Image: Robert Hoosan teaching youth how to make tjilirra
‘Shields for Living Tools for Life’ (SFLTFL) is CASSE’s rehabilitation program based in the Alice Springs region for ‘at-risk’ youth and/or young people who have come into contact with the youth justice system, to reduce the likelihood of offending or reoffending. It is available as part of the Northern Territory Government’s ‘Creating Safer Communities: Back on Track – Cutting Youth Crime’ Initiative.
Our team on the ground – Nik Rosalski and Robert Hoosan – headed to Lajamanu for the grand finale cultural camps for the year. It was a three day marathon journey as the police warned of heavy rains on the back roads through the Tanami – they arrived hot and tired. The air con in the MTM troopy is under par so Robert was very hot.
They spent over two weeks engaging with the elders, Jerrry Jangala and his son Stephen and Andrew Johnson and the families and youth and the stakeholders, including the Police, WYDAC, Territory Families, the School and WANTA AC.
The day after arrival, Jerry and some youth with WANTA and our team all met, and Jerry bought his tjilirra and spoke to the youth about them. Jerry said the police confiscated the tools as weapons a few years ago – post a big fight. He told the youth when they cut the tree they say sorry. He told the youth the names of the tools and their purpose and how to make them. The youth were very interested in the no 7. Jerry and the youth talked about the tools as potential gifts for special relatives. The youth had not been given this knowledge before. It was very powerful and the youth began to “play” in the traditional space. This giving of knowledge is very important as there are few elders in this community and some are very old and the stories could be lost. It was a powerful meeting.
WANTA AC posted a short video on Facebook, sharing some of the highlights, which you can watch via this link: https://www.facebook.com/CASSEAustralia/posts/1840541636101635
Robert spent nearly two weeks talking with the elders and respectfully waiting to find sites and custodians and owners for the sites of the wood. He was taken a long way from the community one day and shown where the timber to make the tools could be found. The elders need to welcome the country… They found wood sites but Robert then had to wait until he could be accompanied by the right person with the knowledge and responsibilities for the country. The two senior men were unwell and Jerry very old and AJ was very busy looking after the community. Robert waited.
In the meantime the police organised a community meeting to talk about the project. Robert met with the Rangers. Nik met with the Principal of the school and the social and emotional well-being teacher who was very keen to have the workshops in the school so the youth could attend school and also have cultural knowledge as part of their bi-cultural program. A new variant to the program. WANTA and the school organised some on country excursions with Robert and the youth. Some of the youth were very keen to jump on board and learn about tjilirra and the stories for them and country.
We will return to Lajamanu in the New Year so watch this space!
The Northern Territory's numbers in youth detention are soaring - ABC News. As more Aboriginal youth enter detention, CASSE’s cultural healing camp at Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre is an essential program that brings culture and Country into custody. pic.twitter.com/mWxZIPyRXl