We have just arrived at Whale Song, a small campground on Cape Leveque, after spending 5 days at Kooljaman – an eco-resort proudly owned by the aboriginal communities of Djarindjin and One Arm Point. More on Whale Song later as I want to share what I learned from Brian Lee. Brian is an aboriginal leader and traditional owner of the land in the area. His Tagalong tour took us into the pristine aboriginal native title land around Hunter’s Creek.
Kooljaman is the Bardi aboriginal name for Cape Leveque, 220km north of Broome at the tip of the Dampier Peninsular.
I was privileged to have a conversation with Brian and listen to a small part of the history of Kooljaman. Hearing his perspective on why the resort and surrounding communities have been such a success was like a teaching about 2 local communities taking the lead and standing on their own 2 feet. Brian was clearly proud of the leadership role that he and others have played over the past 15 years to ensure that all decisions about the running of Kooljaman are owned by the aboriginal communities. He pointed out that Kooljaman has not been reliant on handouts to survive and thrive as a business. Some years ago the decision was made by the Kooljaman board to recruit outside assistance to manage and run the business side of things. When talking about the future of Kooljaman, it sounded like the aim is for the local aboriginal communities to take on the management and running of the whole facility. Sadly, stories like Kooljaman are rarely told in mainstream Australia. I don’t want to dwell on politics and mindset that breeds policies of intervention, simply because there are stories within Australia and all over the world that show we are making progress. Last year I was honored to be part of the 2012 World Indigenous Housing Conference in Vancouver and immerse myself in many of these stories. Each story was like a unique teaching and I remember feeling inspired and hopeful when reading through them. I worked alongside Chris Corrigan and Steven Wright and, as facilitators, our task was to draw out success stories from the 700+ delegates – a mix of indigenous and non-indigenous leaders from community, government and the private sector from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These success stories were about indigenous communities pursuing and realising their own economic development. The stories showed that full participation in decision making promotes ownership and a sense of belonging to community and culture. Many stories pointed to successful models of governance, education and training programs that build capacity. Examples of partnerships between indigenous communities, government and the private sector were in many of the stories. Listening to Brian talk about Kooljaman reminded me of many of the stories shared in Vancouver.
An information/knowledge repository – The Indigenous Housing Gateway – was set up to store and share the stories and lessons learned from the 2012 World Indigenous Housing Conference. It’s full of the stories I have referred to.
In 2007 the United Nations Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peopleswas adopted. This declaration sets a standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples. And it is a standard, that sadly, many member countries like Australia have failed to translate into policies that support more aborginal communities to thrive. As I listened to Brian talking about Kooljaman, and the story of ownership by the Djarindjin and One Arm Point communities, I was heartened to hear a success story coming from within my own country. I didn’t get a chance to discover all the success factors and why it’s worked, but clearly something has and we all need to learn from it. As we travel across the top end of Australia, I will be looking for more opportunities to learn from people like Brian and witness communities like Djarindjin and One Arm Point. Like most Australians, I know little about aboriginal history and the complexity of issues that they face in community life. This trip is my chance to continue my education. Geoff
I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging and I write this (quite eco-centric) post dressed in a theatre gown. I have an hour to wait before being “wheeled” unconscious into surgery for a 3rd episode of dental surgery (on the same tooth!!!). So here goes …
3 things have just come up for me:
1. I am feeling privileged that I can even afford this intervention
2. Like my wiser friends have warned me, “You’re in your 40’s Geoff!” They are right. At 42 I’ve racked up x4 operations on a dodgy molar and dicky right knee. I vow this to be my last procedure until my 7th decade of life!
3. My habits have changed drastically since this 40 year old body began to fall apart …
A Story of Changed Habits
Firstly I’ve always been active, physically fit and healthy. I was still 39 when I tore my medial meniscus (aka cartilage). During the rehab phase I learned that it tore because I’d lost strength and tone in my VMO’s – the big muscle that runs on the inside half of the thigh. It tore so badly that I needed surgical removal of 2/3’s of the essential “shock absorber” in the knee that prevents ‘bone-on-bone’ deterioration. If I don’t look after my knee (and strengthen the muscles around it), I’m staring down a total knee replacement in my 50’s or 60’s!
Fuelled by a determination to stay pain free, out of the dentist chair, remain surfing and avoid major knee surgery, I have been slowly transforming my daily habits. Here’s just some what’s changed, including a bunch of things I’ve had to let-go of …
1. I ride my bike practically everywhere!
I have given up running for trains and walking long distances with heavy backpacks – anything that involves jarring the knees
I avoid car travel whenever I can – it’s the sure-fire way to stiffen my knee and back!
I’ve joined Melbourne Bike Share and transformed the way I get around Melbourne when working – this also means being prepared to show up to meetings with messed up hair and a bit sweaty!
I’ve replaced lots of little, local car trips trips with the bike
I’ve NOT turned into a lycra-wearing, competitive bike rider – it’s a lifestyle thing.
2. I ‘sit-less’ and ‘move-more’
I avoid my computer wherever possible because it usually means sitting … or standing in the one spot – both activities don’t do me any favours
It’s anti social, but when the TV is on at home, I’m in the studio stretching or exercising
I avoid driving any distance beyond 50km unless I absolutely have to
3. I floss regularly and avoid sugar
After 30 years of trying to form regular flossing habits, finally the threat of dental pain has transformed me!!!!
4. I PAUSE before I lift or move anything!
The other day a neighbour asked me to help him lift a really heavy workbench off his ute … I politely refused … we found 4 extra people the next day and potentially back/knee breaking activity was made easy
This habit extends to everything in the garden, in the house and at work when re arranging chairs/tables in workshop spaces
5. I’ve lost my mojo in the home garden ;-(
I used to be the most passionate home gardener I know … but instead of gardening I now go surfing!?
6. I’ve given up Karate … for good this time!
12 months post surgery and after a dedicated 12 months of rehab, I briefly returned to the dojo. One night my knee flared up with swelling and it scared the shit out of me. I all of a sudden realised that this might prevent me from surfing, riding my bike and remaining pain free … just like “that”, I turned my back on an activity that I dearly loved.
In Sum …
During this journey to change my lifestyle and remain pain free and active in the longer term, I’ve unintentionally let-go of some rock solid habits like sitting down to blog and picking up the guitar. I still love these activities, but it’s now an effort to get to them. And if I do them too much over a period of days (which usually involves longer periods of not moving) I feel the effects in my back and knee. Instant feedback!
The home vege/fruit gardening is the most compelling example of forced change. Before my knee injury, growing food at home was everything to me. But for months of rehab I simply couldn’t do it – it hurt too much. The hours I used to spend plating, tending and harvesting were directed elsewhere (in the surf on my SUP). Now that I’m strong and fit again, it’s bloody hard to rekindle the same passion!
I’ve taught myself to be much more “body aware” and I do not put up with aches and pains, niggles and sprains like I used to! If I feel knee joint stiffness coming on, or a dull lower back ache upon waking, that my signal to do more of what’s good for me. Go for a ride, stretch, go for a SUP or make an appointment with the Osteopath.
I’ve tasted the pain of surgery and felt the fear of losing my physical capacity to do the things I love. Funny how we humans struggle to make lasting, lifestyle changes before we start to breakdown.
Today was one of those days where everything converged – where a lot of past stuff came together and, at the same time, the future I am co-creating came into view. The story of today …
My youngest of three boys, Hamish (aka Mr Chipper), attended his first day of school today. He was excited, but not overly so. He was confident, with a hint of vulnerability. His two older brothers, like his parents, could hardly believe he was off to Aireys Inlet Primary School – a small, coastal school of 130 students where students at all levels know each other.
But, I wasn’t there to see Mr Chipper off, or witness his first steps into class surrounded by his little mates. I wasn’t at work and I wasn’t out for an early surf. No, I was being admitted to hospital for (long ago booked) dental surgery on a tooth that has cause me more grief than any other part of my body. That tale of suffering (of the first world variety) is for another time! Happenstance and bad luck saw these 2 dates converge to January 31, 2013.
I’ll fast forward the story of today … past the hunger pains of having to miss breakfast … beyond the news that I was last on the list and would have to wait (growing ever hungrier) until lunchtime to enter theatre … past that 20 second period where the general anesthesia goes to work … past the recovery room and up to the point where my mum picks me up and drives me back to her place.
There is nothing like being with your mum when recovering from illness or surgery. Mum’s are hard-wired to care for their kids and feed them soul food, even when they are 41 years old! I hadn’t seen mum since Christmas Day nearly 6 weeks before and was struck that I hadn’t spent much time with mum, just the 2 of us, since Dad passed a year ago.
After sharing photos of our recent family adventure in Tasmania, and after a late afternoon (still in recovery phase) nap, we began to talk about Dad. How proud he would have been to see Hamish off to school. How much he’d have loved our tales of camping in Tassie.
In his final weeks alive, Dad made me promise him to take our kids travelling, to learn and experience life as a family as much as we could! Living up to this promise has opened up a whole new world for me. It’s transformed my view of parenting, of community, of how to listen and of what’s most important. It’s given me a clearer purpose to my own consulting work and the direction I want to take my offering. My experiences in recent months have rekindled a child-like enthusiasm for what I do.
And as I share these private thoughts in this public space, I realize (again) how important writing has become. My private journal (using Evernote) and my blog (Yes!AndSpace) are spaces where I connect dots between things. When writing, like now, its like time and to-do’s fade away. The meaning evolves and emerges as I write and it’s always, always best when I simply write what comes … and keep suppressing that tyrannical urge to be clever and witty!
Like I said above, lots of things have converged during my long chat with mum tonight. I read to her one of my private journal entries, written after spending a day with dad only weeks before he died. It was like finding a lost treasure and, like magic, reading this entry brought him into the room with us. This is the gift of writing and of sharing it with others.
We are currently on an off-road camping adventure in the island state of Tasmania. If you have been tuning into the news (anywhere in the world) you’d know that Tasmania is in the grip of bushfires. They are burning in the south-east, centre, north-east and north-west of the state. Our thoughts and best wishes are with everyone who going through this. Last Friday our own community (Aireys Inlet) was on high alert with high temperatures and winds. From high up, just below Cradle Mountain, we were nervously watching Victorian conditions as well.
So far, we have had some good luck and have made some good decisions to keep clear of the fire affected areas. We would have struggled without access to internet though. The Tasmanian fire service website has been helpful and the BOM site (via the iphone app) has allowed us to look a few days ahead and decide where to go. Our solid understanding of bushfire behaviour has been invaluable as well.
Yesterday we left Lake St Claire National Park (after some beautiful SUP’ing) a day early than our plans and headed between the fire affected areas on a warm but very calm day where main roads were safe. The forecast of high temperatures and savage winds materialised this morning and the sedate fire flanks (all across Tasmania) raged to life into active fronts. Emergency warnings are out everywhere and communities across Tasmania are on high alert … with some being advised to relocate.
Yesterday at 2.30pm we arrived, by ferry, to Bruny Island. The southern most island that is (currently) free of fires with camping grounds located right on the beach. From our southern vantage point, we had a light sprinkling of ash falling from the sky carried by strong NW winds from the central island fires. Here is an eerie photo of the sky to Bruny’s north – the large Tasman Peninsular fire is somewhere in the distance.
The sanctuary of Bruny Island is quite something indeed! In search of a National Park campsite, we drove from the north tip to southern most point of Cloudy Bay. This place is a paradise … I could move here in a heartbeat! So, whilst we wait for the fires on the east coast of Tassie to re open, Bruny will be our home along a thin strip of land known as the ‘Neck’. Here are a few pics taken so far:
The strip of land linking the north and south of Bruny Isand known as The Neck. Our boys watching ‘almost’ surfable barrels out in front of our campsite.
Bruny’s Sour Dough & Cheese Makers are divine!
Food and wine is a huge focus on Bruny, here is a description (of the food at the Bruny Hotel) and some evidence!
Next Stop … Hobart where we have Mona, Salamanca Markets and The Hobbit (in 3D) in our sights!
“Radiant, he departed: Siddhartha watched him go. With deep joy, with deep solemnity he watched him go: saw each of his steps full of peace, saw his he’d full of splendour, saw his figure full of light.”
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, p 115.
Happy Birthday Dad. Remembering your radiance and splendour.
One of the crucial parts of the design is the Invitation (Chris writes about Inivitation here and here).
If an Invitation to a gathering was a small plate of nuts that needed to be cracked … then one of our key organisers has just cracked a few open! He has built a relationship with Mike Holmes – a well-known TV host, housing expert and philanthropist. Not only is Mike a keynote speaker at the conference, he has produced this video. They present a story that gets to heart of what an Invitation should. It speaks of the Need (the compelling reason why?), it’s Purpose (what we hope to achieve) and the People (who this is for).
Mike also says this …
“Everyone is bringing to the table, what each of us knows, so that we can make it right together.”
This little quote is at the heart of our design of the group dialogue and conversations which will feature on Days 2 and 3 of the conference. It acknowledges that no single person, group, culture or organisation has the answer to solve indigenous housing problems – they are way too complex and interconnected! Instead we need the ideas and perspectives from the whole field, brought together into conversation, to accelerate change.
I am looking forward to the conversation before, during and after this Vancouver gathering.