My latest selfie with my daughter poised pensively in the background ...
I opened up my Facebook account a little while ago and was hit with a memory. It was a meme I had created and posted exactly two years ago. It said, “Today I quit my job and started a business!”
Time goes by quickly.
I have recently returned from the first residential study weekend for my Doctorate of Education.
Time goes by quickly.
I was never confronted with having to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was always going to be a nurse. Is this a strange choice for a teacher?
My choices were nursing or teaching. Nursing was my passion. My HSC preference list was nursing, nursing, nursing, nursing and then biomedical science. I got into biomedical science and nursing – but chose nursing. It was my happy place. I felt empowered to make a difference in the world with this knowledge and these skills. I wanted to make a difference.
I only applied to one hospital to complete my post graduate year. That was Alice Springs. I lived in the nurse quarters and worked on the wards. There were thirty -three, newly graduated young Registered Nurses who commenced the program. Three of us remained after twelve months.
I couldn’t “save the world’ and I really made little difference to it. I think my greatest lesson was that things do not always go to plan, and I am not that important. I learnt that there are a number of injustices in the world. I learnt that I knew next to nothing. I learnt to make decisions – most of them were informed, some were not. I learnt that sometimes I say no when I should say yes. I make mistakes. I learnt to work as a member of a team. I learnt to lead a team even when I did not have the confidence in myself to be a leader. I learnt to relax. I learnt to have fun. I learnt that people surprise me.
Finding MyselfAs a twenty-one-year-old, managing life and nursing in Alice Springs was confronting. I was often in charge of the ward even though I was still only a first-year nurse. During my second year I became a Clinical Nurse and transferred to the Renal Dialysis Unit. This was a promotion.
I fell in love and bought my first property just before my twenty second birthday. I was very grown up. Real Estate in Alice Springs at the time was reasonable to purchase and rents were very high, so this was more of a financial decision rather than a ‘until death’ arrangement.
Towards the end of my third year in Alice, I fell out of love with a burning desire to travel the world. I sold the house and halved the profit which meant I could travel for a year around Europe.
I travelled solo to Bali and then London. I toured around Britain, Ireland and Europe. I got a job nursing a lady at home which meant I had accommodation and a base. I later worked in the community as a nurse, in a bar as a barmaid, in a carrot factory as a carrot bagger (I was a great carrot bagger).
I travelled back to Italy a few times, then through Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Turkey. I stopped in Indonesia on my way home.
I came home lost. I struggled with spending the rest of my days as a nurse (I struggled more with the shift work and double shifts). I moved to Burleigh Heads and enrolled at the Academy of Natural Therapies. I was going to be a naturopath. I found a fabulous job at Jupiter’s Casino as the staff nurse. While I was at school learning to be a naturopathic doctor, I was at work learning how to work in a business.
Life was great. I was having fun and felt like I was finally on the path I was meant to be on.
Just when I thought I had a plan
Then I fell in love.
I met Steve off the bus. Literally. He was with a friend who I had met in Europe. My friend was coming to stay but forgot to tell me that she had bought this Englishman with her.
We went back to London where I worked in a nursing home. Teaching is a component of nursing. As I became more senior, I was undertaking more teaching roles. I really was not confident speaking in front of an audience – big or small. As a mentor, in a one to one situation I was able to manage the situation well. The more I learned, the more I was equipped to teach and the more I was expected to teach.
I returned to Australia and worked in north west NSW. Steve followed and we moved to Perth.
I was a clinical nurse at Fremantle Hospital and finally completed a Certificate in Nephrology Nursing. Prior to this, and even going back to my Alice Springs days I had assumed the role as a clinical expert. I carried a pager and answered calls for emergency dialysis. This qualification taught me how ignorant I was to my lack of knowledge – until I completed the qualification. I changed my practice and my behavior once I had consumed this technical knowledge and skills. Prior to this point in time I was doing the task, to the best of my ability but without the understanding of what I was doing or why.
I finally understood Education
The decision to become a teacher was easy.
As a single mum with two babies, I needed a job that would enable me to work and provide for my family. The year I started school as a teacher, my eldest child started kindergarten.
I taught in primary schools for seven years. I loved teaching and I always had work, but I did not have permanent work. I retrained as a nurse, put my application in at a local nursing home and was offered permanent work. They also offered me the Educators role. At the same time, I started working in Vocational Education and Training Sector.
Work came to me.
I had to complete a TAA (Training and Assessment) which has now become a TAE (Training and Assessment). I was quiet upset that I had a higher education qualification, but it was not accepted in this sector. After achieving the Certificate IV qualification, I learnt why. This qualification is specific to VET.
I set up and designed a curriculum and assessments that mapped to the STANDARDS being tasked with setting up a Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program for adult learners – both English speaking and non-English speaking. I ended up achieving the highest growing until for our company and had the highest number of returning students.
I eventually moved to teaching aged care at TAFE and working as a RN (permanent weekend night duty) and an educator.
Later I was asked to join a training organization and offered the operations manager role. I was excited with this opportunity and agreed. I questioned my capability, but not my passion.
This position was a wonderful opportunity to learn business. We changed the Registered Training Organisation (RTO) from an enterprise based to non-enterprise based which meant we could educate people who were not directly employed by our organization. We expanded the scope enabling us to deliver more courses and build the scope of service and programs we could provide.
I was required to complete another TAE.
The VET Sector regulators had changed the course and mandated that all trainers and assessors have this new qualification. I was angry with VET, so I applied for a scholarship from the Royal College of Nursing to fund my Masters of Adult Education (VET). This program was researched based and completed entirely online. I was surprised at how the community was created through this forum. The qualification meant that I would never have to do another TAE again. I loved going to university for a third time.
I quit my job and started a company. The idea of business had been played around in my mind for years. I had asked my CEO if he could teach me – he suggested I find another mentor. I completed an online program with Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The program was a twelve-month mentorship where I was guided and inspired with one to one mentorship. This mentorship had changed my thinking about what was possible and about what I could achieved. It also gave me practical tips as well as making me examine who I was and what I wanted.
Being brave has been difficult for me. Entrepreneurship is a challenging. Mindset, evaluation, flexibility and persistence are key to learning entrepreneurship. It is difficult because it is so different to what I (and my family and my friends) perceive as normal. I was still struggling with feeling like a businessperson. This led me to complete a Certificate III and Certificate IV in business.
I have attended spiritual retreats (two ten-day silent ones in fact) since embarking on this journey. I have enrolled in an online personal development mentoring programing for the last two years. I have connected with many leaders and frontline leaders. I have worked with VET Sector experts and Industry experts to develop a process to improve what we do. I have found paid employment with the universities teaching nursing – a role a love.
To teach is to learn. The art and science of andragogy can be complex. Is teaching an intuitive art or is it a digestive science?
I believe there is a natural gap between taking in knowledge and learning to change behavior. I believe that community is an important part of learning. I believe that partnership important. I believe that qualifications matter – especially if you become a professional teacher.
I have grown to see the importance of education. The national economic prosperity of our country is dependent on foundational learning and solid education!
I would love to hear about your learning story. Tag me in on your blog!
Perspective. There is power in that word.
I recently attended a seminar on the Gold Coast. The weather was great. The learning was significant. The community was connected.
The food – was delicious. HOWEVER .. there was more “bad” food than “good” food. I have the knowledge and skills to choose the ‘good’ food, but I chose the bad food.
There was a gap between my knowledge and my behaviour. The gap was so significant that on the second day (that was when I worked out what food I could eat as a coeliac), I devoured at least five cupcakes and took four home.
I truly have had enough education and experience to change. I know the ‘good food’ that should eat and the ‘bad food’ that I should not eat. The difference was the choice I made.
There is a significant gap between gaining knowledge and my change in practice. This happens in the classroom and in the workplace. There are a multitude of factors that influence our choice to change and the ability to apply new learning to new situations.
Let’s look at a few:
Education, by definition is leading change. In the business of education, it is critical to have the perspective that builds the community with wisdom to support change.
Are teachers ‘content’ experts or ‘context’ experts?
I met a high school teacher once who told me that high school teachers where content experts, and primary school teachers know how to teach. I not sure I agree. It is important that all teachers know ‘how to teach’ – and are continually improving their practice.
Do adult educators teach content or provide context?
Teaching content without context renders content meaningless. Context embodies content. Knowledge develops from content contextualized. Knowledge changes people and community.
The purpose of education is change. Literally.
According to the online etymology dictionary (www.etymonline.com) the term ‘educate’ appeared around the mid 15th Century and meant ‘bring up’. The term evolved from the Latin term ‘educatus’ meaning ‘bring up, rear’ (as in raise).
The Italian interruption is ‘educare’, the Spanish is ‘educar’ and the French is ‘eduquer’. These terms progressed from ‘educere’ which is related to ‘bring out, lead forth’.
Educate means leadership. Education lead learner’s to discover their authentic self. The learner’s true self is illuminated by divulging his/her vulnerability through the process of education. When change happens within, everything changes.
The purpose of education is change. Change results from self-discovery.
The educator’s purpose is to support, encourage and bear witness to change. The mode is in building therapeutic relationship. Leading change within the individual or community, through an educare philosophy smashes barriers, enabling change.
Educators are change agents who expose change in content, context, leadership and self. An educators purpose is to support and lead change. The purpose of education is change. Change results in learners building authentic and meaningful community, intrinsically first and then extrinsically. BAM!!!
My children have flexed their wings and flown into their lives – so now I have spare rooms. Today I was preparing my daughter’s room for a guest. I found the Wisdom Cardsproduced by the incredible teacher Louise Hay. The card said ...
We are all students and teachers.
I often ask myself,
What did I come here to learn, and what did I come here to teach?
It kinda took me by surprised at how relevant this card was to my ponderings. I am a teacher, but I am an eternal student.
I am always learning. I feel like the more I learn, the more I want to learn. BUT, many of my teachers are not qualified, they do not have the degrees or diploma’s or certificates that say they are a teacher. They just are.
Learning is like food.
There is an important process that builds the student’s readiness to learn. The student learns when they are ready. It’s like the digestive system. There is a beginning and an end AND we start to learn before the lesson is taught.
Think of the meal you will devour tonight. Think about what it will look like on your plate, what it will smell like, what it may sound like as you or someone you are lucky to have prepare it for you, and what it will feel like as you pick it up and put it in your mouth – chewing it until it slides down your oesophagus into your stomach! YUM!!
As you are ruminating about food, your body is beginning the digestive process. Salivary glands are making your mouth moist, preparing your body for digestion.
Like digestion, learning is a process that begins before the lessons are cut up and delivered in smaller morsels.
A student decides they need to learn. They open themselves to learning. This part of the process may include the research into courses and provides. It may be based on availability and relevance. The process is beginning to prepare the student to learn.
There may be a bit of excitement as student's gather their materials and prepare to digest new knowledge. They open themselves up to learn. This may be challenging as it means that vulnerabilities and fears are exposed. They may need to draw on processes inside of them to help prepare the way.
Then, they turn up to learn. They are presented with a plate of different colours, smells, textures and tastes which can stimulate flutters in the stomach. They are developing an awareness of what is to come. Will they be ready to manage such a big dish of discovery?
The teacher, the chef of content, needs to mindfully and deliberately deliver the content in context or bit size pieces. The teacher also will assess or make sure that the first mouthful has been swallowed before moving forward to the next.
We are all different. The food ( the lessons and the resources) differs. Successful digestion happens when therapeutic or helpful relationships build. The student and the teacher work together. Together they know how quickly or how slowly to feed learnings.
It would be a shame to end up with indigestion while other students starve. To teach is to learn. To learn is to teach. It is a symbiotic relationship.
I look up.I was standing in the ‘Labs’, preparing for some very stressed students who were resisting practical exams. It was tense. The process had been brutal for some. The semester had been tough. This education process does take its toll.
Have you ever had the feeling that someone was staring at you? It is a little unnerving! I instinctively looked up. My look was ineffective at first as I was not focusing on anything. I look up around, investigating the space enveloping me. I am looking for inspiration. I am looking for motivation. I am searching for empathy and for compassion.
A notice a figure waving furiously. She waves as if she recognises me. It takes me a moment to register that she is waving at me. She is animated. She is smiling. She is full of hope. She is smiling lovingly. She is kindness. She is compassion. She is Friedom.
Friedom burst into the room. I remember ruminating about this remarkable human who was pleased to see me. What a powerful name her parents gave her! What a powerful woman she has become.
I believe that a woman does not radiate that kind of power without having a story. Power comes from owning your story and being brave in speaking your truth. Power strengthens us and is gathered by stepping through your story and sharing it. There is power in overcoming our family/social/childhood constructs that keeps our secrets hidden and silent. People drown in secret keeping and silence.
Our journeys intersected a few years back. I wanted her to write a book – I decided it had to be called A JOURNEY TO FRIEDOM. So now I am writing this, hoping that she will one day write her story down.
Friedom is a proud Dunghutti woman, born in the small village of Woolbrook, NSW. She had babies early – four of them. She is bringing them up with her husband on the Mid North Coast of NSW now.
She decided to study as an adult learner. After having her four children Friedom explored paths that “aligned with (her) own priorities and personal beliefs”. She was unsure that she could complete her first course but has since built momentum to keep going. She juggled parenting, being a wife, work and learning. This time was challenging but she excelled. Friedom was a hardworking and engaged student and an excellent mentor for other class members. She is a natural leader and a focused learner. Education has taught her that she can achieve great things. Education has inspired Friedom to learn more. She can help more people when she learns more.
Reflecting on her learning so far Friedom feels that ‘it was challenging. BUT I worked hard, asked lots of questions and now the hard work has paid off’. It has paid off so much so that she has enrolled in the Endorsed Enrolled Nurse program - A two-year Diploma level program! AND SHE IS SMASHING IT!
I wish you all the best Friedom. I can’t wait to read your book one day. I will be keeping my eye out for A JOURNEY TO FRIEDOM, by Friedom Towney.
In the meantime, these are her words. This is her story.
Journey to Friedom
I stand here today in front of you as a proud Indigenous Australian Female. Proud of my accomplishments in my life, proud of the strength to overcome struggle, which I have learnt from past generations of my people and past generations of females. Proud to be Aboriginal, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and somewhat proud to be Australian. Proud to be a mother of 4 children who I have had with a non- indigenous Australian, who I am proud to say I am still with after 18 years together. Proud to say everything we have we own outright from struggle, hard work and teamwork, not from handouts. Proud that even with my weaknesses I have gained strength and proud to be able to say I am proud. Today I want you all to walk away with a positive attitude towards my culture, understanding of the struggles and mistreatment that my ancestors have been through and to open your minds towards Cultural diversity to help bridge the gap.
I have strived throughout my life, as have others, to eradicate a stigma that still exists in today’s Australian society. A stigma that has come from “the past”. As an indigenous person in today’s society I have immediate knowledge that racism, stereotyping and narrow mindedness of my indigenous heritage is still ripe. I want to tell a bit about my life that may give you an understanding of this behaviour.
First of all, my father is Aboriginal with Scottish and Irish, and my mother is Irish and Welsh, both were born in 1959 in Australia. I have grown up very close with my Lebanese, Arabic, Irish and Indigenous cousins. I have lived with and dealt with cultural diversity all my life!!!
When I was young, I grew up in a small village called Woolbrook which my ancestors called Maluerindi, which means ‘running water’.I went to Woolbrook public school that had around 20 students, sometimes 25. The school was an old building with 2 classrooms and a separate art shed. My brother and I were the only indigenous students that went to the school. There were other indigenous kids (my cousins) in the village, who went to a school 30 kms from Woolbrook because their parents didn’t want their children to deal with the same mistreatment they had to when they went to Woolbrook school or because they were from broken families. While I attended the school my brother and I had to deal with racism, stereotyping, separation from our culture and foremost bullying, but with this we learnt pride, self -awareness, and how to overcome hardship. My brother is light skinned with blonde hair, not good with authority. He didn’t learn much from school but was a great achiever in sport and a life educated person. He was formally adopted by my father when he was 4 and was raised by my father from the age of 2. He was a baby when his father, who was also indigenous, died in a car accident. I am the opposite of my brother. I am dark skinned with brown hair, had no problem with authority, I was an academic achiever throughout school, and everyone thought because my brother was good at sport then I would be as well. which wasn’t the case lol.
The other kids called me racist names and gave me a hard time,bullying me because I was dark. Chocolate cupcake was a favourite name. My brother stuck up for me and got into a fight with the main culprits and then my brother got suspended, while the other kid didn’t get into trouble, and didn’t have to apologize to me as he was just being a kid. At times, especially during what is now known as NAIDOC week a kid would pick grass and start chewing on it like a cow, he said “ everyone this is what Friedom eats for dinner because she’s aboriginal and that’s what they eat hahahah” which one day I returned the comment “ A dog probably piddled on that and he spat it out real quick. Cultural days were not embraced well, more made fun of. Teasing the lap laps etc. There was not a lot taught about our culture or what had happened when Captain Cook arrived in this land. I spent much of my time during primary school underneath the school building, in the dark with a torch that my parents bought me or just natural light reading books, which is actually a pretty small place looking at it recently. They treated me different because of my skin and hair colour compared to my brothers.
My Poppy Raymond Towney, who adopted my father when he was 6 years old, was one of the first indigenous students at the school. He had to get permission from the school principle to attend school. He was allowed because his parents worked for one of the property owners at the time. My poppy’s father was a man that came to Woolbrook from wellington near Dubbo. Looking for a better life. He worked building the railway and when the railway was built, he settled down with a lady from Ingelba, the old “mission” near Woolbrook. All Indigenous people from that time from as far as Armidale, halfway to Tamworth, Wauchope, and Glouster were forced onto this mission, while many were separated and forced elsewhere. So, there was a mix of Kamileroi, Anawaan and Dainghutti people which then created a loss of culture and dispossession of land.
My father was “allowed” to attend school inWoolbrook because his dad worked for the same property owners. The same family of property owners that forced my people off their land so they could own it. So when my brother and I came home from school crying that we didn’t want to go to school, because of racism and bullying, we were reminded of the hardships our people had been through to be able to attend school and not let other people take that away because if we did then they would win and our ancestors fight for rights and our freedom would be lost. My library teacher was a beautiful non- indigenous lady who grew up with my poppy and taught my father, her family was one of the “employers” of my family and looking back now she made me a teacher’s pet and helped me throughout school by inviting me to education through the world of books.. She talked about my great poppy, my poppy and my father with great respect, and sometimes I heard and felt a little bit of guilt from the mistreatment of my indigenous family by hers.
My father was and still is a hardworking man, who grew up in racist world.He was constantly called a black bastard. When I was at school, I was called an Abo, which one day I wrote on my school bag “proud to be Abo” to make a statement. when my father saw this, he ended up in tears, yelling at me saying to rub it off, eventually he explained that this was a name that he grew up with. lazy abo, dirty abo, your just an abo! This name still haunts me to this day because of that. I can’t and won’t stand it. My nanny and poppy adopted him because they didn’t want to see my father get lost in “The System”. His mother was a dancer and travelled away to Sydney a lot for work, she drank because of the life she lived and when she lost my dad at her young age, she turned to alcohol more. His father still to this day denied my father as his own and is actually now a very respected member of the indigenous community in Redfern who has even met the queen. My nanny and poppy were treated as respected second-class citizens in Woolbrook, at one stage they lived in an old tent and the best house they ever lived in when my dad was young was a 2-room hut. Growing up in this environment was hard for my father, but he always had a roof over his head, clothes on his back and food on the table which a lot was hunted rabbits, kangaroo and if they were lucky their employers would give the Indigenous community a cow or sheep which they would cut up and divide between each other’s families. They caught yabbies’ and picked the mulberries, bush raspberries and black berries. And the whole indigenous community fished, my nanny loved fishing even when I was born and took me many times. My nanny who was from Moree never drank and worked cleaning the white community’s houses. My father left school in year 7 and went to work to help support his mum and dad. He still works today at the age of 57 and owns 3 lots of land in Woolbrook which he paid for with hard work and not from handouts. He hasn’t drunk or used drugs or smoked cigarettes for around 25 years.
By the time I went to high school which was also a small school high school, I used my knowledge and strength to overcome diversity. I learnt as much as I could both through life and study. I became an Indigenous role model for my indigenous relatives and even non indigenous people. Even though I was still dealt racism, I had learnt to overcome it and stand strong for who I am and what I believe in. I was on SRC, Indigenous achiever, and eventually Vice captain of my high school.
When I met my man, I was again confronted with stereotyping and racism. Jokes, which I love jokes, but these ones hurt my soul. My partner who was accepted by my culturally diverse family was disgusted by his own family’s words and actions. Yet again I took a stand, and luckily my man Phillip stood beside me, especially when our first child was born. His family now, after many years and conversations and watching my children and I be the best we can be, respect myself and the indigenous culture and stand up for our rights and freedom, they also understand and realize and admit to the struggles they themselves have dealt to the indigenous community.
We both worked, payed our way and were dealt with racism and stereotyping... Phillip has let go of friends and family because of his passion for my dignity and because of their racism and Phillips stance for my culture. I have had police officers make comments such as “your kind”, “black bitch” and “The abos around here”. They have said these comments in front of my children, and they have now a guarded attitude towards the Law. Which is something you would think wouldn’t happen nowadays, yet still does. This mistrust with the law is something that Indigenous people have lived with for many, many, many years. When my father was a teenager there was a car full of indigenous boys from Woolbrook that crashed and rolled severing one of the boy’s heads. When the police arrived one of the officers picked up boy’s head/ brains and sat it on the rail of the bridge where they’d crashed. He then said, “That’ll teach the black bastard, he won’t do that again” and laughed. Another comment that people make is, But you’re not a real aboriginal, your only half- caste” lol... I teach my kids to say, “What half of me, the top half or the bottom half?” Being Aboriginal runs through your veins in the blood that we have received from our ancestors. It is something that is felt in your heart and a sense of spirituality and connection to the land. I am recognized on my birth certificate and other formal papers as Australian and Aboriginal, but I also recognize my Irish, Welsh and Scottish backgrounds. I show as much passion and love and education and recognition for those bloodlines as I do for my Indigenous background. I have also had reverse racism from indigenous people because I have a white mother, racism and bullying towards myself, my mother, my friends and my partner, which I also stand up for and take a stand against any type of racism or discrimination.
My relatives that fought in the war.Two of my Poppy's brothers, when they came home were not allowed to drink alongside their fellow veterans at the local RSL because they were black. They and their family were not given the same support or recognition that others received. There was a Freedom Ride in 1965 where Charles Perkins and 29 students from Sydney university got on a bus, with great media coverage. They drove around NSW especially to remote, rural communities with the aim to bring attention to the poor state of health, education and housing within the indigenous community. They hoped to point out and help to lessen the socially discriminatory barriers which existed between the black and white residents and to encourage and support Indigenous people to resist discrimination. They even travelled the Coffs coast and stopped at Bowraville. When they stopped at Walgett RSL they uncovered the truth about indigenous residents not being allowed to use the RSL and protested, with the media coverage, they were and other RSLs were made to amend the law. At Moree they blocked the front entrance to the swimming pool and didn’t let anyone in as the pool had a “no darkies allowed” policy. The white people threw rotten eggs, tomatoes and bottles at them, but finally the pool let the Indigenous people in.
So even now I vote, even though we still have a questionable government, I grew up with my nanny telling me how it is a right that our people had to fight for, so not voting is in a way dishonoring their struggle and the fight they went through to allow future generations that right. Up until 1967, section 127, of the Australian Constitution prohibited Indigenous Australians from being counted in the population, we were classed as flora and fauna. Which because of this status when my poppy was working, he was denied the same wage that his co-workers were and sometimes he wasn’t paid anything at all but did, just to keep his job.
I don’t celebrate Australia Daywhich is a celebration of Captain Cook coming to this land. The first Australia day celebrations were a mockery of our history and I believe it was in the 1988 white men and boys dressed up as captain cook and the white woman and girls wore attire worn by women in 1788. They had Prince Charles and Dianna at the Opera House and ships like the first fleet ships coming into the harbour. Indigenous people from all over Australia travelled Sydney and marched through Sydney to the spot the ships were meant to land. They hung the Aboriginal flag off the rocks and protested, they were people from each state, even Tasmania. They were singing they’re different traditional songs, playing the didgeridoo and clapsticks. They had a no drinking while protesting policy and had a peaceful protest, with a BBQ that they’re children and even white people and other cultures from Sydney joined in. Even at this year's Australia day celebrations they had a Captain Cook race and one of the people who were dressed up, got off a boat at Gordon Park while my friends’ child was doing the welcome to country speech.
I celebrate “survival day”.Because with all the cultural adversity, racism, the stereotyping, the mistreatment, suppression and degradation of our people, the dispossession of land and loss of our culture. We are still here we are overcoming the barriers, and my generation, my children’s generation and future generations are continuing the hope for equality. We are on the way to closing the gap with Health and Education. We are now using our right to health and education in a way that in the long run benefits all Australians. And at the same time, we are doing our ancestors proud by keeping our cultural identity and connection to land, and recognizing they’re struggles and fight for our freedom.
My indigenous family still have corrobborees, play the didge and clapsticks, we perform our traditional dances, we know our traditional places such as bora rings and know the significance of certain places in Woolbrook. We still eat traditional foods, and smoking ceremonies, we have a strong belief in handing down this knowledge. All of my children have experienced and been involved in these culturally significant things and like me will hold them in their hearts and spirits forever. My father, myself and my eldest son have taught in schools as part of educating people both indigenous and non-indigenous people about our culture, because education is the key to reconciliation.
It is important to have Indigenous people working within the health care sector, in schools, in government agencies, in legal positions and the police force to help break the chain. Indigenous people can relate to each other’s struggles and lifestyles that other cultures may find up to standard. There are still many people my age that are dealing with loss of identity, culture, language, family. And there are many people in the ageing indigenous community that have lived through many more hardships. So, when people say to me forget the past, I say you can learn from the past and grow from the past, but you should never forget the past, otherwise chances are the same mistakes will be made again.
So, when working with Indigenous people, you must remember a few things.
Are you happy?
Do you live a good life?
Are you grateful for all the blessings you have received in this world?
I have always tried to live my life this way. I have actually been studying power thoughts, the power of the mind and the power of positivity for almost thirty years. It all started as I started during my first year as a newly Registered Nurse. The hospital I was working at sent staff ago to a ‘Staying Positive Seminar’. It was indeed powerful for me and changed how I looked at the world and how I interacted within that world.
Sometimes I am good at staying positive, and sometimes I am great. But there are times when I am not so great.
But now, I have a toolkit that helps me stay on track. This toolkit even helps me move forward into my life and cope with things that I never thought I would have to cope with.
As well as my “Positivity Toolkit”, I look for inspiration in life around me. I ask questions, I read, I listen. I want to get better at this stuff so I do actively seek out stories that keep me inspired.
So today I want to share a story about a friend of mine – Tracey.
Tracey’s story is positivity. There are many people on this earth who have journeyed the road of pain, sorrow, loss and despair. Tracey is someone I have known who has suffered sadness but does not project sadness. She has suffered pain but does not project pain. Tracey is a woman who can teach us all about love and about how to live a good life. She is an extraordinary ordinary woman. She is a daughter, a sister, a widow, a wife, a mum, a barmaid, cancer survivor. This is her story.
Tracey is a remarkably strong and inspiring woman. She is authentic and true. She has monstrous challenges but remains grateful for all that she has and loves – including her family and friends. Tracey’s story is about the courage to see the light at the end of the dark and lonely tunnel – and be grateful for it.
Dr Brene Brownsays that “being all light is as dangerous as being all dark, simply because denial of emotion is what feeds the dark.” She says that we are wired to be emotional beings and when that part of us is shut down, we are not whole.
My friend Tracey has been on her path to health since being diagnosed with cancer. The path has been dark and dangerous, as she has faced the pain and emotions of change that cancer commanded. She is one of those quiet achievers who does not make a fuss, as she puts one foot in front of the other at times when I imagine that I couldn’t.
Tracey is a worker. She loves family and her friends. She is a people person who always was popular socially. She is a strong woman, determined and loving. Tracey had lived a life of love and loss bearing pain that many of us will never know. Tracey knows pain, but she knows love.
Her story is of beauty and strength. It is sad and tender. Life has given so much, and it has taken so much away. It is a good life.
Tracey has shared an interview that was written by a mutual friend, Linda a few years ago. I have used some of Linda’s work here. I have just added to her work.
So here is Tracey’s story.
Four years ago, Tracey noticed a cold sore forming on the bottom of her lip. It wouldn’t heal. That was the beginning of her cancer journey.
CANCER ALWAYS LEAVES SCARS
The cold sore turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma. Tracey has endured radical surgery and radiotherapy to remove the cancer. It also removed her lips, chin, teeth and part of her jaw.
The journey has been difficult. Misdiagnosis. Delayed treatment. Infection. Skin graft. Bone graft. Infection. Further treatment. Radiation treatment has damaged healthy bone.
Tracey feels grateful. She knows she is lucky.
THE JOURNEY TO TREATMENT
The cancer appeared in December. The following January, Tracey underwent a wedge resection of her lip, and again in February. Surgery on her lower jaw and skin took a further ten months – surgery was scheduled for Halloween – October 31.
Surgery had not removed all of the cancer cells in Tracey’s jaw. Tracey has had many surgeries and treatments since then. She cannot work and has required a long period to heal.
Radiation Therapy started the day after Boxing Day – December 27.
WAS IT PAINFUL?
Pain came from the little lump that was eating away at Tracey’s face. Initially the cancer made a little hole in her face, then, it split her lip in half.
The cancer became unsightly so in public, Tracey would cover it.
Her diet changed. She could no longer eat a normal diet. Her food had to be softer so that she could swallow it.
Then there was surgery in the city (she was cut from ear to ear, through all the tendons across her neck to remove cancerous bone and lymph nodes), radiation, skin grafts, a tube down her nose and then one into her stomach to feed her. She loss strength and condition, requiring help to shower and dress and attend to other activities of daily living for over twelve months. Recovery is long and slow.
Tracey laughs when she remembers looking at herself for the first time.
‘You have to be strong,’ Tracey says when remembering the emotions of looking in the mirror for the first time.
‘You have to get on with it,’ she reflects – as if there is no other choice.
Tracey believes that being at the hospital in Sydney, away from home and away from family and friends, having radical surgery for cancer on her face introduced her to so many people worse off than herself. She says that the experience of being with these people makes her feel like “YOU CAN DO IT!”
GRATITTUDE IN ACTION
‘I always knew that I was going to be okay. I don’t know why. I don’t know how I knew that, I just did. I just knew I was going to be okay. I might look a bit different but I am still okay”. A reflective Tracey teaches us.
‘I have a beautiful family to keep me going, and I am thankful that it wasn’t worse than it was. I could have been a lot worse’.