Wednesday, July 10, 2013

DETERMINATION, DEDICATION, MOTIVATION! An inspiring NAIDOC message from Jacob Ridgeway

 Jacob with other young leaders at the QIYLP in Brisbane
I was in a dark place in my life! I lost many significant people in my life in various ways, such as manslaughter, suicide, multiple car accidents, cancer and drowning, before I even turned 21. These things happened in such a short amount of time, but the thing that was a catalyst to my spiral was the stopping of the attempted suicide of one of my best mates at the time.
I was deep in depression; anxiety was growing and dealing with post-traumatic stress/flashbacks and I was surrounding myself with negative influences. Spiralling out of control with the use of alcohol, smoking and the domino effect eventually continued to substance abuse. I was still working, paying bills but it wasn’t long before I found myself borrowing money, selling items I worked hard for, angry at the world and pushing the people I love and care so much for away. I neglected the reasons why I was depressed, which were loss and grief.
My name is Jacob Ridgeway a proud young Worimi & Kamilaroi man. That is the person I unfortunately become but my positive change was yet to come
In February, I made a sacrifice to move 2000km away with a car full of belongings from my home in Newcastle in NSW and move north to Townsville in QLD. I quit smoking, stopped drinking and separated myself from the negatives in my life that were making me unhappy. I called it downsizing the quantity of life and upgrading my quality of life but had no specific timeframe. I managed to lose 17kgs, stopped drinking/smoking and pushed aside the people who couldn’t support the fact I want better for myself and for one day a family of my own. I soon gained employment and a hunger for higher quality independence with my own place to live.
My pace personally and professionally began to pick up but what I didn’t anticipate was that an email to apply from the Queensland Indigenous Youth Leadership Program would change my life. With the support of my work place, I applied for the program not knowing what to think, but knowing I would learn some tools to better myself and to better others on my journey.
Last week I had the opportunity to meet 40-50 strangers in the Queensland Indigenous Youth Leadership Program 2013 in Brisbane. I had the opportunity to listen to some deadly people from all aspects of life and hear their journey. Some of these people included Dr Anita Heiss, Kaylah Tyson, Mark Hunter, Wally Tallis, Luke Carroll  and many of the individuals or people from various government and non-government organisations.
Each guest speaker had their story of trials and triumphs and the thing I began to think about was that ‘There are many more ways to measure success in this life’. They all had a simple concept of ‘Dream it, Believe it, Achieve it’. This concept is all well and good, however a crucial aspect of this concept was missing which is ‘Plan it’. All the above people emphasised the importance of goal setting and all mentioned how that is was a key factor of success and reaching their outcomes.
Queensland Indigenous Youth Leadership Program 2013 has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I did things that I thought I would never do without liquid confidence such as clowning/performing around the mall, singing up around the bar. I was blessed to meet new people who also shared a vision for themselves and those around them. The support and encouragement from everyone was incredible.
Friday 5th July 2013, I was involved in probably the most powerful experiences of my life with other participants. We had an adjournment debate on about things or issues that were important to us. Tears were flowing from the stories told and it was great to see people who I could now call friends express their topics with such passion, very moving.
Below is a copy of my speech that meant the world to me to share which was inspired from a yarn with Justin Noel and by presentations of Dr. Anita Heiss & Kaylah Tyson.
“I knew I was here to grow and lead, absorbing truth and wisdom to believe and achieve.
Here with all my Murri mob in Brissy for the week, but it wasn’t so long ago that future seemed just bleak.
Depression & dependence were some obstacles for me, not to mention these growing pains I had with anxiety.
Made the shift from Newy & moved up north to the ‘Ville, made commitments to myself of which I knew I had to deal.
Stability with my job; stability with my weight; stability for my family for mind, body and souls sake.
Completed my goals now and so ready to make new ones, time to take this chance I have to lead but remember to have fun.
I lost the morals of the man my parents raised me to be, though I’m not the only brother or sister to struggle with loss of identity.
Help nurture our talents and our skills; we are the oldest culture you know, because our people are more than the negative traits that the media only seem to show.”
This was the 1st time I had openly expressed my inner battles and it was a relief to express issues with the support of those around me. I not long after found a passion within myself which I haven’t had in a very long time.
Jeremy Ambrum played a massive role in my speech in where we had a conversation at the start of the week and the reoccurring theme was ‘Vulnerability’. I now know that letting go of my personal barriers is essential for happiness and wellbeing. I use to think of it as a weakness, but it’s the complete opposite. We need to be open to feel anything because vulnerability is honesty. Thank you my brother.
Last week I had the opportunity to meet 40-50 strangers in the Queensland Indigenous Youth Leadership Program 2013 in Brisbane. This week I can now call these strangers my family. Thank you to everyone, I will never forget the past week and know that you guys have played an important role in my life's journey.
I'm grateful for the work Nigel Daisy, Amy Wockner and especially Louisa Panuel put in for us along with Aaron Nagas, Justin Noel and all mentors involved especially our teams’ mentor Regina Orcher (Team Purple). I can’t thank you guys enough for the time and effort placed in our group.
This is just the beginning; beginning of a new chapter; new step; a chance to use the skills that have empowered us to instil positive change from the bottom to the top, from wherever our path takes us. Be sure to remember the achievements, milestones, hard work, setbacks and sacrifices that we have encounter as each one defines where were are at, where we have been and where we are going.
My short term goals are:
                Completing Cert 4 – Mental Health.
                Visit Cairns.
                Keep learning the guitar.
                Keep seeing a vocal coach.
                Post videos or recordings of me singing.

Long term goals are:

                Move to Brisbane.
                Record music.
                Combine my skills welfare and music to tell my story and build awareness of issues in community.
                Have a beautiful girl and family of my own to share and support each other’s gifts, dreams and goals.

I can’t effectively do all this on my own in Townsville and need to finish rebuilding my relationship with my immediate family. I have unfinished business in Newcastle and I need to take a step back for me to move forward. I have made the hard decision to return home for now but my goals and focus remains the same. DETERMINATION, DEDICATION, MOTIVATION!
NAIDOC week is a special time for me. It gives me time to reflect & celebrate the history, culture and achievements of our people. NAIDOC is a time where we get the opportunity to share our culture on a broader level. NAIDOC is a great opportunity to participate actively and support community.
This year I have had the opportunity on being a guest at Heatley State School and Ingham High School. This is an honour to be able to represent my people so far away from home and speak about the pride I hold with my Aboriginal heritage and history.
When I think of people that helped shape where we are today names come up like Eddie Mabo Charles Perkins Cathy Freeman, Arthur Beetson and Ernie Dingo. On a more personal level I think of people back in my own community such as my father Justin Ridgeway (First Worimi Police Officer), relative Dr. Kelvin Kong   (First Indigenous Surgeon), friend & mentor Joel Wenitong   (The Last Kinection – Medicine Student) but the big name for me would be my grandfather & Worimi Elder Noel ‘John’ Ridgeway OAM.
You ask any member of our family or community and he is a man who has been through the struggle; he is a man who has done it tough; he has paid his dues; been rewarded with the highest of accolades for our people and is well respected by our community and its surrounds. This respect was shown recently when he needed urgent surgery to correct deteriorating vision and community held a fundraiser to assist. We had plenty of donations, raffles & auctions rolling in but the biggest names I seen on the list were Anthony and Tony Mundine. Anthony and Tony donated a set of signed boxing gloves for auction to help my pop.
I know how important our pop is to us as a family but it was an eye opener just to see how important he is to our community and other areas. The list of awards he has received is remarkable so it shouldn’t be a surprise of the influence he has had on our people. This list includes OAM, Premiers Medal, Port Stephens Citizen of the Year and many more.
To finish I would like to say; be proud of who are; have fun; embrace yourself, your strengths and continually push our limits to better ourselves and our people and spread the message of love and respect to ourselves and each other.

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