Torres Strait Islander Father of six children, including 2 foster children. Speaks about his role as a father, leader, protector and provider. He explains that the basis of his cultural traditions is respect and the huge role that his extended family play.
BERNARD: My name’s Bernard Sabadi. I have six children in my care, four of my own and two foster children.
INTERVIEWER: How old are they?
My four [children] – they’re ten, nine, seven this year, and a four years old. So [I’ve got] two boys, two girls. And my two foster kids are two boys, thirteen and twelve. My side of the family’s Torres Strait, and my wife’s side is Aboriginal. They’re from down Hopevale way – that’s all their mob up there, Flinders and that – and my mob are from Biu Duwali, so we balance that a bit to teach them both ways.
As you know, it’s a bit similar. But, I guess one of the main things is that in both cultures the whole family raises your children, more than just the parents. Grandparents are involved, and your aunties and uncles. In the Torres Strait, our custom [is that with] my brother’s children I’m their father as well, and my children are his son’s and daughters. So that’s how we treat each other. Like cousins or first cousins. They call me dad or BJ, and probably my other first cousins refer to them as uncles or they can call them dad. My first cousins, we’re brothers and sisters, so is my children and brother’s children. [My] sisters’ children will grow up and refer to each other as brothers and sisters.
They’ve grown up in mainstream [and] they slowly comprehend that. It’s a bit confusing at first, because they get taught a lot of the stuff at school. Like coming home and when we try to teach them what our ways are. But they catch on, and as long as we teach them enough so that when they’re older that they know what’s their way, and what’s proper in culture, and the differences – that there are differences, and they know that.
I’m definitely man of the house and leader, protector, provider, being a respectful person, ways of living, I guess. We definitely teach them, really drum it into their head where they’re from, who their mob are and their family connections. All family members they meet and how they’re related, and all those things that come along as they’re growing up. Some of them are a bit too young now to really learn the proper way, but [I’m] showing them a bit of that now. Always being respectful, and not to …. people, but to everybody in general. I guess … the basis of our cultural traditions, custom, is respect. We’ll definitely show them and teach them and drum those ways into them. Like growling, you might be showing them the proper ways. I guess, when you’re teaching them the proper way, sometimes it can be just the way we’ve been brought up as well. Tough and, I guess, tough love sort of thing.
INTERVIEWER: Being firm?
BERNARD: Being firm, yeah. That’s exactly it.