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Lost year, new life with Aboriginal stories and music | Human Rights

The river flows slowly, as it has for thousands of years. Newborn birds sing loudly. The cool breeze blows through the gum trees as if it were revealing ancient secrets. And the soft aroma of yellow wattle gives off an evening breeze.

This is the river Yarra, home of the Wurundjeri people for thousands of years. Today, the region is a thriving Melbourne metropolis of Warrandyte.

Fred Leone, a man from Garawa and Butchulla from northern Australia, lives near the water and reflects on the natural beauty.

He also thinks of his mother, who died suddenly in February 2021.

“My mother was always fighting with me,” he says.

It was the day after his 69th birthday when Fred received a phone call from a hospital in Brisbane informing him that his mother had a stroke and was in a coma.

“I hung up the phone and just stared for a minute,” he recalls. “I started to cry and shiver. Everything was flashing in front of me. I could see these things from a young age. ”

Fred immediately left Melbourne for Brisbane to live near his mother. One week later, her family has to make one of the most difficult decisions in their lives: to stop providing medical care.

Fred recalls: “We had to make the decision to turn off the machine.

“That was very dangerous. You feel like giving them up. You think ‘he can deal with his problem’.

Fred paused for a moment and flew overhead.

A cool breeze fills the evening sun.

Yarra’s water is stirring as it passes.

“Then I remember that evening we had to turn off the machine. And it was a very frustrating thing. ”

On a fateful night, Fred’s family gathered for the last minute of the matriarchy and after his life support was cut off, Fred remembers leaving the room.

“I was so frustrated with myself,” she says. “I could not walk. I fell to the ground. I saw my friend just hit me and I just gasped and cried. I returned later with a few whispers from him. ”

“For the first time in my life, I felt a huge emptiness in my life that I could not comprehend. It’s your mother. You know here from the day you were born until you left or went away. They are always present. I realized that this was what he meant when he said ‘your heart is broken’. ”

Information keepers

Known in his family and community as a traditional musician, Fred is dependent on the stories, music, language and culture of the people he came from.

Much of this knowledge was learned from his mother, Aileen Sandy.

The warrior, as Fred described, survived, passed on to his children his culture and language at a time when the Australian government was trying to adopt Aboriginal peoples and remove their traditions.

Aileen was raised on a mission in Cherbourg, in the northern part of Australia, when the law required that Aboriginal children be removed from their parents and sent to a mission or orphanage to be raised by Western authorities.

The aim was not just to eradicate Indian culture but to strengthen the Aboriginal slave class.

Children raised in these organizations are expected to be domestic workers, farm workers or laborers.

In the state of Queensland, where the Cherbourg mission was, the law was supplemented by what is now known as the “Stolen Pay”; the money that was owed to Aboriginal workers was placed in the state and never recovered.

As a result, Fred explains that his family grew up to be very poor.

He says: “We had grown up and had no money. “The government has ordered them to live in poverty and this should be done.”

However, Aileen continued to work and to save, and she was able to send her children to the best business school in Brisbane. He also survived an abusive relationship with his father, Fred.

He says: “She was brave and willing to help us and did everything she could to survive.

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

His mother also told Fred all the news about the area, including his family and tribes, and the assassination of his grandfather.

He says: “Everything he told me to do was to write down, remember, or draw a picture from my childhood.

“I used to carry a pen and a pencil. He tells me things and I just write. “

The government’s efforts to ban such stories and music are of great interest to them today and Fred has taken on the responsibility of his family not only to remember and practice the most important cultural activities but to pass them on to the next generation.

He says sharing this information is important, especially when older ones, who are the custodians of this information, begin to decline.

“So I always talk to men or other songs of women and adults about those who are aware of their community or the values ​​they look for in young people, and make sure they know. [who to pass culture on to], ”He says. “There is a constant rush.”

A new generation

That generation must have come right up to Fred.

Although 2021 was a sad year, her life was greatly improved with the arrival of her twin daughters, including her four other children.

Although his mother died before the twins were born, Fred and his companion told him that he was coming.

He recalls that when his friend arrived at the hospital in Brisbane, he put his mother’s hand on her stomach “and tears began to flow”.

“I could see [my mother’s] eyelashes go. I knew he knew and I was glad he did, “she says.

Fred now realizes that it is his responsibility to tell his twin children the stories and songs he learned from his mother.

“There was a song he used to sing to us when we were babies. And I always sing this song to my children, ”he says.

The death of her mother has caused her to stop and think about the legacy she will leave her children and the country she will grow up in, especially on issues such as global warming and the continued survival of her culture.

“How can I empower these two babies now and put all this knowledge in them so that they are strong and proud of who they are and where they come from to take the leadership role so that they can fight the whole war. The world. Because the whole world will suffer.”

What will our heritage be – what are we leaving behind? What have we learned, and what can we learn from them? ”

However, despite the magnitude of global problems such as climate change and the need for cultural exchange, it is important and important, Fred also remembers the advice his mother gave him for his twin children.

He says: “He always said, ‘Be proud of who you are, and don’t let anyone tell you who you are. “’Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. You should be the one. ‘”

Fred also meditates on the breeze and the whisper of the wind and inhales the aroma of fresh spring air.

“I always did that,” she says.

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