This web resource shares stories from a number of Aboriginal communities about the ways in which they have been responding to so many losses. It conveys how communities started sharing stories across great distances in order to assist one another through their grief.   

“Recently, there have been so many losses in our families and in our community. Some of these deaths have been particularly difficult as they have been deaths of young people, and death through suicide or violence. We have experienced so many losses, one after the other. It has been a real struggle to get through. There has been too much sadness. This document has been created from a discussion we had together in Port Augusta to talk about our grief, what is important to us, and the ways in which we have been responding to so many losses.”

In the following video, Aunty Carolynanha Johnson speaks with Karl Rasleigh and explains how she and others in the Port Augusta Aboriginal community began sharing their stories during a visit by Aunty Barbara Wingard, Cheryl White and David Denborough from Dulwich Centre.  

The entire document from Port Augusta ‘Responding to so many losses’ can be read here

 

These stories from Port Augusta were shared with communities in Arnhem Land who then sent messages back in return. The Yolngu people up north said:

“Their stories are so similar to what we experience. It is like they are talking for us as well. It’s like we are sharing the same problems under the one tent. We know now that these things are not just happening in Arnhem Land but also down south. We are thinking of them and now we would like to pass on something to them. We want to share our stories with them, just like they shared their stories with us. We will speak about our experiences and then link these together with the experiences of those from Port Augusta. This is about sharing knowledge and sharing stories together.”

People from Yirrkala and Gunyangara wanted to share stories back with the of Port Augusta.

One of these stories was from a young man and was called ‘Trying hard to find a future’.

A whole collection of stories from Yirrkala and Gunyangara was gathered.

Senior traditional owner Djuwalpi Marika described these stories as ‘like a healing, like a medicine’.

 

These stories are deadly

‘Deadly’ in Aboriginal lingo means ‘awesome’ or ‘fantastic’.

‘Trying hard to find a future’ was shared back in with members of the Port Augusta Aboriginal community who had all experienced many losses, including losses of young people through suicide. Many of them had also attempted suicide themselves, and many of them were struggling with issues of alcohol and other drug use. The stories from young Yolngu men were read out under an overpass near the water in Port Augusta. After the first story was read, one community member encouraged others to huddle around and listen to these important stories from up north. The words from up north were treated with great respect, and the Port Augusta community wanted very much to send these messages back to the young men of Yirrkala and Gunyangara.

It touches our hearts

Listening to the young men’s stories from up north was good stuff. It’s deadly. The way it expresses what they’re going through. It touches your heart. It’s like they’re reaching out to us to touch our hearts. The things they’re talking about are happening here today – too many drugs, alcohol, and too many deaths. A young girl committed suicide here recently. If she’d heard something like this she might still be alive. These sorts of stories are important. They can keep hope alive.

On the same track

Listening to their story about trying hard to find a future was good stuff. It was inspirational. It was something I’d never heard before, and it was a good thing to hear. I’m trying to be on that track too. It’s like I’m halfway on the track. Sometimes I get off track, and sometimes I’m on the track. It’s a bloody good story.

Life is precious

Their words made us think about how life is precious, about how we only live once and there’s no point in throwing it away. Their words have made me think of my family, my kids, grandparents, brothers and sisters. If I am feeling hopeless and I think of all of them, it stops me from cutting myself up. Their words have made me think about how precious life is. Please tell this to those young people.

Remembering People

Listening to them talk about remembering people who have died … they’re comforting words. Does it make us feel good? It’s like half and half. There is sadness remembering people who have gone, but it’s comforting too. (Aboriginal woman from Port Augusta)

Thank you for helping me remember my daughter

These tears are because I’m remembering my daughter. She died five years ago. She died through cot death. I was holding her in my arms, running for help, but I couldn’t do anything. I’m crying because I worry that other people might no longer remember her. Hearing their words was good for me because it’s good to remember. I remember her a lot. If I watch the other children I think about what she’d be like if she was playing with them. If I could see her one more time I would tell her I love her. And if she could listen to me talking now, and if she could talk to me, I think she’d say: ‘Hi Dad, I love you’. Please tell the young men up there that their words have helped me to remember her, and thank them for me. (Man who lives with Aboriginal community in Port Augusta)

Feeling more protected

Listening to their stories about remembering people who have gone has made me think about my brother. It makes me feel as if my brother is still around and that he’s still touching us. Feeling his spirit makes me feel more protected. (Aboriginal woman from Port Augusta)

Funny Stories

There were also many funny stories along the way!

The full description of the entire project can be read here.

There is a future, you’ve just to walk towards it and have a look

Karl has his own story of ‘trying hard to find a future’. He shares it here.

It’s called ‘There is a future, you’ve just to walk towards it and have a look’.

If you are need of assistance:

If you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek assistance. If you are within Australia, please refer to the following support services. If you or someone near you is in immediate danger Call Emergency Services on 000; or Go to a hospital emergency department.

If you are outside Australia, you can find helplines in different countries here: findahelpline.com