Anthony is an Aboriginal father from Brungle, NSW, part of the Wiradjuri nations. Anthony talks passionately about what his parents taught him and how he passes that on to his children now. He teaches his children all about bush foods, respect for elders and the importance of providing for their own families. He also talks about the role of aboriginal men and fathers today and how this has changed.
ANTHONY: I’m from New South Wales. I’m from Wiradjuri Nation. We’re from Brungle. It’s a little mission between Gundahguy and Tumit. My Mother comes from there. My mother’s people come from Yorta Yorta and Wiradjuri. My father’s people come from Yuin. Yuin Nation [is] in the south coast, Warligilack. So I’ve been brought up really culturally.
So my child rearing stuff is around the family comes first with everything. I make sure our children know all their family. I also make sure that, because my family travelled a lot and my parents always taught me to know the places I’m going and why they’re significant … one of the things I do with my children is make sure they know the country they’re going to. Respect for Elders, don’t back chat any adults, do all that.
Also, it’s the other little things we do together as a family, so telling them about bush foods … I know up here. I’m from the bush, my wife’s from the rainforest and the coast here. So I don’t have much to do with the seafood stuff, but certainly when we go inland, I talk to them about our food and yabbies, iguanas, emus – that sort of thing – and what we did with those.
But really it all centres from family’s the most important thing and everything else is secondary. And that’s why I, as a child growing up … always knew where we came from, why it was important, who was your mob … also paying your respects when your on someone else’s country.
INTERVIEWER: How do you think you knew? Was it explicit or was it just there somehow?
Back when I was growing up, I think it was implicit in what we did. So that’s the way my Elders were. I know it’s changed a real lot with technology. It must be really hard for our children today, and I see it so much in the youth that we work with – the kind of pressure that they’ve got now. And I see our children having children. So the role of our Elders and our grand-grandparents seems to have diminished somewhat. And I think that’s terrible.
I also think that the role of the father, the role of the male, in our communities have actually diminished as well. I think some of the government programs have led to that, for example CDP. Particularly up here, I note that there’s a lot of old men who used to be stockmen and they worked all their lives, and you brought in CDP and a lot of people are just sitting around getting sit down money. And I think there’s a generation there that’s missed that – missed that work ethic. And I know that we had a lot them were under the protection acts and they worked and they slaved, but at least that gave them a great foundation. Unfortunately, some of our youth today don’t have that. It’s all too easy to get. And that’s the other thing I try with my children … they need to earn what they get. If they get something for nothing then they don’t respect it, they don’t look after it.
For me it is about when we travelling along, and I travel and take them with me. I want them to tell me about the land that we’re going through, which is the next community we’re going to and [tell them] this is the community of such and such. So it teaches them that when you’re in country. I make it an issue that whenever I see anything, and Murrys are around, in those communities I make sure I go and talk to them in a way that my children can see that I’m paying respects for them. So, hopefully they’ll grow up like that.
INTERVIEWER: What are the different things you do as opposed to your wife or the mother of the children? What’s your role as a father?
I’m still the disciplinarian in our family. So I think our kids know if they’re coming to me then it must be something bad. So she’s always the good cop. I think that’s one thing.
I think, also, I’m the one who provides more of a role model around the working stuff, whereas I think my wife’s more sympathetic and more compassionate. So they go to her for those sort of things. Also, growing up, because my parents (particularly my father) worked a lot, and my uncles and aunts worked a lot, [my father] showed me that being a parent or being a breadwinner was the most important thing. So, unfortunately … I haven’t been around a lot for them, for my children. When it comes to those things a father might miss out. But I want them to know that in order to be a good parent you need to provide. You’ve got to have a roof over your head, you’ve got to have food for the family on the table. So that’s the other thing.
I think, also, you can see that even between my wife and I, we have different values when it comes to family as well. So we’ve had to compromise there. Because myself, my father and my family taught me to take in anyone … sometimes that’s to the detriment of my family. But,that’s the way I was brought up. Whereas my wife she will help people out, but not to the extent that the others suffer. Again, that’s my strong values that I’ve …
INTERVIEWER: Do you try to pass it on to your children?
Yes. And again, I mean family’s family and blood’s blood. So we need to know where you come from, know who your mob is and treat them as if they’re your own. But again, I think the other thing my parents and my Elders have taught me is you don’t get anything for nothing, and so I try and teach my kids that. And they still complain that they haven’t got things. But we grew up, as a lot of families in my age group … we didn’t have much. But what we had, we were grateful for. Whereas, today, I think it’s too much of a me society. So we’ve got to get back to that …
Part of my core thing in life is to actually try to regain that men’s … what’s the place of men in our society and in our communities? We need our own space. And, as lots of my friends say to me … when the women are in trouble they go to a women’s shelter, when the men are in trouble they go to jail. So we need to look after one another and build that up. And, if we can … get the place of men again back in our community … that’s something for those young fellas coming up as well.
INTERVIEWER: Do you talk to your brothers or do you talk about that with your cousins or other men?
Well, all my family’s down south, so I talk about it with other men … I work a lot with a lot of men’s groups and a lot of justice groups up in far north here, and that’s what they’re always saying – “we need our own space, we need our own forum.” And, I mean, that talk will come. That talk will come, we just need to provide them with that. And that’s how we’re going to get strong communities again. Unfortunately, our men, I think generally speaking, have lost their place in our communities. But again, and that’s a big generalisation. But there’s a lot of men out there in our communities that feel the same way. We just need to start standing up.