The Other Side 

I went to the podiatrist yesterday. I’ve never been to a podiatrist before, but then I’ve never had a problem with my feet before. Years of nursing – walking the floor for nearly a decade, months of warm dry conditions and a habit of almost always being barefoot has caught up with me. Painfully. I’ve always been self consiousnof my feet, but I worked up the courage to follow a tall, genetically gifted young man into a room, and as he closed the door, whilst cursing myself for not doing more research and finding a stern, no-nonsense, grey-haired, 67 year-old-woman with half-moon spectacles and a heaving bosom, he says: “so how’s your day been so far?” “Oh you know, I just met with the leader of the opposition”. 

Why? Why did I just say that? Now he thinks I vote liberal! I don’t know why I said that. People ask questions like that and almost always expect you to say “oh fine! And yours?” because let’s face it, no one actually cares either way. It was too late to back out now, so I’m mumbled something about “long story” and got back to being embarrassed about hot-podiatrist looking at my horrendous feet. As it turned out, he was exceptionally professional and having worked in the lands, was genuinely interested, so I told him about my meeting and the events that preceded it.

Having felt largely that my meeting with Tony Harrison was a waste of time, but yet holding out hope that the Chief of Staff to the Minister might yet help me bring about some change, I reconvened with my media contact and we decided that the time has come to talk to the opposition. I felt conflicted; I haven’t voted for the Liberal party since I was 19 and at that time my political ideology reflected that of my parents; right winged and conservative. Does this make me some kind of traitor? And who am I to ask a party I don’t support, for help? Later that day I received a call from Steven Marshall’s policy adviser; she and Steven were leaving for the APY Lands the next day, as he has done every year for the last six years. We scheduled a meeting, and there I was, in Parliament House, waiting to meet the Leader of the Opposition. 

Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan. I’ve always liked Jay Weatheral, and by default I suppose, I viewed Steven Marshall as being at odds with my own, grown-up political ideology which is very un-conservative and very left wing. I also viewed him in the same vein as the Liberals in power at a Federal level – governed by the far right with homophobic and racist policy; tarring the Liberals at state level with the same brush. On the one hand it stands to reason that they would need to toe the party line, but I was curious to meet the other side. I left with the impression that Steven is a compassionate man who doesn’t want to use this as a political football. He and I agreed on many things and I truly felt that this was a far more constructive meeting than my one a few streets to the Sourh-East. 

Steven and two of his policy and media advisers seemed genuinely keen to help. He genuinely gave me the impression that this is an area of interest to him. We discussed the issues, they listened and then we discussed the issues from the perspective of “what can we (they) do to help?” The plan from here is this: 

  • To consider making a submission to the Nyland Royal Commision
  • To engage with the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement 
  • To engage with the Anangu Lands paper tracker, which keeps track of all media that surrounds the APY and holds government agencies to account for promises made
  • For Steven to pose some direct questions to Susan Close in parliament. I’ll make Hansard available here as it comes to hand. 

I note now that DECD has revealed plans for a strategic plan for Aboriginal Education, which includes (yet another) executive position; the Director of Aboriginal Education. They’ve also released details of curriculum for Anangu students that meet the Australian Curriculum in an enaging and culturally relevant format. The Chief Education Officer made reference to units of work that link Anangu teachings and Australian Curriculum; I politely pointed out that I knew exactly the units of work that she was referencing because my husband wrote them. These are moves in the right direction. I urge DECD and the minister to take this opportunity to carefully examine the current context. To truly tread lightly and speak softly – to listen to Anangu. We have much to offer if you but listen to what we have to say. 

For now, as I sit in the cool dark of night, the glow of my phone reflected on my face, the soft breathing of my children the only noise, and I reflect. Why am I doing this? Because I benefit from white privilege and I walk in both worlds, I was able to get my kids out. But I left many of my family behind. Many of them already damaged and broken. And as I sit here in the dark I know that every night, probably at this very moment; a child is being abused in unspeakable ways. The standard that you walk past is the standard you accept. 

Don’t walk past.


3 thoughts on “The Other Side 

  1. Loved this post! The irony. The whole point of having a variety of political parties is so that we can see a range of ways to make changes. If meeting with Stephen Marshall gets some action, then, “Woohoo! System’s working.”

    And as early as 1991 – ‘Homelands education for the Anangu” published by SA Education Department.

    “The twin challenges of an Anangu return to more traditional lifestyles with an associated consolidation of their cultural domain, combined with isolation and an increasingly decentralised demographic profile provide the framework within which a policy for Homelands education is developed by the Aboriginal Education Curriculum Unit. The policy is being developed on two fundamental precepts: the Anangu must have the opportunity to access mainstream curriculum, and they must control and manage the provision of education to their children.”

    Then in 1996, the Open Access College had a writing team that focussed on curriculum for teaching on the Lands. There was a reference group of teachers and parents from that area.

    Gee, that was 25 years ago!


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