Opinions of a murri woman...

Opinions of a murri woman...

Friday, July 29, 2011

My 2011 NAIDOC Speech at Atherton State High School

Atherton State High School on the Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland (my old high school) is currently celebrating their 2011 NAIDOC week this week and I was honoured to be asked as a guest speaker at their Naidoc Week school parade yesterday... This is the speech I delivered... (please note, it is type out as a speech so please forgive the writing style) LOL

Mr Whybird, Distinguished guests, Teachers and students...
I would first like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional owners of this country, and thank Aunty Louis for inviting me to speak today.

My name is Carly Wallace... I am a proud Dulguburra Yidinji woman from The Atherton Tablelands, born in Cairns and grew up in Yungaburra, and I’m a former student of Atherton State High School.

First and foremost, HAPPY NAIDOC Week to you all. The theme for this year’s NAIDOC week is ‘Change: The next step is ours’... So how does this relate to me?

As I said earlier, I was a student here at Atherton High from years 8 to 12 and graduated in 2002 as one of about 4 Indigenous students in my year to do so..... If I have to be honest, school wasn’t my thing... I grew up in a single parent household, I never really got good grades, I didn’t understand the work and didn’t cope well with study. I didn’t go for my OP Score, I had no desire to go to University and had no idea of what I wanted to do for a job or career after school. School to me was basically just for socialising; that was until a friend asked me in Year 12, if I would help her commentate for sports day. This had never been done before so I thought, why not... A tent on the oval with my mate and I in it, a stereo and a set of microphones, started what was to be my career so far.

That single day of mucking around and talking dribble to the whoever was bored in the grandstand listening, sparked something in my brain and gave me a crazy idea that ‘Hey, maybe I could get PAID to talk dribble for a living’, and with that, I started to pursue a career in Media, in particular, Radio.

So with just a few months left to go of year 12, I made a trip down to James Cook University, who at the time were doing testing for their batchelor of communications course to begin in 2003. I sat for my tests and came back to the Tablelands with the news that I would be going to Uni in just a few months. As it turned out, I ended up deferring the course and chose to do a 1 year Humanities tertiary Access course instead at JCU in Townsville.

After completing the year long course, I decided to take a year off to ‘find work’ in 2004. Living on welfare, as a job searcher with no experience besides hospitality, I began to be depressed, and my dreams of radio were becoming beyond my reach.

At the end of 2004, I decided to volunteer at the Indigenous Radio station, Radio 4k1g in Townsville. I had no on air experience, all I had was the desire to make it happen, and make it happen I did. The staff had faith in me; I was 19 year old at the time and they decided to put me on air for 1 hour a week. That one hour lead to casual fill in work; filling in for nearly every show on the station when the announcers were away, as well as my own music request show. I volunteered for 2.5 years and completed my Certificate 3 and 4 in Radio Broadcasting from Batchelor Institute in the Northern Territory externally in the meantime. In 2007 and after a few years of volunteering, I landed the position as Fulltime Breakfast announcer at the station at the age of 22.

In 2009, my final year at the station, I was honoured to be nominated for a Deadly Award for ‘Radio Broadcaster of the Year’ at the Sydney Opera House... Although I didn’t win, it was a humbling experience to be recognised by my people with the nomination.

After 2.5 years of 4am wake ups and speaking to an audience that stretched beyond Townsville, up in to the cape, Gulf Regions and the Torres Straits, I found it was time for a change and resigned from my position in 2009. Unsure of my next step, I was lucky enough to get a call from the top media school in the country, ‘The Australian Film Television and Radio School’, otherwise known as AFTRS in Sydney, informing me that I had been 1 out of 10 people selected in the country to undertake my Graduate Diploma of Radio at the prestigious school in 2010.

From living in North Queensland my whole life, to living in Sydney by myself with no friends or family, living on a student budget and living out of an Aboriginal hostel all year, it was one of the most challenging paths I have ever had to take in life. After 9 intense months of study, I graduated in November last year in front of 500 people, as the First Indigenous Radio student in the school’s history with my ‘Graduate Diploma in Radio Broadcasting’.

After graduating from AFTRS, I landed a much sort after producing job at ABC Local Radio Sydney and was due to start a new position with Triple J radio in January this year, until I received a phone call that was to change the course of my life as I knew it. In late December last year, I got a call from my family informing me that my mother had passed away suddenly. The very next day, I threw in my job and flew home to be with my family and take up the role of fulltime carer of my 13 year old brother Eika Stewart, who is here today in year 8.

I guess this is where I relate to this year’s NAIDOC theme the most. Change- ‘The next step is ours’. My life has seen the biggest change so far in the last 6 months. From living in a city of millions, chasing and living out my career in radio, to moving back to the Tablelands after 10 years away from it to take care of my little brother in a township of just a few thousand people. Although it has been hard to adjust to this change, it is a choice I do not regret making.

These days, at the age of 26, I am occasionally contracted on a part time basis by AFTRS to help run and teach Radio workshops to Indigenous communities and broadcasters, recently travelling to Thursday Island in the Torres Straits, and to Sydney to work with Radio 4MW and Koori Radio staff to help better their radio skills. My goal for the future is to eventually start up my radio career once again and continue to share the positive stories of my people to the wider community, through the medium of radio.

My message to all of you young people today is to find something you are passionate about and pursue it to the 10th degree. No goal is unachievable if you really want it. Your life will take twists and turns and your path will change along the way, but it’s up to you and it’s up to us on how we will embrace those changes and turn them into something great for ourselves... I hope you all enjoy NAIDOC week for 2011...

Thank you for having me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Uncomfortable Skin of Black Youth

Taking on a parenting role, your sole job in life is to take care of a child and protect them from the evils life can offer them.

In the past few months, I’ve watched my brother slowly turn into a young man. His facial hair growing slowly and his voice changing with a slight crack in it. I am enjoying the last few months with him as a ‘Child’ because I know, I’m going to blink one day and his childhood will be stolen from us, just like his baby years were.

Although all I do is try my best to protect him from the things that can hurt him in life, I know there are something’s that I won’t be able to avoid. In the past few weeks, he’s come home from various places (eg: shopping centres, McDonalds), and told me of his ‘experiences’. Older people pushing in front of him in lines, pretending they haven’t seen him, people taking their time to serve him at the counter, people rolling their eyes at him; all of these experiences that he has had to feel.

The reality is, my brother has dark skin and he LOOKS every bit aboriginal; he is also young, loud and talented. His future should be filled with bright lights, opportunity and a sense of belonging, but lately, all I have heard from his experiences is negativity, racism and attempts to bring down his light hearted nature. I’m 26, but remember what it was like as a black youth growing up in country North Queensland. The funniest line I think I was ever subjected too was ‘Go back to where you came from’..... HHHMMMM Yeah they breed them smart up here. Oh and if you were wondering what my response to that was to that skinny white boy in my year 10 Manual Arts class, telling me, a traditional owner of the country of that very land ‘to go back to where I came from was’.. Yeah, let’s just say me and the extremely sharp chisel I was holding in my hand got kicked out of class(The Injustice).

The thing that troubles me is that my brother is a young black MAN... I know people who read this who aren’t Indigenous will say, ‘it happens to everyone’ and yes, nearly every young male experiences some kind of youth discrimination in their time, but black men in North Queensland in particular, seem to be subjected too it more so. Why? Our youth are unfairly targeted and no matter how good of a family they come from, or the strong values they are taught by their families, they will still be a young black male to the eyes of society and up here in North Queensland, that means to the post man at the post office, to the security guide at the shopping centre, to the angry teacher in class, to the police and the white woman pushing in front of him in line at McDonalds.

What can I do as his older sister to stop him from experiences the everyday youth discrimination and racism as a black male? The answer unfortunately, is I can’t do anything to stop it. Instead my advice to him is simple; know where you come from, educate yourself and become smarter than these Aussie Bogans who don’t know any better. Our mother taught us never to sit down quiet and never let anyone walk over the top of you, so even though these experiences are unnecessary and disheartening, I know he will become stronger from them and live up to our mothers expectations and stand his ground.

It sickens me that I can’t be there for him in every discriminative moment he will experience in his life, and it sickens me even more that I see it with my own eyes. Why our society is like this, I still don’t understand. The burden he and every other black man carries in their life is something to be admired. The thing is we just get used to it. We get used to the security guards following us in the shops or the old white woman tisking at us, but why should we? After 200+ years of somewhat bullsh*t oppression, I guess you can call it resistance to the way we get treated. The difference with my brother though will be self esteem, cultural identity and a strong sense of belonging that will urge him to stand his ground and speak up for himself.

My brother turns 14 in November. He’s still afraid of the dark, still asks me if he can sleep in my room every night, still rides his bike around the neighbourhood, and still says ‘I love you’ to me before he goes to bed. I am cherishing every moment of his childhood before his youth and adulthood kicks in. I just hope the harsh society in which he will become familiar with in the near future doesn’t break him too much and he still maintains some of his innocence without becoming too angry like a lot of other brothers I know. One can only wait and see... Until next time, I keep the faith...

One love, One Life...