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Being a descendant from a sixth generation convict, Charlotte Simpson Hall, and being born and raised in Tasmania, we had very little exposure to First Nations people of the land. When I arrived into Queensland, I had my first real encounters with a range of people who were Australian First Nations.
In 1990, in the Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, I had a beautiful encounter with an Australian Aboriginal man from Alice Springs area, about my age (32 at the time) and after a few weeks, I asked if he would like to come back to meet my family at New Farm. He replied, “Yes, next week?” We set up a time and then on the day, he never showed. I never saw him again. His name was Ray. Years later, I was discussing this with a First Nations Elder. She laughed and said that this did not happen (the dinner at my home) because very few “white fellas” asked First Nations people to eat with them – especially at home. It dawned on me then that these relationships must and do take time. Trust had been broken down for decades with the invaders (their perspective) and that building these relationships do take time, then when respect is built both ways, that opportunities will present to then do things together to achieve joint outcomes. So, what did I learn from my “Ray moment”?
1. Relationship #1
This is very different to the “Western/European” idea. In most cases it is the reverse order. Think about this.
My second great encounter was meeting Dusty in West End. View the poem I wrote in his families honour here.
The next article is from Patrick Comenford who shared with me when we were chatting about building this Podcast series. He mentioned about his first encounter with a First Nations man he met at Toowong, Brisbane a few years ago.
This what he shared…
“I finished Pilates, a late morning session, at Toowong and was walking down High Street to the car.
A bloke sidled up to me and asked, “Mate, can you give me ten bucks”? He presented as an aboriginal bloke, sounded like it too. He was wearing active gear, like me, but a little worn and tatty.
I said, “What do you want ten bucks for”? He replied “To be honest, I’d like to go and have a few beers”.
“That’s interesting” I said “I might have a couple with you”.
He was gobsmacked. We were over the road from the Royal Exchange, Toowong (RE), so I suggested we duck in there for a bit. Off we went.
I shouted him a couple of beers, enjoying a couple myself, and I found out a bit about him. Turns out he was from up on the Sunshine Coast and had come down to help his ailing Mother. He had a job as a truck driver of a log truck, had been doing it for years.
He was absolutely skint because he had coughed up a heap of dough to pay the ‘out of pocket expenses’ for his Mums specialists. He told me all about the nations his people had come from, way out west, must have been the Bidjara people I recall.
I had to keep going, so I gave him enough for another couple of beers and took off.
I bumped into him a few weeks later; he could barely walk and was drinking from a bottle in a paper bag. I don’t think he could remember me, but I stopped and said hello. I asked him what he was drinking. “Hidden Gem” he said, “Three bucks at First Choice”.
I asked after his Mum and he told me she was no longer in the land of the living. I asked him about his job and he let me know that his employer of over a decade had let him go when he had to be away for so long. He had not told them about his Mum; that was his business.
He disengaged then, so I said goodbye and left him.
It’s a funny world we live in; how quickly somethings change and how slow do others.
I enjoy a tipple of the Hidden Gem each night, nothing wrong with it, even cheaper if you have a FlyBuys card. If I see him again, I’ll give him mine I think.”
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