I’m a very proud father of two amazing girls and this Father’s Day I’m sure I’ll be showered with love and great memories, as I do every year. While Dads might get all the glory this weekend, I think Father’s Day is also an important day for them to reflect on the responsibilities of parenting.
As science would have it, I wouldn’t be a father without my partner Amber, an amazing woman who is passionate about human rights and the environment. We have been together since our teens and it’s crazy to think that we’re now on the journey of raising two young girls and preparing them for all that life has to offer.
Our oldest daughter Phoenix (Wunba) is innovate and creative by nature and at 9, she’s now reached that age of coming to understand life. As she’s gotten older, her presence has become bigger and when she walks into a room, it’s powerful. Phoenix has a very big heart.
Our youngest daughter Topaz (Walbul-Walbul) is clever little trickster. Before she was born, our eldest wanted to call her ‘Sparkle Pop’, and even though we opted for something a little more low key, this has become her nickname in the house. Topaz has an old soul. I’ve seen her figure stuff out as an 3 year old, that even 10 year olds can’t do. The other week, for example, she wanted to figure out how to set up a mini green screen using stickmen in an animation studio app. Amber and I are just blown away when we see her doing this kind of stuff, but I have to say it’s a little scary at times, because now she knows how to leave the house.
The girls have a lot of Yalanji warrior women in their lives to draw great insight from. My Nana Wilma Walker, My Mum, Cousin Natalie Walker, and sisters Merindi and Deline are just some of the amazing and inspiring Yalanji women who I see paving the way for the next generations.
As a Yalanji man now living in the city, I get worried about what the kids are learning or picking up at school.
Although we live in bustling Sydney, our minds are set on Yalanji country and the stories we share from that way brings us a little closer to that country. I know that the role I need to play as a father is to ensure that I teach my girls the stories of our old people, because these stories hold a lot of the answers to the issues that my girls will face in life. These stories will prepare them to be warriors and help understand their place as proud Yalanji women.
It’s not rocket science that kids are taught attitudes and behaviours from an early age. As the father of girls, I am conscious of messages in wider-Australian society that girls are less than boys or attitudes that boxes them into particular roles. Therefore, the stories I tell my girls are ones where women are rightfully warriors.
Using Aboriginal Storytelling to raise kids
I like to think I approach parenthood from a cultural perspective and teach my kids cause and effect through storytelling.
Perhaps this approach can take a little longer than counting to three or putting them in the ‘naughty corner’, but I’ve found that both, Topaz and Phoenix end up understanding human engagement and their environment much more because they are connecting to culture along the way.
We teach them our traditional stories that showcase great powerful women that are just as fierce as – if not more than – the men and what I like about our stories is that they all link back to the matriarch, Mother Earth and ensure that we care for her over all.
Gameplay in Aboriginal storytelling
People have used stories as a means of moral education for thousands of years, tens of thousands of years in Aboriginal peoples’ case. What better way to embed morals and values then through an epic story?
When I first started instilling regular storytelling in our household, the girls’ eyes lit up because they are hearing me talk in language. Now, the kids will finish the story’s ending and even add their own traditional names in the narrative. It’s really cute, actually, and almost like gameplay for them. Indigenous people have used games as a way of passing on morals for thousands of years and if kids know their songlines then they know the morals enshrined within the stories. Only recently has Western science found that gameplay is our brain retaining knowledge.
There is a lot everyone can learn from Indigenous storytelling including non-Indigenous people. If wider society embraced our storytelling as a way of imparting morals about issues like gender equality and caring for the Earth, we might find that future generations will grow to value, not only each other but also the environment.
Aboriginal storytelling provides holistic values for kids
Indigenous storylines connect over vast distances and its enshrined by traditional laws that put women at the forefront of our existence and when the mother speaks we listen, we respond and we make our storylines. But of course, Aboriginal stories aren’t just stories as they uphold the very essence of what it is to be human and live at peace with each other and the earth. And raising kids in this Indigenous way involves the entire community as our culture is collective in nature. I like the fact in our communities both women and men have to protect and maintain their stories which has continued for thousands of years and all these stories are interlinked and enshrined in our traditional laws. If a law is broken or a song is ever lost this has a major impact not only one person but the entire community and its this holistic approach to value systems that differs from western society.
I don't think you can just simply educate people about gender inequalities and not teach them about racism. I believe that western society needs to adopt a holistic approach to passing on values like the Indigenous people have done for thousands of years. For young kids, it’s the ethics and morals embedded in these stories that will teach them basics of respect for all things.
It's important to teach our kids respectful behaviours of women from an early age to combat negative society attitudes in the future. Stop It At The Start is a campaign aiming to create a safer place for women. How you do #StopItAtTheStart?