Men's Talk: Aboriginal ways of being uncles, mentors, dads, grandfathers and friends.

Here at the Ngukuthati Men's Shed we're  determined for young men to see a good future. That's why we marched through the streets of Mount Isa wearing t-shirts saying 'Suicide is not the answer'

Some of us have been through the ringer. But we've learned things out of these hard times.

About this project

This project was facilitated by Dulwich Centre Foundation in collaboration with Centacare, North Queensland. Many people have been involved in Mount Isa, Normanton and Cloncurry! We would particularly like acknowledge the contributions of: Leeanne Harris, Desley Ah Wing, Anthony Newcastle, Musa Zakizada, Bill Morris, Mark-John Winter and Martin Jugadai.

Funding for this project was from:

Centacare, SLT, BRIDGE, RAIFS and Department of Communities.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Kelly Wicks

    I would like to send my deepest thanks to all of the Men and Elders who contributed and shared their knowledge in these insightful films. As a woman who is privileged to work with families in the local community it has greatly increased my understanding of the experiences of men whose voices and worldviews are often overlooked in working with families due to a range of social and cultural reasons. Through sharing your stories you have enabled me to be more mindful of the important role you play in the lives of not only your families but building stronger communities. Thank you.
    Human Services Worker

  2. Nyirinkwaya Serge

    My name is Nyirinkwaya Serge, from Rwanda a small country in East Africa, also known as the country of a thousand hills! I was moved by hearing your wonderful stories on ways of being uncles, mentors, dads, grandfathers and friends.

    I am married and a father of two daughters and one son. Your words were so inspiring for me as I always seek to be a good dad and mentor for. Beyond that, my professional work involves engaging with communities to provide psychosocial support to vulnerable children and young people. One of the difficulties we encounter is to engage men when in our traditions, child care is mostly attributed to women. So, what you are doing is really unique and admirable, and If you allow me that, I will use your examples as a contribution to how men can find ways of working with children and not be boring!!

    I liked the Ngukuthati Men’s Shed T-shirts and words that “suicide is not the answer”. I am very sure that this will have a strong impact on the young people you are trying to support. Your initiative reminded me of a personal story where I got support from men that belonged to a same community-based organization as my father before he died.
    I lost my parents and siblings when I was 16, during the genocide against Tutsis that bloodied our country in 1994. My father refused to involve himself in the genocide, so perpetrators from his community came and killed the entire family. I was also injured but could survive. In the period that followed the tragedy, although I did not have suicidal thoughts, but whenever I got through hardships, I would wonder why I survived as if I wished to have died with others.

    There was then this man Daniel, that was a friend of my dad, they belonged to the same community-based organization, supporting young girls with vocational skills. Whenever Daniel met me, he would ask how I was feeling, how I was doing at school and if he could be of any support. We did meet only three times in the period I was going through hard times but those were real sparkling moments. He gave me hope, support and reasons to believe in life. Daniel died in 2002 but what he did for me, the steps I could achieve from his little support are still memorable. When I heard about your initiatives, I thought about Daniel. I think I would call you the “Daniels” of the young people you are trying to reach out to in your communities. Your messages are so powerful and I can tell you that what you are doing now will have a long-lasting positive affect in ways you cannot imagine, even when you will be no longer alive to see it. The story of my Dad and Daniel illustrates this.

    Some of the stories on being a role model for children, being patient with them, talking to them in a non-degrading way, keeping links with kids no matter what, spending good time with them, the desire to offer them the best so that they can see a good future, all this resonated with what my community needs to strengthen. I wonder what children and young people in your communities would say or feel when hearing or watching these films! Can you think about that? Surely, they would be proud of their dads, uncles, grandfathers…!

  3. Hetty

    Brothers from the Aboriginal way of being uncles, mentors, dads, grandfathers and friends film series. I have been blessed to get a chance to watch your conversations on film from the your amazing project. My heart was really opened as I heard men of different ages and experiences discussing what is important to aboriginal men in Australia. As a Black man in the United States your conversations remind me once again that the experience of colonization and the harm it does to our communities is not unique, but also the resistance to colonization and harm is also not unique. In fact the clearest message I heard from you in the films is the importance of resisting and holding on to culture and community strength. I was particularly happy to watch and listen to Shawn Major in the films talking about his work with young boys and it reminded me of how important re-membering and re-connecting to nature, community, traditions and values is for our mental health and well being. I also smiled and cried some as I listened to the young men discuss racism and segregation and shared in the experience that I think we Black folk have of using humor to soften our experiences of racism sometimes. I resonated so much with what seemed to be the overall message to me that it is important for us to learn as men to live in peace in the Western world with our own culture. Our cultures are our road to remaining healthy and surviving for the day when we will know complete liberation. Thank you brothers again for this wonderful series of conversations with the men of your communities.

    Makungu Akinyela
    Ph.D., LMFT
    Licensed Couple and Family Therapist
    Atlanta, Georgia, USA

  4. Julie Moss

    Greetings from the heart of Cherokee tribal territories, Tahlequah, OK Indian Territory USA,

    I was asked for a response if I was moved to do so by viewing the videos and stories of the Men’s Talk Project. My first thought was what could I an American Indian woman say to men there about being better fathers, uncles mentors? But, as I viewed the videos, visions came to me of scenes from having raised my son. During my son’s growing up years, his father, my husband was a spiritual leader among our people and also a community organizer and activist. So, he was traveling around the world, helping people and not around home much as my son grew up. I found myself as the main parent, many times, the sole parent. My son is mildly developmentally disabled. He is now 39 years old, he has always had long hair and is strikingly and identifiably American Indian.

    Story no. 1: As a young child, my son would come home from public school upset. His teacher was giving him a hard time about having long hair. She was telling him he needed to cut it and it looked bad. I decided I needed to have a talk with my son to help him. I sat with him and told him that his hair was sacred. That it signified that he was a warrior and it was something to be proud of. It changed his demeanor he then walked proudly and he told his teacher what I had said and she never said another word to him about his hair. I also around this time, found myself teaching my son how to build a fire when he was very young. I myself grew up in the backwoods and thought of this as a critical skill for him to know. Later, I also taught him how to throw, pass and kick a football and play catch with a baseball. (all the usual little boy things a father would normally do with his son.) Thankfully, my husband also taught him how to fish and we took him with us while we as a family would gather food from the forest.

    Story no. 2: As my son began to grow up. He was on the verge of entering manhood. I found myself extremely nervous and scared for him as he was about to grow into a striking American Indian man, (one that would draw attention without trying to). He and I also have Shawnee tribal ancestry as well as other tribal bloodlines. So as he was at this critical moment of his age, we attended Shawnee tribal ceremonies. I was speaking to one of the elder women. She encouraged me to let him dance with the men. I told her he did not have the regalia. But she said never mind that he can still dance. I told her we would take a year to prepare him then he would dance with the men the following year. So, we did that. As the year unfolded, items of regalia came to him as gifts from friends and family. He received a ribbon shirt, a handmade breechcloth, moccassins, ankle bells, and a small headdress called a roach made of horsehair that would be tied to his braided scalp lock. And he wore his long hair down. He looked amazingly beautiful in his regalia. He took part in and danced with the Shawnee men for four years, We looked at it as his ceremonial journey into manhood. This was in my eyes a ritual manhood ceremony. It turned out to be exactly what he needed to prepare him for this critical next stage of his life. Through this journey with him, I became calm about everything. It completely eased all my fears for his future as a man. I am forever grateful that the Great Spirit saw fit to honor us with providing this opportunity for him to take part in these ceremonies. In that ceremony, the men rode in on horses, my son for the first three years of taking part, walked behind those on horses. But in the fourth year, a magnificent white horse was provided for him to ride as the Chief drummed, and they sang ancient ceremonial songs circling the ceremonial grounds and sacred fire at its center. So in his fourth year of taking part in these ceremonies, my son was honored to ride with the warriors on a magnificent white horse in his tribal regalia with his long beautiful black hair blowing in the wind. It was a dramatic and powerful image I will always remember of his journey into manhood.

    I told my son many stories during his growing up years to help him look at things in positive ways in the beauty of our culture.

    I hope these stories may help in some way to encourage each of you to find ways to look at the strengths of your Indigenous ways to pave the way for helping your young people to see and gather strength from the beauty of their culture.

    Julie Moss

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