Kensington PCYC – Celebrating NAIDOC in a meaningful way

WA PCYC is synonymous with the delivery of programs, recreational and diversionary, for youth of all ages and backgrounds with the support of WA Police. In its 78th year, WA PCYC focusses on the needs of the community. The state’s size and remoteness mean many of those communities are indigenous, so NAIDOC is high on the calendar for importance each year.

From the far north in Broome, down to Albany and across to Kalgoorlie, WA PCYC events were held to celebrate this year’s theme, Because of her, we can. Aboriginal women, past and present, have steered and driven our communities, the cornerstone of campaigning for rights while caring for families and dealing with barriers and stereotypes.

Kensington PCYC hosted a meaningful NAIDOC event on Tuesday 17 July with lead speaker Simone McGurk, Minister for Child Protection; Women’s Interests; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence; Community Services, as opening speaker.

WA PCYC President Dr Sue Gordon, Australia’s first indigenous Magistrate and acclaimed international Aboriginal film director and creator, Karla Hart, joined WA PCYC members, staff from the Town of Victoria Park and police to celebrate NAIDOC at the centre, remembering not only achievements, but reflecting on the importance of aboriginal culture in Western Australia.

Ms McGurk explained that while other parts of Australia celebrate the oldest living culture on earth well, WA needs to reflect more on what it means to us as a community. “There’s a lot to celebrate about the culture and 60 million years of being custodians of this land,” she acknowledged.

Ms McGurk spoke of several influential female Aboriginal leaders, including Dr Sue Gordon, who was removed from her Aboriginal mother in 1947 just after the war because she was quarter-caste and considered too white to be in Aboriginal care.  Dr Gordon was subsequently raised by white people, a decision that she has never blamed anyone for, but rather, accepted that it was simply “the policies of the day.”

“If you remain a victim, you never move forward,” she said, during her inspiring talk on how she became one of the Stolen Generation. Today, her incredible history is there to be read, chronicled by fastidious police and public servants, something she is grateful for: Without detailed notes and commentary by officials who came to make the decision to remove her, she would have no idea of her heritage. It took 30 years for her mother to find her. By then Dr Gordon had gone on to join (and leave) the army, work for NASA in Carnarvon, and in Port Hedland, work with Aboriginal people.

On Friday 13 July Chief Commissioner Chris Dawson formally apologised to the Stolen Generation and the police force’s part in taking children from their families. Of the significant ceremony, Dr Gordon said, “I thank Chris Dawson for his apology …I am very proud to be part of WA PCYC, which was set up in 1941 for kids. It’s an iconic institution and I thank the past and present governments for what it is today.”

Bridging the gap between Aboriginal and western communities requires effort. Ms McGurk noted, “WA PCYC play a crucial role, particularly in getting kids involved with each other.”

Filmmaker Karla Hart felt the impact of the Stolen Generation decades after the practice had stopped. Her parents were taken from her grandmother, who ironically brought Ms Hart up. “She couldn’t raise her own kids but hey, she could raise me,” she quipped. However, her story is not as flippant as her matter-of-fact commentary suggests. Karla spent her childhood listening to her grandmother cry for her children. The family suffered with alcoholism stemming from the trauma which ‘went up and down’ the generations. Despite her success, she has struggled with her identity and stereotypes, recounting stories of being followed in stores in case she stole something or being intercepted by police simply for being black.

“This is the life of a modern indigenous person,” she explained. While Ms Hart is grateful for her education and many opportunities, she wants to see more Aboriginal culture available for the children because “they don’t have that connection to country,” she said.

Karla’s life is often draining, juggling a successful career and teaching Indigenous Hip Hop dance at Midland PCYC for four years. She is always surrounded by young Aboriginal people, all with needs greater than her own. “You can’t switch off (from being Aboriginal),” she explains, noting the many issues young people face, such as feeling intimidated by white people. However, she can’t help everyone and needs to turn some away but, she says with sadness, “What if I do that and that person goes off and commits suicide?”

PCYC is part of the bridge in communities that “keeps ‘em off the streets”, Ms Hart notes with some force, checking to make sure those are the words that will be used.

Respecting culture is also about being able to speak what Ms Hart calls ‘language’, meaning; the Aboriginal Noongyar language. One young man participating with her in a session of Noongyar conversation stormed out of the room, frustrated he was finding it difficult to communicate. His anger stemmed from the lack of ‘language’ used at home when growing which festered into deep frustration. Ms Hart stressed the importance of this connection for an Aboriginal to their culture.

In sharing stories of growing up and of helping others, Ms Hart noted that for Aboriginals, trauma is always there but she is optimistic. Involving youth in programs that help link them to community is essential to the healing. “People wonder why black people get so angry but stuff builds up … It takes generations to heal trauma,” she finishes. “We are not there yet, but we are getting there.”

Kensington PCYC is open to all youths with a variety of programs and initiatives. Centre Manager Amanda Dow notes the importance of WA PCYC to the younger generation as ever-changing issues continue to challenge them. “Many of the youths enrolled in our programs seek consistency, comfort and a safe space in a world that is not always kind and sometimes issues within the family mean our Centre becomes their family, someone to rely on; someone to talk to.”

Amanda explained the significance of NAIDOC to WA PCYC centres: “A large proportion of our youth attending our programs are Aboriginal. Because it is the year of Because of her we can and Women in Policing, Kensington PCYC designed this event to showcase some of the strong leaders in our Community.

Welcoming females to the centre is also important. Amanda said, “In our Automotive training programs we were seeing a lot of male students but with the implementation of the Kensington Girls Yarning Circle we are now starting to see more female youth attaching to programs – both the training and recreational ones.”

Kensington PCYC extended their thanks for the lunch catered for by the Copper’s Cup at Midland PCYC and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who provided funding for the event.

To help continue the important work of WA PCYC, you can either donate or volunteer. To hear more about WA PCYC, please subscribe to receive the regular WA PCYC ENewsletter. You can also follow WA PCYC on Facebook or search for your closest centre, as each have their own Facebook page.

To read more about WA PCYC NAIDOC activities visit: Fremantle PCYC NAIDOC Opening CeremonyKalgoorlie PCYC NAIDOC Family Day and Roebourne PCYC NAIDOC Talent Show.

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