As always I would not be able to do anything without the love and support from my family; 2016, What a year.
The year kicked off with a huge bang firstly being nominated as the Wagga Wagga Australia Day Citizen Of The Year. Being nominated was a great honour as it was for me to be nominated, I had 60, 000 years of ancestry pulling me another direction. 'How could I turn up to a ceremony honouring the Australia Day Citizen Of The Year, when its all but common knowledge our people could never celebrate a day where our ancestors and loved ones were massacred & started a frontier war that have seen our people raped and battered from pillar to post?
I was in 2 minds but I thought it would be respectful to turn up and honour my nomination for suicide Prevention & mental health awareness.
When I was announced winner I was blown away; under my suit I was wearing a a sleeveless shirt with a dreamtime print. I had splashed ochre across my arms and face, went up to deliver my acceptance speech.
This should've been the headlines, instead my decision to not stand for the national anthem earlier in the night, a silent protest and something I had been doing for almost a decade previous.
The Australian Anthem, written by a Scotsman about England, had no representation or mention of our countries first people, my people. I won't honour an anthem that doesn't honour our ancestors.
This received nationally spread media attention and I even were to debate wih a local politician who came out and demanded I give back the award outve disrespect.
It the few weeks furore that caused, the positive was that many Non Indigenous people had not known the history of the anthem or the date that is celebrated Australia Day. All in all I had received immense racial backlash but I will always stand firm with my beliefs and the fact that more people were educated of the issue our people face on this date proved a positive.
Early in the year I travelled to New Zealand as one of the head Keynote speakers at the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference.
I found this an amazing experience as I got to mix with other First Nations people from throughout the world.
The common theme was that First People's throughout the globe have been facing a crippling crisis with our people and Suicide. In Australia our men are 6x more likely to die by suicide & our women 7x. From this conference many ideas were shared and all cultures across the globe came up with outcomes and goals to work toward in our home countries. I met friends who I consider family and keep in regular contact.
Ever since I was a kid I would watch television in awe at the thought of America and everything that happens in the big apple. I got the opportunity to meet Kevin Hines through my close friend who later became my manager/organiser, and had agreed to take part in filming of Kevin's doco Suicide The Ripple Effect.
Through close conversations I began to develop quite the relationship with Kevin and his wife Margaret and was asked and agreed to firstly join the rest of #TeamRippleAus at mental health conference NATCON in Las Vegas but then tour alongside Kevin and then on my own throughout USA. Inside the space of 9 months I toured and spoke in 30 states delivering my messages of wellness and the practical methods that have kept me well and alive for all of my life. Not only was I touring around rural and regional Australia, The Enemy Within was now international.
During my travels I have physically flown my Aboriginal flag at the White House in Washington DC, in New York at the world trade centre memorial, Las Vegas Blvd and the very place where my not close friend (brother) Kevin, attempted to take his life, the Golden Gate Bridge.
My personal favourite in all my travels throughout USA was my time at Standing Rock, Nth Dakota.
It was like an obligation to travel to Standing Rock in support of the Native Americans as we consider native people across the world as all one Native people, our brothers and sisters (family).
Standing Rock saw a gathering of Native people and many Non Indigenous people protesting (protecting) the planned pipeline running through natural water supplies.
I had an amazing time shared love, respect and humility with our native brothers and sisters from across the waters.
In all my time in NZ & USA in working with Native people - In 2017 will see me shoot a documentary on what I believe will be the answers to rid suicide. An exciting adventure that I hope one thing comes out of it, plays a part in helping people find hope and want to survive.
In wrap I would like to thank all the amazing friends I've made, the people I have helped and the ones who have helped me. In particular Kevin & Marg Hines & Lauren Breen. Living with mental illness isn't easy, but it's those who love and support you and help you up when you are down that help make these dreams become reality. You 3, we met as friends, I now consider you family - thank you.
If 2017 is anything like last year, I'm in for a ride.
Yindyamarra Marrumbang - Respect, Love & Kindness