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Our children, our culture, our future

Reflections from the 2018 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day Ambassador – Gail Mabo

I have a favourite childhood memory of waiting with all my siblings in our kitchen in Townsville, and Dad telling us the story about the frog brothers, Fredrick and Roderick, (Fredrick and Roderick, because that’s the sound the frog makes). It’s a Torres Strait story. The night he was telling us that story, magical things were happening in our house: the back deck was covered in frogs! They had sacks under their faces, amplifing the sound they made. There were so many frogs on the deck that we thought our dad was a magic man.

I am a Meriam woman from the Peibre tribe of Murray Island in the Torres Strait. My father, Eddie Koiki Mabo is known for his role in the historic land-rights ‘Mabo Case’ in which the first traditional land rights claim was successful in the High Court of Australia, making precedent for future native title claims for other Indigenous Australians.

I am a mentor, mother, dancer, artist and actress, and the family-appointed spokesperson on behalf of my father. While I am on my journey – which has taken me through a career in the arts and on stage – I have followed in my father’s footsteps in the line of story telling.

This year I was fortunate to hold the role of ambassador for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, which had me tasked with helping to raise awareness of Children’s Day and be a leading voice in celebrating our little ones to the Australian community.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, held on August 4 each year, gives all of us a way to recognise and support these little ones, celebrating their strengths and culture. Children’s Day was an opportunity for all Australians – no matter their backgrounds – to show their support by learning about our children and our cultures.

As a young girl, culture was always central in our home. Although I was raised in Townsville, my family always ensured I remained connected to our Torres Strait Islander stories, traditions and culture.

It’s important to raise our children with culture to make them grounded – to make them understand. It gives them the best foothold within their culture before they step forward into the big wide world, which is like shifting sand, where everything is moving and evolving. The best way to help children become strong people is for them to be immersed in culture. It doesn’t have to be the traditional cultures of the Central Desert or Torres Strait – it’s the unity of the family that makes them strong.

Culture is what lets our children understand who they are and where they have come from. It is at the heart of what Children’s Day stands for.

In 2018, Children’s Day and SNAICC – the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which coordinates Children’s Day each year – reached a significant milestone in embracing our children and their ongoing connection to country, culture, family and community. The theme for Childrens Day 2018 was SNAICC – Celebrating our Children for 30 Years.

30 years of a recognised, national day, which has seen many people, belonging to many lands and waters, across many generations, come together to celebrate our children and their futures.

My dream for our children is for them to be recognised and valued as the First Peoples of this nation I dream that one day soon they have a stronger base to stand upon than we have now, to be able to voice their dreams and their concerns in a space that is accepting of their voices.

At the moment our nation is not accepting of all voices, so let’s make that space, and the platform for our children and their children’s children to be heard and respected. Their voices should be the voices of the future. Let’s nurture them to be the best leaders they can be.

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