Loz (lozenger8) wrote,
Loz
lozenger8

It's ups and downs, it's ups and downs, it's ups and downs...

Another post about what it's like living in Central Australia.



I think one of the reasons people who come up here to teach have difficulty is that it is all too easy to dwell on the negatives; of what happens up here, of what you manage to achieve in the classroom, of what the future looks like.

This is a culture that has, largely, been neglected by the wider world - where it's only seen in relation to the negative aspects, or, if you're lucky, some of the artwork (which is stunning, don't get me wrong, but is certainly not the sum total.) Where people have been beaten down and told time and time again, just with infrastructure and the institution by the mainstream, that they are inferior. When it's rare you'll have an Indigenous person on television - when the Indigenous people you do see have successfully conformed to 'societal norms'. People are relegated to statistics and those statistics aren't good.

And yet, there is a lot here that needs to change. A lot of the time, it seems like, "well that's just how things go" is the excuse - which is connected to, but drastically different from "Anangu way." But "that's just how things go" is a weak way out. Child molestation is not "just how things go" --- certainly never has been in traditional Anangu culture. Petrol sniffing is not "just how things go". Normalising that kind of event and behaviour leads to further problems. They're normalised because very little is done about them, there's a sense of apathy --- that, for some, Anangu can't make a difference, even within their own community.

Change in these areas has to be Anangu driven. And change is being effected, over time. But that's the thing; it takes time and whilst you're waiting, whilst it's a small step-by-step process of education and discussion and decision making, those issues are still problems that affect everyone who comes into contact with them.

So, yes, it is easy to get bogged down by the negatives --- when you find a knife in the playground, when you see your 5 year old students enacting lewd and frankly disturbing behaviour, when it seems like there is little you can do.

But the positives --- the positives are there as well. Anangu children are so resilient. They're strong - of body and of mind. What would put a dent in many other people does little to someone who's Anangu. And when you consider the kinds of things many people have to put up with, this is a remarkable feat.

Many people are incredibly intelligent in ways that can't always be expressed or acknowledged in the school or Piranpa system. My students, for instance, make connections I've struggled with for years. They're learning to be bi or tri lingual. Many of my students really are fantastic artists and athletes - which is a stereotype because it's true. When they're understanding, my students show enormous interest and enthusiasm for learning. They're quizzical, they want to know, they want to try things.

Whilst some issues get ignored --- sometimes through ignorance of them being bad things, because this view of them as 'normal' has developed, there really is a sense of collective responsibility. To see the way my students protect younger ones, for instance, is just wonderful. The care and attention that is held is inspiring. Even the most unlikely students do their best to ensure others are okay. There's a real warmth and vitality amongst the Anangu. Relationships that are forged last.

And though, yes, occasionally it does feel like there's a general sense of apathy, other times, it's so obvious to see the pride in Anangu culture - such as the reverance of aspects that are positive and useful for others - like Inma (depending on when/where it is - a mixture of traditional ritual and Christian prayer.)

You need to keep those in mind. You need to see the lighter things, to laugh, to enjoy. And that's what life is all about, really. It just seems to be magnified tenfold in this sort of situation.

Tags: teaching
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