Linda Ryle, Executive Director, CALM (Cultural Advocacy & Legal Mediation)
Waddamulli….. Yaama………. Hello and Good Morning
It is nice to see so many familiar community faces here this morning and equally as nice to see so many new faces – faces of those I am yet to meet, and yet to know.
Firstly, I would like to completely acknowledge (without reservation) that we gather here today on this occasion – on the stolen lands of Australia’s First People.
I also acknowledge those who have spoken this morning sharing their recognition of this traditional country and welcoming us all.
Thank you to the Women’s Legal Service of Queensland, and thank you to this community for your hospitality. On behalf of all those visitors to this traditional country, gathered here this morning, I am grateful and seek continuing safe passage as we all undertake to walk and talk and work and play, grow our children up and do good honest business on these sacred lands of these traditional peoples.
To my Elders I offer complete respect – as and when it is due.
To those present with us this morning and
to those who are with us, yet, are not here joining us in person…..
To my brothers and Sistas in the struggle, and in culture
I SEE YOU and I THANK YOU
I have it on very good authority (some 80 000 thousand years of authority in fact) that in order to engage with you all as an audience, in a meaningful and authentic way ….
I must first offer you all something of myself.
Some knowledge or
I am Linda
I am a Kamilaroi Woman
I am a Birrigubba Mother
I am a learner
I am a contributor
I am an includer
I care and I share
My recent family heritage is evidenced in the official colonial records dating back to 1845. Our family presence was first “officially” recorded on Kamilaroi Country (NSW) and further built upon by six (6) generations of family and cultural connection to the Whitsunday Coast North Queensland – Birragubba Country.
My people – our people – have of course, enjoyed a formally undocumented and challenged existence for many thousands of years prior to being “accounted for” in the Eurocentric context.
This sharing of myself, has not always been a comfortable reality for me.
Life (as many of you all will know firsthand) sometimes provides very hard and very damaging lessons – about trust.
Those lessons are more often than not, are not invited, are much harder and are learned much earlier by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
I speak only for myself when I tell you all this morning that the lessons I have learned have taught me many things……and two in particular:
“Fool me once – shame on you,
Fool me twice – shame on me”
I have no doubt, that I am not the only woman, indeed not the only First Woman in this room, to feel this way.
Trust is a big-ticket item for me, betrayal is fatal,
Fatal to our relationship and fatal to my commitment to you….
Caroline has shared with you all a little about the work that I have done with this community over the years – I think the first time I came to Caboolture with the Aboriginal Legal Service to look after young people and families in this community was around 2006, I had worked for Atsils in Bowen(my home town), Brisbane and Maroochydore in the years prior.
I then thought I could make much more difference if I worked where the laws were drafted and the rules created, and it was during those years that I worked closely with Aunty Del Coleman, Uncle Frank Brown, Aunty Kath Brown, Aunty Ann Martin and Uncle Wayne Blackman – in establishing the very first Murri Court in Caboolture – that was 2007.
In 2008 we again worked very hard to establish and incorporate the Buranga Widjung Community Justice Group – we drafted the rules, decided upon and got permission for the name (for those of you who are unaware Buranga Widjung means “listening from the nest” and was adapted with permission from the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi language), we determined and documented the aims and objectives, we found the original King Street premises to lease and we put into place a number of excellent programs for community members. We had a very efficient, valued and productive volunteer base to support the Co Ordinator and we made room for community service hours and progressed respected and authoritative inter agency referrals.
Buranga Widjung identified, recruited, and trained appropriate Elders to support the Murri Court and pursued excellence in governance for the group’s original founding Directors.
We developed an excellent working relationship with the Caloundra Elders (from the Murri Court I was also was responsible for establishing with former Magistrate Diane Fingleton
(yes, Di was the Magistrate that was sent off to jail, yes she was acquitted by the Highest Court in this land, but more importantly she was, and remains a highly regarded ally of First People from around here, very active and committed to justice equity for us all).
Working in community over the years with our mob (in whichever place that may have been) I learned – again the hard way – that the success of our First Nation’s community organisations falls squarely on the shoulders of those who take on the responsibility to run them.
An organisation’s good fortune can be wiped out with the change of just one board member, just one individual who does not fully understand their place, and cares not if they are truly qualified and skilled for the job.
The community grapevine can serve as a fabulous resource, and yet more often than not I have seen it used as a nasty ill-informed weapon of mass destruction, undoing not just individual’s lives, but years of good work and community outcomes.
We are always good for a good yarn aren’t we….seems we are not the only ones these days…
Earlier this month The National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS) delivered a number of concerning findings. After surveying more than 17,500 people aged 16 and over, the study reported:
· a continuing decline in the number of Australians who understand that men are more likely to perpetrate violence than women; (that means less people believe those facts)
· two in five Australians believe gender inequality is exaggerated or no longer a problem;
· and two in five Australians believe that women make up false reports of sexual assault in order to punish men.
What is clear is that these are not Black and White issues these are ignorance issues.
Most here will know exactly what I am talking about when I say lateral violence is a curse to us all. It must stop.
I am not naïve enough to think that we all can get on, all the time nor can we keep everyone happy every bit of the time.
What we must do is behave in business!
Community organisations are in community – to do community business – not the business of the individual.
We must develop our business game faces and we must fashion our business fronts – we must learn to put aside personal differences and call out selfish self-serving ways, and we must put our community business first.
We must show courage when we accept these important community leadership roles because we will be leading by example.
We must be encouraged to seek assistance and professional support, particularly when we contract with agencies who continue to hold power over us.
I am not talking about government assistance, I am talking about professional assistance. Seeking professional assistance is a good business decision!
We must expect more of ourselves in order to demand more for ourselves.
The time for accepting second best from our own and from others – has passed –
This is the only way we can secure better circumstances for the ones who follow us ….better circumstances for our young ones.
We must step up or we must step out!
So, we are here this morning because the Womens Legal Service has come to town!
I am sure I do not have to reel off statistics to you all for you to know that violence against First Women has (and continues) to reach unimaginable levels.
Unimaginable for some perhaps, but I doubt that there is a First Woman in this room who has not been impacted by this scurge – including myself.
Our mothers, our aunties, our cousins our sistas, our daughters and ourselves –
As First Women – we have stood alone in this space of disgusting despair for so so long.
Many of our men continue to fail us – they continue to fail to learn, and act, in their rightful place, their proper role.
Many of our Sista’s betray us for the preferred favours of those same men.
Can we blame them for choosing self-preservation over looking out for a sista in need?
Yes we can.
Yes we can blame them….because to accept this is to maintain the status quo – and things will never change….
Yes we can blame them, because assistance can come in many forms – including assistance where your identity remains secret.
Too many of our little boys learn this abusive, disrespectful, uncultured behaviour and think it is right.
Too many of our daughters accept this behaviour as their lot in life, as their cultural inheritance.
IT IS NOT
Women have had the short end of the stick for too long.
White women have had it bad……….Black women have it worse (and always have).
And yet it has been the First Women who have sustained our communities and our families across the millennia, in the most challenging of all human circumstances.
Domestic, Family and Sex based assault and harassment is not Cultural –
Demeaning, de valuing and disrespecting First Women is not Cultural — if it were…. we’d have all been dead a long time ago.
There comes a time Sistas – when silence becomes betrayal
Sista’s, Aunties, Grannies, Cousins……..When will the time come when we stop betraying our own?
Perhaps, the time is now, in this community, because now we all have some quality help..
The Women’s Legal Service of Queensland, has opened their office in Caboolture.
The Women’s Legal Service of Queensland has done so, hoping honestly that if we work respectfully, together, we have a better chance of making positive change, together.
CALM – Cultural Advocacy & Legal Mediation is a Cultural Change Agency. CALM is owned, operated and directed by First Women – 100%
I am the CEO and Executive Director of CALM.
Our work centres around assisting Law Firms, Corporate Business and other entities (including community organisations) develop their diversity and inclusivity capabilities. CALM provides Cultural Humility Training and tailored professional development for everyone from the volunteers to the Senior Executive. CALM also provides specialist Mediation and Dispute Resolution services – which focus on the First Nations way of doing business, decision making and problem solving.
Not so long ago, CALM formally committed to work closely with the Womens Legal Service of Queensland, we agreed to assist them navigate their Cultural Learning Journey. I have found the WLService Executive, their staff and volunteers to be most humble, most respectful and most honest.
Already this mob are showing good signs of being genuine allies.
They need your support and this community needs theirs.
They have fully and honestly acknowledged that they may not get the Cultural elements right every time the first time
BUT with that understanding
They have engaged Caroline to make sure their services are available, suitable and accessible to First Women in this community and to ensure that they are listening and learning all the time.
The Women’s Legal Service of Queensland knows full well that their assistance can mean, for some of us, the difference between life and death.
Together, with you, we are aiming to provide Culturally safe, non-judgmental, gender specific and confidential support to the First Women of this community. The First Women who want to be heard.
Caroline is a good woman, she is a warm and caring person, Caroline is particular, discrete and professional. It has been, and continues to be my absolute privilege to assist this intelligent and strong black woman in her work.
First Women of the Caboolture region, Caroline has your back, Women’s Legal is backing Caroline and I am right behind the both of them.
Keep CALM and carry on….
Merry Christmas, and Sincerest Blessings to you all for a very Happy New Year!
Thank you and Good Morning.
Angela Lynch, CEO of Women’s Legal Service
I would like to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners including those who are with us today. In particular, I would like to thank the elders for welcoming Women’s Legal Service into their community. I would also like to acknowledge their tireless work in the community helping community members and family. We know you often are on call 24 hours 7 days per week and often this work goes unacknowledged and is voluntary.
I would also like to acknowledge the members of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait community and in particular to recognise the strength and resilience of the community.
As a new comer, I have a observed a strong local community with close links, family , community and spiritual connections and a real ability to collaborate for the greater good of all community members.
This strength of community and collaboration cannot be underestimated and is something that many communities living in cities have lost. Many urban communities struggle with a lack of connection and there is a rising crisis across industrialised western nations of loneliness. In the United Kingdom the government has appointed a Minister for Loneliness to respond to the epidemic.
When governments speak in terms of the need for community and government to collaborate more and to not work in silos – we from mainstream services have to relearn how to best connect and collaborate with each other. So, remember you are ahead of the game here in Caboolture!
Over the lifetime of the WLS we have known that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were not using our service in great numbers.
Although there have been individuals who have worked with us over the years, who had strong links to the community this knowledge was lost when those individuals left. Working appropriately with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women never became part of our service fabric, our DNA.
When I became CEO and was in a position to make a difference – I commenced some small steps to bring about a change.
WLS has a responsibility to change and to make our organisation accessible and safe to First Nation’s women. It is our responsibility.
The management committee has backed this approach and we have incorporated the need to open our doors more fully to First Nation’s women into our strategic plan.
Our organisation committed to employing our first First Nation’s worker.
At that time we didn’t have funding but we knew it was essential.
Out of the blue we received funding to establish a Domestic Violence Unit in Caboolture by the Federal Government.
This provided us with the immediate opportunity to implement our strategic goal of employing a First Nation’s worker – who is Caroline.
Also with the help of Linda Ryle we are starting a process of making WLS a culturally safe place for First Nation’s women to get legal help.
Invariably we will make mistakes. If we do I ask that you speak to Caroline or speak to me to see if we can rectify them.
Once again, thank you for being so warm in your welcome to Caroline and WLS and inviting us into your community. Merry Christmas and regards of the season.