Drawing the line - Martin Jugadai & Bundi draw in the sand to explain the importance of culture, country & tradition & living in two worlds
As Australia marks Close the Gap Day on March 17, we consider the gap in the psychological crisis. What do Aboriginal men say about this gap? And what can psychoanalytic awareness offer?
Hold Onto the Strong Law
Aboriginal people are living in psychological crisis and trauma. We don’t know the statistics for psychological distress or trauma or depression. 'Why not?' is another question, but one which is testimony to the psychological crisis and its grossly inadequate recognition and treatment. We do know incarceration rates, suicide rates, domestic violence rates, which are all double or triple the national average. 'How?' is another crucial question to consider - namely, how is it that Aboriginal people are living in such psychological crisis?
Last week a young man died, committing suicide, from one of our western desert communities. I express my sincere condolences to the family.
This young Aboriginal man becomes another statistic to swell the rank of high rates of suicide among men aged 16-24 double that of non-Aboriginal men.
But he was a young man with a story and, by all reports, doing well in both cultural worlds. He died too young.
Another child, a little girl just 10 years old, in far north WA, also committed suicide.
I think we can say a few simple things about suicide in order to change minds and save lives. Here are some tools:
Suicide concerns us all.
Suicide is about intense emotional pain.
Suicidal acts are a cry for help.
Be encouraged to talk when feeling down or alone or overwhelmed or pressured or persecuted or hopeless or uncared for or alienated or in haemorrhaging pain.
Find a mate to talk to and share your story.
Know that states of mind can change quite quickly.
Feeling suicidal is not permanent.
Have a safety plan. Problem solve.
Know you are cared for by someone.
May we share in the sorry business and may the gap be closed on psychological crisis and suicide.
May we hear from the people themselves? What do Aboriginal people say and think about the psychological crisis? In defining the problems, we extract and then impose the problems, experiences, feelings and thoughts from and on Aboriginal people themselves from their own suffering and tales to tell. It is time we heard more from the people. In this newsletter you hear a little more from the people.
Ngangkari Martin Jugadai and Aboriginal senior elder Bundi said this as they drew in the sand:
“These things I draw on the good side, hold onto them, and traditional tools. This stuff belonged to Aboriginal people for a long time, these tools and culture, this is our dreaming. Whitefellas have got a different way, that bad side of things, but the Anangu (Aboriginal) side is good. If you use these things and stay with culture you will be right but if you go down the whitefellah side you’ll lose yourself. “Where’s my country”? “Where’s my culture”? You won’t be able to think but if you learn with Anangu, with the old men, middle-aged men, after you’ll be able to hold onto country and your culture strong like the grandfather’s and ancestors'. They lived in the past according to law, to strong law, well with him you have to hold onto strong law.”
The men had been talking about the rampant marijuana use among the young men, the fights and the hopelessness.
Psychoanalytic awareness can promote the recognition of emotional pain, healing, meeting people where they are at, seeing the human in all of us and help all find a voice and transform lives; changing minds and saving lives.
Director - CASSE Aboriginal Australian Relations Program