Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-94) wife of John F Kennedy, First Lady of the US 1961-3: once said “If you bungle raising your children I don’t think whatever else you do well - matters very much”.
I support those words from the former first lady of the United States of America. The actions of parents of Indigenous children, especially their child rearing practices, will have serious ramifications for us all today, and in the years to come.
If lessons are not learnt, and damaged minds healed, then adverse inter-generational symptoms will continue to be played out in thousands of Indigenous homes around the nation regularly - if not daily - for many of our mob. The insidious diseases of alcoholism, drug dependency, domestic violence and pedophilia have no colour prejudice when afflicting victims.
If you wish to drink and take drugs to excess, and become consumed by uncontrollable jealousy, then you’re a possible candidate for one of these diseases. While the symptoms are widespread - the cure is unfortunately something you can’t just buy in a packet or bottle at your local pharmacy.
What I believe we need to do to assist us in addressing many of our social ills is to return to the past to find answers for the future. Take for example my father Jim Hagan who most definitely wasn’t born into a life of comfort.
His grandmother Trella was a Kullilli lady from far southwest Queensland whose memory of her early childhood, like her ancestors before her, was one of having no recollection of the European race. But in her later teenage years Trella’s lifestyle as she knew it changed irreversibly with the unannounced arrival of a travelling band of peculiar looking white people in unfamiliar clothing to her country.
Included in this horde of pale skinned invaders in search of instant riches and a new beginning was an oddly appealing fellow who became openly besotted by her - an Irishman named Joseph Hagan.
Joseph Hagan, a hard working entrepreneurial man who turned his hand to all challenging rural pursuits, continued his affair with the beautiful Trella on her traditional country and had several children with her before returning to southern New South Wales to be with his Irish wife and their 13 children.
When Trella and Joseph’s son Albert reached working age he travelled within his vast traditional lands working from one cattle property to another before meeting and settling down with his wife Jessie, from the neighbouring Mardigany tribe, on the fringe of Cunnamulla with a long term goal of providing a stable education base for their expanding family.
Albert emulated his Irish father, not in the procreation stakes, but as an entrepreneur running his own grocery store in a fringe camp populated by over 300 other displaced traditional owners who arrived in the “Yumba” out of necessity rather than choice.
Try picturing an Indigenous man, in 1937 - 30 years before the Referendum - setting up a grocery store with no electricity or running water selling non-perishables in direct opposition to the local chamber of commerce members 2km away: who frowned on him as a dumb black, who was financially inept, and who they thought wouldn’t last a week in that commercially challenging line of business.
Albert, who successfully managed his flourishing business for many years, wanted more than anything else to be a positive role model for his children and grandchildren. To that end he exceeded all expectations.
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