As an AIS Share a Yarn Ambassador (and you can read more about that here) I have tried to reach out and have genuine meaningful connections with our First Nations people.
The fact that I have to write 'reach out and have meaningful connections' in itself is wrong on so many levels. I feel almost embarrassed at times of the ignorance and lack of understanding of our First Nation's culture that exist in society.
Growingly, I have many moments of disbelief that we have been so ignorant to a culture that managed to navigate and live on this land for over 60,000 years.
What I love about our First Nation's people is their spirituality and connection to the land. It is one and together.
Being bought up as Catholic, with all its institutions and churches and status of priest and popes, while at the heart of it the essence of the faith is true in its humanity, there are so many elements to the First Nation's spirituality which brings it all back to the real truth of our existence.
The way their existence has always been embedded with the land, where it would seem the white man's view has always been to use the land to make it work for them.
I have reached out to two indigenous women in my life for guidance. Debra and Dianne.
I have been taken back by their kind hearts and willingness to share and help me understand the values and history of their culture. They are incredibly humble and their sense of duty to their people is the type of work that has many receiving honorary awards. Though they shield away from this, and their actions are what they strive for.
I am also incredibly humbled by their forgiveness and while there has been so much hurt, and hardship, they aren't angry, rather they have this amazing capacity to move forward for all our betterment. To heal our nation.
One of these women is Dianne Creighton, she is from the Gamilaraay tribe (Moree). She has worked for 30 plus years in health and care services for Government and agencies for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
So many things Dianne has told me, has left me struggling to come to terms with how embedded white men's world is in society.
One was when we talked about disability. She said 'Katie we have no word for disability.' She said that in our culture the thinking is that 'no-one gets left behind.'
That's why she said there is no class system as such. Everyone is equal and everyone is carried through together.
This view our First Nation's people have, that everyone is a person first, they are not a label such as a 'disabled person', teaches us so much about how our society segregates through labels.
It also had me reflecting on the use of word of disability in the foundation I set up Sport Access Foundation. We provide grants for children with a disability to access sport. Her comments has challenged me to explore how we might change our referencing.
I shared her comments on Twitter and was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.
Disappointingly, there were still some bigots. This one person wrote in response 'well you don't see much of that in some of their culture'.
Therein lies the constant challenges and racism that is still so prevalent in Australia.
This person did not have the capacity or empathy or the heart to think that perhaps some of this value of their culture had been stripped away by white man policy.
If that is how I felt reading this, shocked and disappointed at this comment, I can't imagine how tiring it is for our Indigenous people to everyday have to experience this.
Then Dianne said to me 'I prepared my children (who are now adults and working in Social Services and Nursing) to be ready for racism, as I always said to them you never know when it will hit you and you need to be strong and carry on.'
It's difficult to imagine the challenges and complexity of having to have this conversation with a child.
I am proud of the small steps I am making to improve this situation. My personal website and the Sport Access Foundation website has been fortunate enough to have members of the local Indigenous community (organised by Dianne) help form my Acknowledgement of Country.
It is something I have always wanted to do, but I wanted to do with permission and consultation, and not as a tick the box exercise.
My hope is that it will be an authentic and informed Acknowledgement of Country. This will be live on both websites within the next few weeks. I am also close to announcing details of our first Indigenous Board Member for Sport Access Foundation, and this appointment will enable us to better serve and improve young Indigenous Australian's access to sport.
Thank you Dianne, Debra and Grantley for your support so far. Also to the AIS for having me as an Ambassador in the Share a Yarn program.
AIS 2020 Share a Yarn Ambassadors