This documentary about an aboriginal boy, Dujuan, growing up in Alice Springs was screened on ABC TV early in July. His story has stayed with me in such powerful ways. Below is a piece that forms part of my response. Recently he addressed the United Nations about Australia’s laws which allow children as young as ten to be imprisoned.
You can watch the documentary on ABC iview
Take This Down
Take this down, take this down. Write this ignored and untold story. Now you’ve glimpsed it. Your friend told you to watch the documentary, “In My Blood it Runs.” About a boy, an aboriginal boy his mother, grandmother, his teachers, his town, his father and the question of his future.
Now you are looking at your own family, your own recent history. In your Christmas letters, so playful with the failures and things that went wrong, so determined not to bask in boastful accomplishment. The inverse pride of those who do not need to.
Why was it that you and your partner and your children had access to so much? Did you ever ask if anyone else was losing a chance, not getting a turn? All the gates were held open for the possibility that you or they might want to take the opportunity to learn a new language, a sporting skill, a musical instrument. That you or they might want to do university degree after degree after degree? The halls of learning would hold a space for you–you’d already learned the pathway.
Take down the satisfaction at your own considerable progress. Ask where this freedom, this dominion came from. Ask about the aboriginal boy whose fluid dance moves on the hill outside the town of Alice make you weep. As he looks across ‘the rich people’s houses’ to the school that will only know him as a truant, ask why it is that already he has such slim chances.
Here at the edge of town, his grandmother lives away from her beloved country so her grandchildren can get an education, so they can grow up and ‘understand the system’. Ask how it is written into the script of his life that at eleven years old he will already know the inside of a police van, that ‘steel box’ that carries him, a familiar container for his runaway life.
Ask why it is that he has more chance of ‘getting cruelled’ by Juvenile Justice than discovering more of his Arrente language and culture. Ask what is happening now after Don Dale’s Juvenile Justice horrors have been exposed to the world. Ask why it is that no one has been charged with offences of cruelty to minors. Ask if the centre treated children in your suburb like that, would it still exist? Ask why your country can imprison children as young as 10.
And for the boy. How long will he hold the thread of intuition and belief in his heritage of hands that heal, hands that help look after his people. How long will he have to sit at the feet of strangled white teachers who cannot say the word ‘spirit’ without clearing their throats and saying they are confused.
Ask. Keep asking. Do not put it down, take it down.