought two young aboriginal children to a work meeting early one morning because he took them from their home during a violent outbreak for their own safety. It was the last straw. They never knew where he was, they didn’t understand the work he did talking with his people on the weekend while watching the AFL, or the time he spent in the urban community kitchen cooking breakfast for aboriginal kids who would otherwise go to school hungry (or not at all). Our project was indigenous education and employment. They didn’t see the link.
I also met another young mum. An aboriginal woman who shared a hospital room with me when I had my first child. A woman who was moved to the maternity ward with her very young and premature baby. The nurse created a contraption that strapped a bottle to her breast to get the baby sucking so the mother could breast feed her baby. She was quietly spoken but even I could hear that she didn’t want to do it. The nurse wouldn’t listen and asked her loudly and with frustration if she wanted this baby to die like her twin had. Like it was this decision in this moment was a choice of life or death. Can you think of any other mother that might be shamed and bullied when grieving the loss of a newborn and no doubt recovering from a difficult and traumatic birth? Me neither.
When I hear these stories, now from the comfort of my home in Canberra where I don’t see this everyday, they still make me cry all these years later. I see people who are hurt and lost. I see intergenerational trauma that is so deep there is no connection to who they are or where they come from. I see a deep sense of loss and hopelessness.
I’m sure you feel the same level of despair that I do. Unable to comprehend how actions such as these still happen. Unable to understand why there is still so much trauma, violence, racism, segregation and hopelessness in Australia – the lucky country.
We can look at these situations and feel them deeply on one hand but take no action on the other. After all what can we do? Us as powerless individuals with a small voice and no one to really listen?
While we might not have the means to tackle this issue head on, every day we have the opportunity to make a difference. You see every decision we make, every action we take has a ripple effect.
If you live your life and step up as a leader understanding this you can take action
EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
You do it by showing up, being intentional by living and leading in ways that align to your values. You don’t compromise. You don’t let that racist slur go, you call out that sexist “joke”, you question the decisions that are made when they don’t make sense to you and you stay informed no matter how uncomfortable you feel.
It’s called the power of one. The ripple effect is real.
The police officer told that youth that he was a waste of space. Its’ our job to make sure that he knows he isn’t.
Are you with me?
PS. I have a Christmas bundle on offer that I was planning to promote through this blog this week but I think I’ve said enough. If you’re interested, you can check it out here.
Here is a related excerpt from Leadership.Done by Design
She knows this is hard, but she understands that EVERYTIME she calls out bad behaviour, acts in a way that promotes cooperation and collaboration and/or puts her mission before profits or promotion, that she isn’t alone and that somewhere else in the world someone is doing the same. She knows that while she might not always see the direct result of what she does, she does it anyway. She believes every time she acts authentically as she is, without the politics or behaving in the way others expect her to, someone is looking and learning; and someone’s views are shifting. And that is enough.