Good morning, my friends, family and other readers. This morning I wanted to write about happy things as that is a current reflection of my life.
While I was deliberating under the Bismarkia tree, with my cup of tea and Girls close by, I browsed Facebook posts until I came to a crime update group where I read some comments that stirred me from my apathetic role of observer and internaliser of injustice and my conscience and soul compelled me to speak up.
I’m speaking of youth crime in particular, which unfortunately, has often been perpetrated by the young of a culture within our community who struggle to survive on a daily basis.
We are aware of some of the issues but many of us have not known how to help, or have been afraid, so we have stayed silent for too long.
I hear the term ‘do gooder’ too often when people speak up however, to my shame, I have been silent for too long. For this I am deeply embarrassed and hope my friends will not hold it against me.
I am not condoning crime; I have also been frightened and angry about the injustice of the criminal acts being perpetrated, however I realise that the only hope of reducing this crime is to address the issues of the youth involved. I believe that requires consultation with members of that culture as well as members of our culture, in a respectful and progressive way forward.
Shortly after, I read a very sad, brave and honest post from an Indigenous person who bared her story to us.
It was a story of alcohol, sexual and domestic abuse in her community and the lack of voice children and women have about their issues.
She recognised the crime epidemic confronting us all and addressed it in her story.
She talked about money, sometimes forcibly obtained, being spent on alcohol and not food, the lack of positive role models and the despair from facing these huge issues with no voice and no control.
I have been reflecting on my writing and doing lots of reading and reflecting on the message in the stories that I read. It is easy enough to write and paint a picture for readers to be enthralled by, but I have pondered long and hard on what message I want my writing to carry. I want my writing to be worthwhile and not a negative influence on others.
I am sharing the post from this remarkably brave young woman in her own very powerful words in the hope of this message from her being a way forward for all of us, in peace, respect and consultation. I know that this will not be an easy way forward, but nothing worthwhile ever is. 😊❤️🙏
My name is Cheron Long
I grew up in a small community called Bulla in the Northern Territory. It is a place that I have very dark feelings for. I am the oldest child out of 6 children. My brother who’s 5 and 4 sisters 7, 10, 11 and my sister Meesha who turns 18 in a couple month time.
Because of the neglect from my family I have been the main carer for my brothers and sisters for a long time now.
I’ve got two children of my own as well. It’s been very hard raising them as well as my brother and sisters but they have no one else to watch over them and keep them safe.
There is alcohol fueled violence in our community every day, too much drunk fighting. It is not a safe or healthy environment for our kids. On any given day you can see and hear women getting assaulted by their partners. You can see kids walking around from house to house looking for food. The kids see the drunken parties, they see and hear the drunks walking around Bulla yelling abuse at people.
We have to live with an ‘Aboriginal rape culture’. Sexual abuse is accepted as normal in too many Aboriginal communities. When I have been interviewed by the media I have been told not to use these words because they demonize Aboriginal men.
The media don’t want to hear the truth. But white feminists are allowed to say whatever they want. Why is it that Aboriginal women and children suffer the most but they won’t let us have our own voice when it comes to violence and sexual abuse in this country? Why won’t they let us tell our own story?
We can’t fix our problems because we cannot tell the truth about what is happening. There is no support for the victims in these communities, only for the perpetrators.
I can’t stop thinking about my cousin Layla Leering. She was found dead under a tree in Bulla. The police said she killed herself, that it was suicide. Then why did she suffer vaginal and anal injuries just before she died?
My cousin was like so many teens in her community. She lived life with no support. She lived with constant boredom. She was always looking for something to take her mind off her problems. My cousin like too many other young girls looked for alcohol and gunga to escape from the pain and boredom. This is their reality.
Layla was so bored that she would hang around with a lot of the older family members. Most of the time she’d get drunk with them. She got no support from family and she kept failing at school so her life just got worse and worse. Instead of helping her, adult relatives would give her alcohol and encourage her to drink although that was against the law. She never stood a chance.
A lot of welfare reports were filed but there was no follow up. Her care was transferred from family in Bulla to family in Katherine. That failed very quickly and she soon ended up back in the alcohol fueled life of Bulla. That led to her horrible death. The coroner said, “she died in suspicious circumstances”.
In the hours before her death witnesses said that she was drunk, arguing and fighting with a 30 year old male family member over alcohol in the main street in Bulla.
The coroner’s report also said that an underage male she knew admitted to having sex with her when she was drunk just before she was found dead.
Because they couldn’t find enough evidence and because people in the community would not talk to them the police decided there was no foul play. They decided that my 15 year old cousin had killed herself.
There are so many young girls out in the bush who have no voice and are too afraid to talk up, to tell the world what is happening to them. They are forced to be silent.
Under customary law it is widely accepted for older men to take an underage bride by force. Some times this is supported by the criminal justice system. Many older men have been given a ‘slap on the wrist’ sentence for raping their underage promised wives.
When customary law is accepted it is always the victims who suffer not the perpetrators. Everybody knows that Aboriginal women suffer the most from DV right across the nation. Yet customary law does not let young women and girls have a voice.
No one thinks about young girls like my cousin Layla who have their lives brutally cut short by the toxic, vicious community culture. That culture is never talked about. These young ones are the hidden victims with no voices and it is wrong! They need a voice! They are citizens too. They have the same human rights as any other girls in this country.
Australia needs to see what my mob go through every day. It hurts me when I see these Change the Date protests about Australia Day. They don’t have anything to say about the abuse that Aboriginal women and children go through every day at the hands of other aboriginal people. The protestors push us down, they don’t care about us. They don’t want to hear the truth.
For me, Australia Day is full of happiness and sadness all mixed up. We should all think about our past and celebrate how far we have come as one people. It is a day for celebration and reflection and by God it should stay that way.
There is a youth crime epidemic at the moment in the Northern Territory. It is much worse there than in the rest of the country.
I’m sure many of you would have seen the recent story on a Current Affair, about the youth crime crisis Alice Springs. These are very real problems that need very real answers.
Good people are prisoners in their own town. They are afraid to go out at night and afraid to go to sleep. Car thefts, break and enters, assaults, DV, willful damage, disorderly conduct and anti-social behavior are daily issues for police and community members.
And these problems are only getting worse. The kids who prowl around the town in large groups are looking for refuge from a bad home life. They are often turning to the streets to get away from their homes and families. Their home life is filled with alcohol and violence.
When I was a young kid growing up alcohol was around me everywhere I turned. Both my mother and my father were heavy drinkers. There was very little escape from it. Many other kids in my community were in this same situation with no good home life and no support. The chance to run away to town for a couple days and prowl the streets was always a better option than sitting around watching all the adults get drunk and fight.
They would spend all the welfare money that was meant for the kids on grog. It was damper for breakfast, lunch and dinner as the money was all wasted. We had to rely on elderly family members, poor, sick, old people for food because of the lack of parental responsibility.
Running away to town was an escape for many youngsters. Having no positive role models makes for a very hard up bringing. Often kids are left to grow themselves up. The basic principles of life are not taught to many of the young ones. Bullies and perpetrators are the heroes. Many bow down to them in fear.
I hear Aboriginal leaders in our parliament attack other members of parliament because they are white when they try to speak up for us. This is not true reconciliation. When I hear Aboriginal leaders say that they feel unsafe in their own workplace parliament house in Canberra because they are Aboriginal I think — well why don’t you come and live in a remote community for just one week and then tell me if you féel safe?
When I hear academics and Aboriginal leaders slam the Basic Card /Cashless Debit Card I think — why don’t you ask us women who have to feed children and try to keep our money safe from relatives who want to take it from us for alcohol and gunga?
Why don’t these people fight for our rights instead of the rights of those who do the wrong thing? The respect for culture and elders is at an all- time low as well as the willingness to teach or practice culture in many areas because of alcohol abuse.
I would love to see these Change the Date protesters come to places like Alice Springs and Bulla to march and protest for the kids. They are the ones who need everyone’s support. They are the most vulnerable. They are not being supported enough by their own families, their communities or the Aboriginal organisations. They are the ones whose voices are silenced. The protestors, the Aboriginal leaders, the politicians need to learn to listen to them.
I invite anybody to come and tour the remote communities out bush and see what is happening on the ground instead of shouting your opinions and making statements from the city and trying to silence those who are trying to tell the truth. Please come out and visit with your eyes and ears open. I CHALLENGE YOU!
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Australian Black Conservative