A yarn with Gamilaroi/Wailwan woman Shaan Peeters about supporting yourself and your kin

Aboriginal woman hugging grandchild (1)

*not actual photo of author

This article was produced through a partnership with Cox Inall Ridgeway, an Aboriginal social change agency. This article has been written and reviewed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

It’s vital for young people to grow up with a sense of pride in who they are, to know where their mob is from, and to learn their language and culture. As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we need to strive to strengthen our connection to all that was lost as a result of colonisation.

However, while I believe a strong cultural identity is important, we also need to recognise that not all First Nations people know their history or mob – and there shouldn’t be any shame in this.

When I was a child, my grannies shared with me their stories and my mother’s story, and we’ve all gone back on to Country. Those experiences connected me to my family. Once I knew where I belonged, who I was and the story of my family’s past, I felt their strength and made it my own.

If we don’t know our mob, culture and history, it’s easy to feel lost. However, we shouldn’t feel ashamed if this is due to things outside of our control.

Supporting my family to connect to our culture

As a mother and a grandmother, I try to make connecting with our culture a regular part of my family’s day-to-day life. I go with my grandchildren to their schools’ cultural events. I walk beside them and share what I know. I take them out to connect to Country, I involve them in community events, and I buy them Aboriginal books to read. Connecting with culture can be complex, but simple things like this can help support young people on this journey. To learn as much as we can, we look at resources online together and visit museums and land councils. My grandchildren’s schools also have great acknowledgement practices, so this has become part of their day-to-day learning.

I also encourage other young people to yarn with Elders and family, and to be involved in and connected to their community and Country. Passing cultural knowledge, truths and stories on to younger generations helps them to build a strong identity, and our culture, history, lore and traditions become an essential part of their being.

Young people who aren’t sure who their mob is can find more information by using:

  • their state or territory’s online Link-Up service

  • a family history and tracing service.

Leaning on others for support

It’s sometimes hard to know the right time to seek support for yourself or your family. It feels different for everyone. For me, I know I need to lean on others for support when I’m feeling disempowered, when I’m re-triggered by certain experiences and events, or when I’m generally struggling and unable to get back on track. It can sometimes be challenging to find a support service that suits me or my family, but it’s very important not to give up looking for the right fit.

Here are some ways to reach out for help:

  • Get in touch with your local Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) or Aboriginal Corporation.

  • Ask for help from family, friends and community Elders. You might want just to have a yarn with someone, or perhaps go on to Country together.

  • Talk to a local counsellor.

  • Call 13YARN (13 92 76) to speak with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander crisis supporter.

We all go through hard times. The best ways to support each other are by checking in regularly with your family and your mob, by always being a listening ear, and by sharing helpful information.