I had such an amazing experience travelling out to the Jigalong Community last weekend and I haven't really had time to reflect and post on it. I guess there is no better way to get your mind thinking than 14 hours on the open desert road.
I was asked to attend a funeral with a friend; whom I teach with as she is the daughter of a Pastor and they lived in the community for a few years. It wasn't just a normal "stay for a few years" type gig. Her Dad was so respected by the community members that they entrusted him with their "men's business" tools and knowledge.
What also happened is that they became "skin" to this community and its people. She has cousins, aunties and uncles and all of which look at her the same way.
The previous week she drove to Newman to pick me up and passed her Martu Daddy at the service station. She was informed that her "sister" had sadly passed away in prison.
And so we returned the week later in order for Dayle to pay her respects. I was excited as I hadn't seen my students in almost a month. I know you're not supposed to have favourites but everyone does and one of my special girls comes from that community so I was excited to see her.
I was called outside of the house to be greeted by Miss Joan and her mob (being all her grannies that she cares for) and it was such a nice feeling to be missed and met by these people again. We quickly started to exchange stories of funerals (we both had family funerals recently) and holidays and the high school trip to Sydney and as we walked to the shop I would hear "MISS CARMELLLLLL!" as more and more students were surprised to see a teacher in their home community. Best feeling ever really...... them running up to you for a hug..... and looking for the same reciprocation they extended towards me..... I had students run up to me that had only attended school for like 2 days and they wanted hugs, and kisses too.
As the weekend went on I became quite sad and how much prison is accepted and dare I say it, expected. What I mean by expected is that it boys (more so than girls) kinda grow up, they commit (mostly) petty crimes and eventually end up in the big house and being there is not that out of the ordinary, and having your Dad or Mum there is not odd either and spending your teen years in juvie is kinda common.
My beautiful kids, they easily know more than 3 people who have been or are in jail, and some have parents and or immediate relatives in "lock up".......... I dunno I guess I'm really disturbed by it.... being a teacher you kinda aim to change or influence world views of the children so that they expect something better.....and it just got me thinking.... what can we do to make it a little better? what can we do to bring about a change where jail is not the norm.....the old people, they got up and spoke..... "this is not right, old people shouldn't be burying young people... its all mucked up and around the wrong way.......theres more to life than just drinking". It was as if they were pleading to the young ones to find a different way........
this person...... she died in jail.....her brother came to the funeral from jail in chains and when the kids were taking me around Jigalong they wanted a photo cause they were playing "lockup"........ this is what they see and know...... how are we going to change this? how am I going to change this?
Goodness..... kinda serious huh....