Opinions of a murri woman...

Opinions of a murri woman...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Indigenous Australia, what does it mean today?

The old misconception of ‘But you don’t look black’ has reared its ugly head this week, with a group of Educated Indigenous Individuals banding together to sue a certain columnist over comments he made about their skin colour and aboriginality.

I myself am a light skinned Aboriginal with Scottish heritage. I’ve gotten the line ‘But you don’t look black’ 1000 times, from both black and white people and my response is, ‘and you don’t look like a racist, but yet here we are’.

My mother had always told me from a young age that Aboriginality isn’t based on your skin colour, it’s about whom YOU Identify as... I grew up with my mum being the main influence in my life. My dad worked away a lot so it’s only natural that I embraced my aboriginal side more so than my Scottish. I have done Indigenous studies at a university level and am smart enough to know that, without my white side, I wouldn’t be standing here today, so I am equally as proud to be Scottish as I am to be aboriginal.

From a childhood of growing up on country in North Queensland, learning the stories and living the way of life I have lived, I have formed what I think is a very strong sense of culture and understanding of my people, my homelands and my race. Although I have spent years living away from home and working with Indigenous people from all across the country in media and at Youth forums and learning a lot about my culture, I am still seen as a baby in my family and know that I am still yet to learn more.

Those bigotry lines of ‘You don’t look aboriginal’, or ‘But your one of the good ones’ used to hurt, but with time and experience and a solid sense of identity, those types of comments no longer hurt me, but are still very much racist and inappropriate. I applaud this group of Individuals for taking this case through the proper channels and hopefully instilling change for those in the future who will no doubt face the same skin colour issue. Not only are these individuals taking a stand for their own identities and families, but for the whole of the nation and every light skinned Indigenous person out there. For this I am proud.

My mother’s generation and past ancestors grew up in a very different society to what my generation live in now. My mum often told me about the rifts between QLD Aboriginal people with NSW Blackfullas (Murris and Koori’s) and even with Torres Strait Islanders in the past, and how hostile it used to be between the different types of groups. I grew up with this misconception and it wasn’t until I moved away that I soon learned to form my own opinions on other indigenous people around the nation. Some of my best and most treasured friends now are Koori, Torres Strait Islander, and other's.

I have been lucky enough to travel a fair bit since leaving high school and work in media which has meant meeting a lot of different black people from all over the country. I’ve met Indigenous people from the very tip of Australia to the bottom, from the NT, To W.A, to S.A, to Hobart, and Shock horror, we aren’t all the same. The differences between Murri’s and Koori’s and Nunga’s and Noongar’s and whoever else come in many forms. The more obvious differences are with language, dance, features and way of life, but we all connect and share that one common similarity and that is our connection to our overall Aboriginal culture.

I was in one of the most recognised indigenous communities in the nation on the weekend, Redfern in Sydney, and it wasn’t until I was there, did I realise how many people I knew and said hello too. Ask any non indigenous person in Sydney what they think of Redfern and their feelings are mixed. For me as a girl from Queensland, walking into a place with so much history (the first aboriginal legal service in the nation, the first aboriginal medical centre in the nation, Redfern riots etc), it was an honour to be there and a real sense of pride comes over me every time I visit. It’s refreshing to know that wherever you go in this country as an Indigenous person, you will be able to make friends or make a connection with someone because there will always be a black face who is willing to extend the hand of friendship to you while you are in their country or community.

I’ve met all types of Indigenous people, from the darkest skinned to the lightest. I’ve met Black fullas with blonde hair and blue eyes, (my nephews and nieces all have these features), blackfullas with straight and curly hair, to red hair and freckles; Like the rest of the world, we come in different shapes and sizes, but most, if not all Indigenous people I’ve met in my travels, are all proud to be aboriginal. We rep our country, we rep our stories, our mob and hold that pride where ever we go; Sure our culture may have a lot of flaws, but then again, what other cultures don't?

Not all Indigenous people get along and we don’t all share the same sense of culture or identity, and I am so grateful to my mum and family for instilling in me such a strong sense of culture from a young age; This today, makes me who I am, it’s my identity and it’s the pride I carry with me where ever I go. My brothers and sisters, no matter your skin colour, be proud and stand tall....

One love, One life


Monday, March 14, 2011

My real life Underbelly- The Tale Woolloomooloo

Kings Cross.... Not the usual way I would start a blog, but it’s been on my mind lately. I was watching Underbelly- the Golden mile on the weekend and it brought back a fair few memories from when I first arrived in Sydney last year.

Those who know of my adventures in Sydney would know that an Aboriginal Hostel in Leichhardt wasn’t my only place of residence while living in the city of sin. I moved from Beautiful North Queensland, the place I had grown up my whole life, surrounded by rainforest, mountains, fresh water creeks and croc infested oceans, to a suburb in Sydney by the name of ‘Woolloomooloo’. For those who aren’t familiar with Sydney, Woollo (as they call it), is just metres down the hill from the most notorious streets in the country; Kings Cross.

I remember driving from the airport and arriving in Woolloomooloo not having a clue about what kind of suburb it was. I had Google mapped the place I would be living while I was still in North Queensland, but I didn’t realise until I was living there, that nothing can prepare you for that part of the world.

Woolloomooloo is a funny area, it’s a place mixed with the rich and poor, and smack bang in between the city of Sydney and Kings Cross. Middle ground for rich players like ‘Russel Crowe, Delta Goodrum’, ‘Kyle Sandilands’, John ‘Ibrihim’ and other’s living in multimillion dollar houses and apartments, and just three streets back from those very houses, lived me in a housing commission flat.

My mum, naturally was worried about me when I first moved down to Sydney and asked one of her childhood friends (we’ll call him Aiden) if I could come and live with him in his housing commission flat. I didn’t really know ‘Aiden’ other than him being my mother’s friend who she had grown up with, and that he’d once worked as a Stylist for the rich and famous. I was reluctant to move in with him, but I didn’t know anyone in the city, rent was cheap for my student budget, I didn’t want to live at the Hostel and the flat was fairly close to my school; so I stayed.

To say I settled into Woolloomooloo would be a lie. From the moment I arrived to the day I left, that suburb was nothing but drama for me. On top of home sickness and trying to start a new chapter in my life with fulltime study, I was living with a serious alcoholic who spent all the food money I gave him on cheap food and cheap wine.

3 LONG weeks is all I lasted at Woolloomooloo. Living with an alcoholic who would keep me up all night with his drinking, music playing, random dodgy neighbourhood visitors and all round eccentric behaviour slowly drove me mad. I couldn’t concentrate on my study because 49 year old Aiden would want to come into my room and talk all night about his epic adventures drinking with locals down the end of the street, or tell me about the latest person he was interested in. Even when I wasn’t at home, the guy would call me wanting to know where I was and what time I would be home. It’s fair to say, this guy was doing my head in and the more I convinced myself to stay and stick it out, the worse it got.

My bedroom windows in Woolloomooloo literally had bars on them. I had a key chain that constantly hung around my neck that I used to lock every door behind me on my way in and out of the flat because of crack cocaine heads and ice addicts who lived in our street. Living across from us were heroin dealers and takers, two flats down was a single mother who had her kids taken off her, and at the end of the street, a notorious family who were known and feared by police for their brutality and drug dealing. The easiest way to get to the bus stop to get to school from Woolloomooloo was to walk up another notorious street, Bourke Street. Majority of my classes were night classes which meant I had to do a 25 minute walk down Bourke Street at night, passed prostitutes, passed drug dealers, and prostitute customers in dodgie cars, just to get home.

A lot of people thought I was crazy having to do that every night, but I had no choice. When you finish a class at 9:30pm and don’t catch the bus until 10pm, your only means to get home that time of night in Sydney is either a cab (which I didn’t have money for), A bus (which stop at certain times in the night in my neighbourhood) or a walk straight down the hill to your place. The easiest, but not the safest journey home was the one I used to take every night. I never told my mum about the street I would travel down on my destination to home every night, or about her how crazy her friend was, because she would’ve FREAKED. The only way I would get through it was to simply own myself. Own the walk, look as if you’re not one to be f**ked with. It may seem like I’m trying to be all tough and hard, but reality is, if you don’t own yourself at 10:30am down a side street in Sydney, then you will become a target.

The high ratio of homeless people in Woolloomooloo really opened my eyes. As much as I hated living with this guy who drove me crazy every minute of my stay, I would look at the many people (and I mean up to 100 people lying outside of people’s houses, under the train track, out the front of the local store, and just two streets back from me), and knew I had to be grateful. I had a roof over my head, food in my stomach and an opportunity to succeed and grow. Although I felt sorry for the prostitutes selling their bodies and souls on the street to sleazy and potentially dangerous men, I would still acknowledge them and say a friendly hello as I made my way home each night.

I often wonder what drives a woman, with all her beauty and knowledge of life, to go and sell herself. To see these women, someone’s daughter, perhaps someone’s mother, out there on the streets, selling something as sacred as sex to just anyone, all for the price of a high in their arms, troubled me. But who are we as a society to judge; obviously, something has happened to these girls for them to be making such horrific choices in life.

The closest shopping complex to me was the Kings Cross Coles. Walking down the cross in the day is TOTALLY different than at night. There are friendly cafes and bars that are welcoming and the folk are generally nice. As soon as the sun goes down, Kings Cross turns into Luna Park on steroids, without the rides and general supervision of responsible people. I’m not going to lie, I’ve had many epic nights at Kings Cross, the playground of the rich, the poor, the homeless, the naked and the sold.

My time in Woolloomooloo came to end when I arrived home late one night after a class at school only to see my house mate fighting with a member of the neighbourhood who had been staying with us for a week. His drunkenness and all round personality caused the Kings Cross Police to be called to our flat and put on a complete show for the neighbours. At that moment while being interviewed as a witness by the Kings Cross Policeman, I weighed up my options and thought, can I really go on living in a place where the police will be called after a long night at school, drug dealers watching your movements in the neighbourhood and a woman now threatening to get your housemate bashed by the most seedy characters in Woollo??.... ‘HHHMMMM.... Nah, no thanks’ and with that, I bounced.

After a heated argument with ‘Aiden’ about how his actions were now affecting me, I left Woollo and was homeless for about a day. My good friend Noella Green (my knight in a shining Holden Ute) came to pick me up and let me stay with her for 24hours after 3 weeks ordeal I had been through, before moving to the hostel where I lived until the remainder of my study.

Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross isn’t a bad place. I am grateful I got to have had those ridiculous experiences. Not many believe me when I tell this story. To my family and friends back in QLD, it seems like a world away and some type of movie, but it was all real and all an experience. I don’t hear from Aiden anymore; He wouldn’t dare call me after the state I left his place in. If it wasn’t for the three bad weeks I spent settling into Sydney, I would never have become as close with my good friend Noella and I wouldn’t appreciate all parts of Sydney like I do now. It definitely made me grow and opened my eyes up to the social problems we as a nation often turn a blind eye too.

Only a year later, and I’m not back in safe old North Queensland; the only danger being a wasp’s nest in the front yard. That life I led when I first arrived in Sydney seems like a life time ago, but yet the memories are still fresh in my brain. For anyone moving to Sydney or thinking about going there, enjoy the city for all its greatness, but appreciate that it, like so many other places around this country, have a lot of bad in it as well. Woolloomooloo isn’t such a bad place, it’s just filled with a lot of different characters who can all be appreciated if you look at their situations close enough.

I’m off to Sydney this time next week for the first time since I left to see Usher live in concert and to have a general 5 day break away from the craziness I’ve been faced with in the past three months. I will visit Kings Cross and maybe even take a stroll through my old neighbourhood Woollo. As much as Sydney can corrupt you and change you, it can also make you grow, and I for one, cannot wait to go back and see how far I’ve come..

Until then...

One Love, One Life.... X

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Radio Journey and The Music Industry...

My journey in media began as a 17 year old at Atherton State High School on the Atherton Tablelands. A good friend of mine, Miss Johanna McKinnon asked me if I would help her commentate the school’s annual sports day, and after her convincing me to do so, we sat in a tent on the oval with two microphones, a desk, no paper, no prep or decent music and talked about random sports that neither of us had the slight interest in. After that muck around day, I thought about how much fun I had just sitting there talking and playing music for an audience who may have found it silly, dumb, great or entertaining. I liked getting the mixed comments from my school peers on the bus ride on the way home; with the negatives and the positives, it spurred my brain into thinking I could do it professionally. That’s how it all started. Since high school, I have gone onto pursue a career in talking for a living, and as much as it makes me laugh to say, I actually got away with it for a while.

My first gig in radio came at Indigenous Radio station 4K1G in Townsville, where a few board members had faith in a girl with no experience but a desire to be on air and speak. To communicate, play music and to have the sheer thrill of entertaining a crowd is what drove me to chase my dream of Radio. I later worked my up from volunteer to full time broadcaster in my few short years at the station and during my career I’ve worn many different hats including a co-host, sole breakfast announcer, weather lady, producer, music director, production, copy writer, and radio student.

To date, I have had the pleasure of broadcasting as an announcer around the country nationally, regionally, and locally on many different radio stations including 4K1G Townsville, Koori Radio 93.7fm Sydney, Rum Jungle Radio, Batchelor N.T, Caama Radio 8Kin Fm, Show Radio Sydney, and ABC Radio Sydney. Since working in the industry, I also saw it was important for me to be qualified in my profession and set about obtaining my certificate 3 and 4 in Radio Broadcasting from Batchelor Institute in the Northern Territory and a Graduate Diploma in Radio Broadcasting from the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

The radio industry is a very long, challenging and hard road to take, and god knows why I chose that kind of road to pursue. I’ve hit many lows and many highs in my short time in the industry, but the struggle has been worth it. Although I am taking a break from radio right now with recent events in my life, there is one thing that keeps me linked to it despite not having a microphone in front of me; that thing is music. We all love music, but for me, music is survival, its empowerment, it’s an outlet.
Music has always been more than a choice for me; sometimes I feel as if I am tied to it and owe it a favour. Even when I’m not physically sitting in front of a microphone and getting ready to play songs on the radio to an Audience, I still feel that I am a part of it and always will be.

During my time at Radio 4K1G I was the host of a program called ‘The Deadly Demand’ where every Friday night between 7pm-midnight I would play requests from listeners as well as new music I had sourced. Although this program could be tiring and tedious, my idea of ‘hit songs’ and ‘hit music’ began to develop and I began to acknowledge how each track is unique. My taste in music is diverse; I love hip hop, I love RNB, I love folk, I love rock, I love alternative, I love indie, I love reggae, and blues and roots. I love music that speaks to me, music that affects me and makes me listen to it more than once. One of the biggest things that have got me through the industry so far is the ability to listen and respect all music and how it appeals or doesn’t appeal to the listener. My mother had this incredible gift of being able to listen to a song and know if it would be a hit or not, and in ways, I like to think I’ve inherited that very same talent.

One thing about music is its ability to grow and transform. It has no boundaries and can speak to billions across the world in many languages and forms. Throughout time, it has evolved and continues to change with each musical icon or singer that embraces it. My own musical library is a mix of my generation and my parents musical tastes. My mum always played a diverse mix of music including artists and groups like: Yothu Yindi, Bob Marley, Archie Roach, The Temptations, Kev Carmody, Kc and the Sunshine band, Fleetwood Mac, The supremes, Marvin Gaye, and the whole Motown, and 70’s disco generation. My father’s musical influence has also rubbed off on me with groups and bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The mommas and the Pappas, ACDC, Creedence, Dire Straits and others. Mix those two completely different tastes of music, along with my own of Hip Hop, Rnb and Reggae, Blues and Roots, Rock and Folk; Tupac, Biggie, Run DMC, KRS 1, Jay Z, The Beastie Boys, Warren G, Snoop, Dre, The Fugees, Lauryn Hill, Lil Kim, Wycliff, Dead Prez, and more, and you have a pretty diverse musical library.

The best thing about being in radio is being able to feel as if your apart of the music industry. You get the tracks first, you get to introduce them to the wider audience, you have the inside information, you get to meet bands and singers and give your honest opinion on music and where it’s headed. My biggest flaw with music and I, is my brutal honesty. Because I have been into music since such a young age, as well as working closely with it, I am honest about what I like and what I don’t like.

The Australian music scene is one of rich history and also one of great shame. Australian rock and Indie, I’d dare say is Australia’s strongest music genre. I say that because unlike Pop, Reggae, Hip Hop, Indigenous, electric and others, Australian Rockers are embraced by the public and have sold more albums and reached more number ones than other genre throughout the years.

Take Midnight Oil as an example; Brilliant, political rock music that spurred change and has become timeless to all generations since they were formed. On the other hand, take the Australian Pop industry, an industry of very few successful musicians/singer song writers that only get so far, then fizzle away to nothing after a few hits (EG: Nicki Webster, Bardot, Holly Valance). Kylie Minogue is without a doubt one of Australia’s biggest and most successful pop stars. I’m not the biggest fan of Kylie or Australian Pop music, but you have to respect what she’s done for the struggling sector of the industry.

This all brings me to my next point. Jessica Mauboy. I finally downloaded her new album, ‘Get Em Girls’ and I can’t say that many of the songs off it really catch my attention. Jessica is one of the strongest female RNB/Soul Singers this country has ever produced. Her natural voice gives me goose bumps when I hear her, even on TV (Something that’s not easy to do), so this is why I was confused when I heard that in a lot of the songs off her new album, her voice had been tweaked or slightly auto tuned in some parts. Personally, I don’t think that her natural gift of singing needs to be tweaked that much.

Up until her new album, Australian’s had embraced her and she was given a handful of awards and a fair bit of (much deserved) praise since the release of her successful ‘Been Waiting’ album. Where does one go once she has cracked the Aussie Market? The U.S of course. With a voice like that, it was obvious that she had to make a shift outside of Australia in order to grow, but since her new album, ‘Get Em Girls dropped’, she has had to face critics who called her ‘a sell out’, and overly produced’. In Jessica’s case, you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. That’s one of the biggest downfalls in Australian music. We’re quick to put them on the pedestal when they are doing well, but as soon as they don’t, we drag them down just as fast.

I have to say, as a music lover and as a radio broadcaster, to me, Jessica is the full package. She’s a great natural singer, song writer and she fits the pop image to a tee, but this new album didn’t do her any favours in Australia. The saddest thing is, with her voice, she deserves to do well, but Americans won’t embrace her (even if she has snoop on her track) because to them, she isn’t that unique. If you think about the pop market, it’s a monster that has produced pop icons like Beyonce, Ciara, Lady Gaga and others, so why would a little known Australian Pop singer, Jess be any kind of competition to those queens of the mic who do what she does, but dare I say, better? I wish for Jessica Mauboy nothing but success and if anything, I’d hope that she would keep true to herself, where she came from and the image she wants to be known as. She will be a lasting pop icon, but only time will tell how successful of a pop star she will be.

The music industry has changed so much in such a short period of time, and I don’t know if the industry is lacking in general when it comes to good music or simply if my musical radar just isn’t keeping up with ‘the times’ as they say. Where ever music is headed, I think it’s safe to say that I will always have an opinion on it. Whether that opinion matters to my peers or any future radio audience I may broadcast too is another matter. With that in mind, and in the spirit of radio, I’m gonna tune out now :)

One Love, One Life....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In family we trust....

It’s the little things about Sydney that I miss the most... The loud noise of Aeroplanes at 6am that I cursed in the past, the big issue guys trying to sell their magazines on every corner down on George street, the fast trains that get you from A-B in a sec, the buskers in central tunnel giving you guilt trip looks for your spare change, the bus driver speeding off and leaving a poor student late for class running with his hands in the air, grabbing an early morning coffee on the run, the cheap $10 meals in a vintage 100 year old pub in Surry Hills, the taste of beer on the back of a ute down at Maroubra Beach and the everyday feeling of opportunity and freedom.

On 30th of December, I packed a suitcase full of god knows what, with red swollen eyes to move back to North Queensland forever following the death of my mother. For the past two months I have been living back in a town I never thought I would return to until a later stage in my life.

When I arrived in Sydney last year on Valentines Day to begin my life in the big city, It was raining and miserable, the traffic was fast and my mind was racing. When leaving in December, it was another rainy morning, but this time I left the city I had come to love without saying a proper goodbye.

I moved away from the Atherton Tablelands; The place I grew up, the first moment I could. At the age of 17, I packed up and left to pursue an unexpected year of study at James Cook University in Townsville, and as time passed I found Radio 4k1g and volunteered my time. Eventually I built my way through the organisation from volunteer with one hour a week, to full time breakfast announcer in just 5 years. At the end of 2009 and after years of doing the job I set out to get, I felt enough was enough and moved to Sydney.

A lot of people asked me why? Why leave a good job, a comfy flat, good wage and friends and family behind to live in a city full of danger, a city I didn’t know, without family, on a student budget and living out of a hostel all year. The answer is simple. Growth.

We as humans are programmed to survive everyday of our lives. We all have a family, maybe a partner, maybe children, a house/flat, a job, study or some form of purpose that keeps us going. We live our lives based on what life presents us and what we set out to achieve. Only few really honestly set out to make the most of their lives and go on living their comfortable daily lives just for the sake of materialistic pleasures we want and feel we need. Nothing is wrong with any of it, just in my instance, I felt I needed change.

Leaving Townsville was the best thing I could’ve done, as it allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, take a chance in the big city and pursue the dreams I had. I achieved so much more than I thought I would and although it was the hardest year of my life being a fulltime student in a big city, It made me grow as a person and has lead to me where I am today as my 13 year old brothers full time carer.

Up until this point, I have lived a selfish life of work, career, money and play. I’ve only ever had to me to think about. I’ve always been independent, but surviving the year I did in Sydney has enabled me to survive anything and be prepared for anything. Without that knowledge and ability to be able to take life challenges, I wouldn’t be capable of looking after my little brother as I am now. As much as mum's death has changed my entire life and affected me in every possible way, I believe everything happens for a reason and know the life lessons I learnt up until this point have prepared me for the role I have been given now with my brother.

A lot of people have been worried about me since mum’s passing and what will now happen to me and my career. Since the age of 17, I have been chasing a dream and chasing goals. I can honestly say that I chased it all and achieved all I set out to achieve... As proud as my mum was of my achievements in radio and with all that I had done in my life, I know she would be even prouder of me doing what I am doing now, continuing on with her hard work. As much as people worry about me, the fact of the matter is, I needed to be here around my brother and around my family, just as much as they need me...

Since my brother arrived into our family as a foster child (He’s my mum’s sisters biological son) of just 8 weeks, he has been my little brother. He and I both don’t know any different. My mother is the only mother he has known and my sister and I are his siblings. This is just the way it is, so there was no hesitation that with mum now gone, that he would go anywhere else but with us... Those were not only her wishes but what we as a family want and need. We are his family and he will always be our/my responsibility.

My brother is a bubbly kid who majority of the time, you will find smiling. Like me, he loves his music; he loves to dance and has a lot of friends. He’s interested in our culture, he loves camping, fishing and being independent. As long as I am breathing, I will love him and be here for him in every possibly way.

My career for now is taking a much needed break. I will always have goals and strive to live my life to the fullest because when I do, my spirit and soul feel good. Money, possessions and life’s extra’s are always nice to have, but if I’ve learnt anything since making the life changing move to Sydney last year is that life is unpredictable and at the end of the day, none of that will matter when a loved one is lost. Family is what is most important. My journey has reached a new stage,and now it feels like I am rebuilding it from the ground up. A new start...

On top of grieving for my mother, I’m living in a place that I haven’t lived in for a very long time and it’s taking me a lot to adjust too. From the bustling streets of Sydney, the cars, the money, the lifestyle, to the complete silence of a suburban neighbourhood street in the country, the birds waking becoming you’re alarm clock every morning, walking the dog in the afternoon, signing school forms and having another life to take care of day today besides my own. These are adjustments that have taken time to get used to and am slowly accepting.

In the past two months, I have had time to think and analyse every inch of my life and have come to accept a lot of the changes that I have been faced with. Mum would never have wanted me to give up my career and I’m not, it’s simply taking a break. After nearly 10 years away from this place, I am back, a different person in a tough spot both mentally and emotionally, but I can either live a half decent life like the rest seem to live here, or I can keep my goals in sight, slowly start to achieve and be happy once again with my brother by my side and live an EXTRAORDINARY life. Time will tell...

The road isn’t an easy one. Add it all up and life right now is stacked against my brother and me, but our mum taught us both to face adversity and beat it, and that we will do together, side by side


One Love, One Life ♥