Ten years ago I was living and working overseas when I had one of those ‘shock’ moments, realising that I did not know anything about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the owners of the country in which I was born. I grew up in a predominantly white community and knew only one Aboriginal boy, who had been adopted by a white family. My ‘knowledge’ came from antiquated history books and that was about it. Apparently in one of our long distance phone conversations I said to my Mum that when I came home I wanted to work with Aboriginal kids. I don’t remember saying it, but when I finally did arrive home I enrolled in a Diploma of Aboriginal Studies, because I wanted to learn. Three weeks after I started studying I saw a job advertised with NASCA (National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy) and I knew they were advertising for me. Eight years later, I’m still there.
Working with NASCA has been an incredible journey for me personally, but also for my friends, family and many others I’ve met over the last eight years. Through my experiences I’ve been able to educate and re-educate. I’ve realised how little most non-Indigenous people know about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, people and cultures, and how much of what they think they know is incorrect. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with airport taxi drivers who ask me what I do and where I’ve been, which is usually the Northern Territory and then proceed to rattle off the negative stories and stereotypes they’ve seen in the media. Comments such as ‘I had no idea this happened in Australia’ when I mention the lack of access to education and other services, the Stolen Generations, entrenched racism, self-determination etc, are frequent.