During NAIDOC week I documented how many times I read or heard the word culture, when referring to the nations week of celebrating Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people.
143 times I either heard the word spoken, written, and even sung. It bought me to think - the word is so often spoken about, do people know the true essence of what our culture is, who it belongs to, do people really understand it or to many is it... Just a word.
I have been a First Nations Aboriginal man for 32 years, since the minute I was born to this earth. I never shirked away from it and always known and proud to be part of the longest living continual race on earth. A race that has been around for over 60,000 years (man dated) - but to us, we know through our creation stories, since the beginning of time.
It has been in the past 3 years that I have really connected both emotionally & spiritually, that made the penny drop to what that 'feeling' is where our mob get together & connect to culture.
I often hear kids talk about how proud they are to have their culture in their life, which is fantastic - but what is it & what does it mean to you? Can a 7 year old and or a Non Indigenous person describe in depth what our culture is?
I see and mentor many youth on a daily basis and we talk of what it means to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. I hear, we are deadly at sport, we wear ochre & can dance (traditional & contemporary), we got dark skin, we might know a few words of our native languages that have been lost over time - & we have our culture.
Until my adult years, I always knew being Aboriginal was special, but in all honesty I thought being Aboriginal was many of those things mentioned above.
I spent time in remote Northern Territory, central desert Aboriginal communities, where I saw children taught since birth their tribal language and taught our ancient Lore. The mother of my 2 eldest children Brodi & Phoenix is from Northern Territory and her family is traditional owners in Larrikia country and have great cultural understanding - I was envious, so I begun searching for our ways back home, Wiradjuri country.
It wasn't until my mid 20s did I begin to delve deeper into what it is, what it means, & why I feel that special feeling we have, we call connection.
I would go on weekly trips out bush, sit around a fire & listen to older uncles tell me many stories, that in turn teach us our lessons in life. I have grown not only culturally as a person, but also as a man who proudly walks in 2 worlds. Traditionally with the importance of going bush, connecting spiritually to the old people, learning lessons from elders, sharing with our youth and connecting to country and or Mother Earth; and regularly partaking in trading cultural practices & ceremonies - to the modern western world - meeting and delivering to corporate entities, to adapting to the use of technology.
For me personally, both worlds are just as important as the other, as we continue to learn to integrate our cultural lessons into a modern society and bringing all corners of the divide to living harmoniously.
For those Non Indigenous people reading this, I'll try give you a comparison; my cultural journey has been one of love, humility, empathy and care - I put it on par with the birth of my children & is something I share with enormous pride.
The above statement gives you an indication of the enormity I consider my journey.
For my fellow First Nation brothers & sisters; if you have it & know it, I'm sure you will agree with my comments - if you don't, I urge you to seek it, learn it & live it.
I believe culture & Lore is the answer to many problems is our communities with alcohol & drug abuse, domestic violence, mental health & suicides.
Our traditional old people didn't have those problems that are burdening our communities.
I urge you to find our culture & in the words of Uncle Paul Gordon;
'Listen, Learn, Love, Live, Lore & Lead'
Respect, Love & Kindness - Wiradjuri 👣