When my boys Dujuan and Colin were born, I was just a teenager. They are now 13 and 14 years old, and my two youngest, Clevone and Nyiesha, are four and three years old.
I am proud of my children and their strength.
Me and all parents, I want to give my children a good future. But being a parent is difficult, and being an aboriginal mom is exhausting.
Every day you hear that you are not good enough. I hear it in newspapers, on television, in politicians and social media and all over Australia.
“Mom said it was time to go to the hospital”
I was 15 when I had my first baby, Colin. We were in Hidden Valley Towncamp under a tree talking to my grandmother, Sandra, in the courtyard of her house. I lay down under a tree to get away from the sun, I spoke to her and she cooked a good hot soup.
I moved around, uncomfortable because I did not know what the labor pains looked like. My mom, Carol, went out and said, “Are you right? Why are you moving?”
Mom had given birth to many children. She said, “I think it’s time to go to the hospital.”
We just jumped with a night patrol, which passed by, and we went straight to the maternity. It was a false alarm, so they sent me home.
A week later, it was the longest job ever. Work is the most painful feeling; I thought I was going to die.
Then, 14 hours later, I held Colin in my arms for the first time – it was worth it. I was fragile, but I fell in love.
I love being a mom. I have company all the time and someone to love everyday.
It makes me so happy when my children start talking to Arrernte because they learn the language of their old people.
All of my children are bilingual and learn English and English at the same time. I spoke to them when they were little, I sang to them and I reminded them: “What is it? What is it?”, “Close the door!” then repeat, “Marteme!”
I grew up in the homeland of Sandy Bore and at Atula Station in the Northern Territory with the elderly.
We ran to make cubby houses, collect wood, go hunting for Akngakerne (echidna), aherre (kangaroo), atyunpe (big goanna), alewatyerre (goanna), yerrampe (honey ants) and yalke (onion of bush), and learn to land it with my grandmothers and grandfathers.
We stood by the fire at night listening to their stories, or we visited sacred sites.
We went to school there, then we went back to town to the Yipirinya school, an indigenous school that our families fought for, and finally to the high school of a traditional western school.
“Being a teenage mom is difficult”
I was 14 when I was expelled from school. I couldn’t stay in town because I was in trouble, so my mom and dad found a way to keep me grounded and on track.
They decided to send me to my aunts in Borroloola, just north of the Northern Territory (also where we sent Dujuan for the same reason).
That’s where I met Jim Jim and I got Colin. Dujuan came a year later.
We raised the boys in the countryside, surrounded by a family as I had been in my early years. I discovered so much joy in being a mom and having the responsibility of being really necessary.
After a while, Jim Jim and I had problems with our relationship, so I brought the kids back to Alice Springs and spent most of my teens being mom. Being a teenage mom is difficult. You get stressed when there is no help and worry about what the future holds for your children.
“Our children don’t like leaving their identity at the door of the school”
Part of the reason I wanted to be in the movie In My Blood It Runs is to show Australia what happens to our kids and parents at school.
When our children do not go to school, our mothers receive warnings and our social benefits are suspended. It’s our money for food, to take care of all the children – to live.
But as the documentary shows, there are many reasons why our children find school dangerous. The painful story of the stolen generation means that many children are still living in fear. For some children, the program and the space are foreign – they do not like to leave their identity at the door of the school.
Of all my children, Dujuan was the one that worried me the most because he was, and still is, so independent. He has his own mind. He refused to integrate and rejects the system. He is strong and his spirit is strong too. He has a gift of the land as Angangkere, a traditional healer.
I now help other young mothers, including some teenage girls like me, to learn how to take care of a newborn baby: how to burp them, walk them, talk to them, know when to smoke them to ward off bad spirits, help you gain weight and be healthy, know how to put them to bed properly, keep them informed about vaccinations and appointments, bathe and breastfeed them.
Teaching them how to be a mother makes me proud to be a good mom.
“We, the Aboriginal parents, love and care for our children”
Sometimes when I see how difficult it is for my children, I feel sad. Many of our families are struggling. We want the best for our children. But it’s not easy. Even though our families and communities are strong, we still have trouble.
Dujuan is famous now, but he can’t live with us here in Alice Springs. This city is a difficult place for a cheeky and intelligent child like him.
We had to find a solution to keep him safe and sent him back to his father. So, although I am sad that he cannot see his younger brother and sister growing up, I am happy that he is with his father and not in the justice system.
I hope after watching this movie everyone understands how difficult it is to be an Aboriginal parent in Australia. We try to stay strong for our children. We must love and protect them.
I want you all to know that Aboriginal parents love and care for our children. I hope this film sends this message to Australia.