Series: A travellers experience with Indigenous Australia

Blog 2: What I found challenging.

Coming from an environment where people needed certain grades, enjoyed the challenge and equally relished in being talented in some area, I was very unprepared for the attitude that most of the Indigenous children had towards education and making something of the opportunities that were given to them. From looking at the statistics taken from CNN you can clearly see the difference in simple attendance of school, in comparison to the White population (49% of Indigenous children fail to attend 90% of the time). This of course snowballs into the higher unemployment which is at 20% in comparison to a mere 5%! My naivety and lack of thought for this kind of problem meant I was taken aback by the views that met me. My role required me to help out in classrooms and with the children's homework. This simple sounding task created the same daily issues every half an hour: children would consistently leave classrooms and go rogue, throw objects at teachers and swear. So there I was strolling around in 45 degrees trying to find children in a tree somewhere, who would simply play you out until it was lunch time. When they were in classrooms, much of the time it was simple chaos as they ran circles around all teachers. This challenge by the end of my time there became exhausting. Mainly my own attitude towards my job was an accumulation of pure despair for the lack my change my efforts were making.

To approach this difference in attitude, I simply joined in as many extra curricular activities as possible in hopes showcasing that trying hard and achieving something was in fact 'cool' and something to thrive for. Netball was something that sparked interest in many of girls and sadly I noticed that many of the children held back due to a fear of failure. They would simply walk around letting others play for them, barely participating.

I had been warned that a large factor in Indigenous personality was a lack of commitment or dedication to anything. This was in fact very obvious from the beginning; the fact they arrived from their communities 3 weeks into the term starting, beginning a job and then deciding they couldn't be bothered, saying they were going to help out at an event and never showing up. These are only a few examples from my time there that made them as a group, very hard to pin down.

Another jaw dropping attitude I experienced with them was their approach to settling arguments or disputes. Due to the wide variety and magnitude of communities within Indigenous culture, as a result this can cause tension and rivalry between them. The environment I was in caused many children from all over to come together, live together and get on together. This was not always the case. On numerous occasions the alarms would go off due to a group breaking into the school for community reasons, revenge or the simply fun of it. On numerous occasions I would hear of murders in a family that had occurred due to a misunderstanding or disagreements with communities, causing 14 children to 'Funeral' for 3 weeks. On numerous occasions I would hear that their cousin-sister had become pregnant with their fathers child meaning she had to leave school. On numerous occasions I would hear of suicides within communities. All of these stories were repeated every other day. But nothing prepared me for seeing the physical violence that some of these children could muster.

As my time with the children developed I made true connections with some them, developing friendships which I used as a device to develop them as people, show them what they were capable of and encouraged them to pursue every dream they had. I only saw one side of their personalities though and I was not prepared for one the most shocking scenes. It was as though they went into survival war zone, seeing complete red. One girl had looked at another in the wrong way and suddenly glass doors were smashed through, hair was strewn across the courtyard in clumps, girls with missing teeth and the only thing we could was nothing. When community fights break out, you must 'get away' was what we were told. 14 year old Indigenous girls have the ability to punch a 6'2 man and knock him out clean. When half of the fight were contained I was in charge of watching them behind a glass bullet proof door. The girls were wild as though having been intoxicated, punching the glass, running for 10 feet to slam themselves against it. It was terrifying, as though the girls I had known were completely different people.

Something amazing happened throughout all this, which will always stay with me. One the main girls I had begun to understand was the ringleader of this brawl. When she saw however that I was in the middle of this situation, she stopped said 'I'm so sorry, stand in that corner and don't move'. Additionally, through this glass door, she saw that her anger looked as though directed at me. She stopped, converted back to her human state in shock. Again apologised and told all the group to immediately stop. She sat on the floor and lent against the door crying. I knew I had made some difference to them as people.

While many of these events were extremely nerving, they were also extremely eye opening. As I said at the beginning I was use to the environment of needing a certain grades, where people wanted to be good at something and where people viewed those who didn't try as idle. Yet this view cannot be held in the context of the Indigenous population. As a system you cannot compare them to the usual, as they are they own people. Circumstance has meant they are trying to be molded into a society that is so against their tradition and they're own approach is seemingly look down upon. While I arrived with the idea of changing the perspective of the children there, as my time went on I realised that the reason I found certain aspects difficult to cope with, I came to understand that I would always find those things hard to comprehend just as they find our lifestyle difficult to adjust to. Instead of trying to change them, it was much more effective to try and enhance what was already there with confidence, interest and support.

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