Leadership

“Truth-telling, and being heard and understood is healing”

By Madison Howarth

Leadership

By Madison Howarth

Truth-telling has been a central part of my growing up. From a young age I knew that the Stolen Generations were something that had a direct impact on my family.

I knew that my great grandmother, Kathleen Miller, was stolen from her mother when she was ten years old. That in the early hours of the morning, police forced their way into her Redfern home and took her siblings.

She hid under the bed, watching the black shoes stomping around her home, ripping young children from their beds while they slept. My great grandmother escaped that night, but would later be taken to Cootamundra Girls Home. She didn’t see her own mother again until she was 18.

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t know about what happened and the even more uncomfortable truth of why it happened.  That white Australians of the time believed that Aboriginal people, their culture and identity should be destroyed and had no place in this country. Our country.

The perfect way to do this was to steal our children away from their first teachers, their own parents. My great grandmother told my uncle, when he was writing his own book, that, “they were making us white-think, white-look, white-act white. That was the main standard of Cootamundra.”

It was important to know these things. As hard as they were to hear. Because for my mob, and I, truth-telling is part of healing. It’s my privilege to have a book written by my uncle about what happened to Nan and my family. But it’s every human being’s right to know the truth.

“Women from all walks of life have been there for one another. One woman’s pain was every woman’s pain. One woman’s suffering was every woman’s suffering. None of us suffers alone.”

It has been a pivotal year for exposing uncomfortable truths in Australia. Women have marched together, huddled together, and come together to support one another. I’ve heard it been called a reckoning so many times.

They have shown us that it is exhausting but necessary to acknowledge wrongdoings, however uncomfortable they might be. We first need to know them, to move forward and set things right.

Women from all walks of life have been there for one another. One woman’s pain was every woman’s pain. One woman’s suffering was every woman’s suffering. None of us suffers alone.

As Indigenous women, it’s not always like that for us.

“It’s a pretty isolating thing to be an Indigenous woman walking around a big city and thinking that nobody’s got your back,” Gamilaroi woman and Today Show presenter Brooke Boney told Future Women’s International Women’s Day event last year.

And she’s right.

“Indigenous women, despite everything are always at the helm of forcing change.”

This year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘Heal Country’. And for me? Truth-telling is healing. More than that, truth-telling, and being heard and understood is healing. To know the full story and the true history of this country to better understand where we are today.

Stories are integral to our culture as Aboriginal people. It is how we learn, pass on knowledge and it has been how we heal. And Indigenous women are leading the charge, putting words into action to create meaningful change.

Indigenous women, despite everything are always at the helm of forcing change. They’ve been doing this work for generations and continue to. But the reason we keep going, facing the truth and doing this work is because it’s not a choice for us.

It’s a necessity. It’s about survival.

Shannan Dodson, a Yawuru woman, National NAIDOC Committee member and the Indigenous Affairs Advisor for Media Diversity Australia says, “We don’t do this as a job or as a career. It’s much more than that. This is about our livelihood. It’s about our families and communities and wanting to create a future that is better for them”.

For hundreds of years white Australia has lived in a blissful ignorance. A country that has turned its eyes away from the horrors that led to intergenerational trauma within the Indigenous community. A country that keeps leaving us behind in measures of health, economic status, education and employment.

Truth-telling may be new for today’s white Australia.

But it isn’t new for us. If only they’d let us lead the way.

 

Madison Howarth will host FW Live on Friday 9 July at 4pm. She will interview Mundanara Bayles, a Wonnarua, Bunjalung and Birri-Gubba, Gungalu woman and host of the Black Magic Woman podcast. Tune in at Future Women’s Facebook page.