By Pamela Nathan and Jamie Millier Tjupurrula
Fathers, sons and Stolen Generation are linked
What are the benefits of the Men’s Tjilirra Movement (MTM)? How does the MTM work? How does the MTM respond to psychological need? How are minds changed and lives saved?
Please read the extracts below written by the Program Manager of MTM, Jamie Millier Tjupurrula.
You will see he works for and with Aboriginal people. The work is a co-creation on country! There is Tjukurrpa, space, place, waltja, song, ceremony and Lore. He engages Aboriginal people, hands over decision-making to them and facilitates hard conversations about jail time, the ‘problem life’, old lore and new lores needed to handle violence and substance usage. He camps out. He has known the people for many years. The people seek him out to talk about important old lores and the crises facing the communities. He is a humane therapist, you might say, out bush – the Aboriginal cultural way. New conversations open up. There are new connections and relations. People are strengthened. New spirit rising.
Community determination, engagement and new Lores
Healing by the old and new Lores
Culture is medicine
From hopelessness to hope
Storytelling about trauma and jailtime
Making traditional tools as tools for living
Listening to what Aboriginal people value
Reviving culture with the people
These are the benefits!
I had three men wanting to come and work from Mt Liebig, these men were also at the last camp. We picked up their blankets and drove to New Bore O/S. We set up camp and then went and cut some more shields.
We looked around the area to see what else we could find, there were items we could have cut but decided not to. We would leave it for next time. We went back to camp and dropped off the wood. We decided to go out on an old hunting track to see what was out there, like animals or wood to cut. We got a flat tyre on the way. I had not packed the jack or it had been taken so we had to use Aboriginal way to change it. We got back on track and made our way back to camp. The men started to work on the shields. I cooked a meal and we talked by the fire. The young Tjupurrula spoke about his up-coming court. The young man was hopeful and thought he would not be jailed due to the victim not showing up to court for the last 2 hearings. I explained that I did not know the system but he should be ready for any outcome. I explained that the laws for violence were very strict, we went to bed. The men slept inside one of the houses. they did not have enough blankets to sleep outside with me.
I got up and made tea, one of the men got up and had breakfast with me and we spoke about his dreaming. The man said he had been told of a few dreamings he could belong to but didn’t know for sure. We spoke about a trip to Yuendumu so he could see an aunty and ask, he could also ask the old man Harry Nelson, too.
The men and I worked all day on the shields, we didn’t go anywhere. I rotated through the men giving them help and direction on the methods to use. I made some dinner and we sat by the fire and ate.
Jail time experiences – After dinner the men started talking about their experiences in Jail.
The young Tjupurrula talked more about him not going to jail but we said: it’s different now you might get lucky but might not. The violence laws have changed. I spoke to the men about it is not in anyone’s lore to be violent. I spoke about the Aboriginal lore, it was tough but it was true. I told them about my story with the old men I had worked with throughout my life. I said that I told the old men “if I ever make a mistake, this is your country and that I will take punishment because this is the lore out here.” I spoke to the men and said that white fella law doesn’t work very well. The men in jail keep going back and do the same thing over and over. The men spoke about men they know and are related to that do this.
Jail time dreamings – One of the men drew maps in the sand of the jails he had been in, one of the other men said it looked like a dreaming story. I pointed out that he knew the inside of jail more than he knew his dreamings, he had a heavy head after this comment. I explained he was not alone. There are a lot of men in jail that know it better than their own culture. I asked the man what it was like in jail and what was the longest time spent. The man told me he spent 4 years in a western Australian jail for stabbing another man in a drunken fight. In this jail he told me of a violent incident, and the available drugs in there and items being offered to him. He was offered needles and drugs. The other times spent in jail were shorter terms, under a year. One of the other men said he had done 6 months and then had another 6 months on parole, no grog and no drugs. The young man did do his parole and didn’t drink or take drugs but when the time was up he went back to drugs. We all showed concern for the young man going before the court. We said that he needs to settle down on his drug use and do more trips with us making things and learning culture.
The men didn’t seem overly discouraged from time in jail. The spoke about having a good time in work camps and some of the jobs they did, as you can get extra things if you work in jail. They spoke about if you work you can get an extra blanket and cool drink, some extra food.
We had breakfast and went and got some extra things from Mt Liebig then came back. We brought the old man with us, Bundy. Bundy painted his shield and we spoke with him about going to Kintore the next week, he said he would. He spoke about the design on his shield and said it was “his place”. Near Kintore a very important man’s place. Two of the young men painted their shields also. We worked on the new shields for the rest of the day. I took the old man back to Mt Liebig in the afternoon.
I arrived at Hermannsburg at about 5:00pm, I called Lukas the AOD (Alcohol and Drug) officer and he gave me directions to the Hermannsburg men’s shed. I arrived and there was a group of the men from Ingkintja Men’s Shed (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress), a doctor and a man from CAAPU (Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit). I spoke with them for a bit then I unloaded the Tjilirra car, placing all the shields and items I had out on a table. Lukas went and rounded up the men and a lot came – 20 young men, 6 middle aged and 3 old men. The men handled the shields and items for a long time.
Jail the men say is a place to learn about themselves and their families. I was asked to talk to the men and tell them what we are doing in the west (western desert). I explained the importance of the Tjilirra and it belongs to all of the men. I told the men of my past and drug use and how I learned from an old man, a medicine man. The other guests spoke about themselves and what they did with their organizations. Some of the old men handled the shields and spoke in their language about them. One of the old men spoke to me of its importance in the lore. I said but no one is using them anymore and young men are being lost. He said the importance of these types of shields is to pass on information and ownership from one generation to the next. I agreed with the old man and said this is still important today but we need to bring it back. There was talk around the fire, a bit like white fella share your story around the fire and clapping if someone shared a story. There was some talk of men that had been in jail and also conversation that in the urban areas it is the new Aboriginal lore system. The young men said in wanting to learn about how they are and who their families are they go to jail to find out.
There was food cooked and people ate, and the young men stayed and handled the tools some more. Lukas said the young men usually eat and then go. The group of men talked about a camp out and asked if I could attend. I said to them work out some dates but it could be possible. The young men stated to make their way home and the older men were still left. The old men stayed. The old men talked about dreamings and the story about the shields. One of the old men explained the story of the shield and sung some of the song; this is a secret lore song. The camp conversation kept going but nothing was decided. I packed up the tools and drove to Alice Springs I arrived just before midnight.
SEE PREVIOUS BLOG – MTM exhibition camps
Met with Manager (A&D) and there might be a project we can work on and partner with in the near future. I met with the youth coordinator and they may be funding a camp in the near future with Hermannsburg and surrounding communities. There might be a camp for Indigenous staff to camp out with MTM as a skills development camp.
Culture is medicine for us all – MTM/Community response to petrol sniffing incident: I had planned to go out for a community members’ meeting to talk about the sniffing incident at Papunya 3 weeks prior. I packed the car, picked up the roo tails for Waltja and drove to Papunya. I met with the other organizations involved: Waltja, RASAS, MacYouth and MTM (us). We spoke about who would be coming and to limit the whitefella take over. We discussed what we would do and where we would go and food. There were some of the community organizations with Indigenous workers who were invited to the meeting. Organisations such as Mac Night Patrol, NT Families, Mac Youth, RASAS, Papunya School, Tjupi Art Centre and community members and families and their children. There had been positive feedback from the community and it seemed that the community was motivated from what I had been told. I stayed with the youth worker.
I went out and collaborated with the services involved and helped organize the food and families. The services that had access to vehicles started to drive around and pick up people.
I picked up kids and we drove in convoy to the bottom of the Honey Ant Mountain. This was chosen by the locals to meet at this place. Cars drove back and forth and picked up more people. I spoke with the service team that had helped organize the meeting, it was decided that I would Chair the meeting.
The group of us that had helped organize sat back and let the group organize themselves and start cooking. The leading women made damper and the younger women organized the cooking of the roo tails and vegetables. This was well organized and went smoothly. The children were all running up the hill and running around and kicking the football around. There were about 25 children and about 30+ adults, there were about 5 men present. The children were fed first and the rest of the food was in the ground cooking.
I started to gather the group together and got them to control the meeting dynamics. I asked the people what they wanted to talk about. This took some coaching but the conversation started. The people wanted to talk about the kids and their safety. I spoke to the people about their responsibility to the kids and families. I discussed with them that services should not control or own the issues in community but the services are to support the people in their decision. I pointed out the main services and that they are to support the requests and ideas of the families. I discussed with the group that they are the ones responsible for the way kids and families act and grow in the community. If something is going wrong we need to support the families and help them get better, if we don’t the whitefellas with come and they will take children away. We need to work together so this does not happen.
I spoke about what I do with the men. I spoke to the group about culture is medicine for all of us. With the loss of culture people are getting sick in their mind and body. The songs that I heard when I was young always made me feel better. The old man that taught me, sung to me he made me better. The women said yes, we need to do more culture the women repeated, “we need to get up” and learn and teach. I spoke with the women about them painting up and teach the young women about women culture. The young women need to learn their stories. I told the women that I’m proud of my mums from Mt Liebig. One of my grandmothers was there, a senior law woman. I asked her to sing the song for us. The old lady got up and spoke in language that this type of thing was finished, the old lady said I talk about this at every meeting but no one listens. The old lady didn’t want to sing, but the group said sing for your grandson, Tjupurrula. The old lady asked for some water. I got her something to sit on. I held her hand, sat beside her and she sung the song for the area. This was very heartfelt and one of the middle aged women quietly joined in but most of the group did not know the song. The group discussed the culture and that they need to be more of it. We spoke about the sniffing that had occurred the weeks before. We agreed unanimously we did not want sniffing to come back. We spoke about the next big problem with phones and also the responsibility of parents not buying phones to early for their children. I spoke about money; young people don’t have money but families give it to them. Families need to provide the good thing to their children not just money for them to be the boss of. Remember you are the boss for your child they are not the boss for you. We all need to teach our young people to look after their people, too. We discussed this more. We started to get the food out of the ground. The group said we should do this more, just like this. I said to the group, you did this; we just supported what you guys wanted, you did the rest. I said to the group you don’t need whitefellas for this but we are here if you need support.
The kids played in the distance, and the group ate and everyone was happy and safe. This was a really good gathering. For the first time it was a majority of community people running a meeting instead of the majority whitefella meetings. This was a big collaboration of locally staffed community based organizations gathering.
Everyone helped clean up and pack stuff away and then drive back to community. Before we left the women asked if I could help them get some culture happening with the women, I said I would. I pointed out to the group that they can approach any of the organizations in community; they are here to service the community. All of the organization will support culture.
Waltja, Mac Youth and MTM met later that night and we spoke about the day.
LOVE THIS FEEDBACK from MacDonnell Regional Council Youth Services (MacYouth)!