Talah, what are your biggest concerns about the pandemic?
My biggest personal concern as a young Aboriginal person was based around the potential and still very real affect COVID could have on our Elders. Ever since I can remember being fully able to sit quietly and listen to Elders yarn about Dreaming stories and stories of how they grew up, what their favorite games and foods were, sparked a love of learning in me. When the pandemic was beginning and hadn’t yet reached its peak, my concern was around the loss of knowledge and leading figures that First Nations communities would experience. As our Elders are very vulnerable and the knowledge they hold is even more so. Being a researcher working with remote mobs, a student at university and an active community member – it’s hard enough to find resources that fill what gaps in knowledge I have. And there’s so many factors that play into how and when you receive that knowledge – age, role within family & community and gender are the big ones I can identify from the yarns I have had with my family.
How are you managing your anxiety about all this?
With spending so much time at home, and hours just blurring into one very long day; I have started to teach myself language by buying the Gumbaynggirr Dreaming Storybook Collection (Gumbaynggirr Yuludarla Jandaygam). It breaks up my day! Reading and learning language even just building up my language knowledge-bank with learning simple words, and those simple words eventually turn into simple sentences. It’s empowering and grows my hope that our languages will not be lost any further and will remain a large connecting factor to all of us mobs across the nation. It’s also making use of the time to go and practice those skills that you hear Elders talk about in their stories; my favorite experience I will remember most was the day before the Black Lives Matter protest at Byron Bay, I had the time and opportunity to walk around and find ochre, to put on during the protest – I have never felt more connected to my culture, because there we all were; all feeling and looking very strong, proud of our mob and together in the face of adversity seeking justice the crimes against our people, with the overwhelming support of many non-Indigenous allies. And I wanted to reflect those morals and empowerment strategies into my study pathway, so I ended up including every hobby I have into my degree which is a BA in Digital Media & Communications degree with a Major in Indigenous Knowledge and a minor in Journalism. My creative pursuits whether that be designing logos and frameworks, making deadly signs for my friends, family and myself to go and support the Black Lives Matter movement, capturing moments and recording histories with my camera, boosting my writing skills… all of these experiences and knowledge building activities helps in managing my own worries around COVID-19.
Do I think my experience of this bit of history might make a difference for me for the future?
Oh, I think absolutely my experience will! COVID-19 was a disruption to me I think I needed in order for me to really appreciate my own culture. First Nations people are so connected and so interdimensional that COVID-19 provided me a pause (whether I liked it or not) to give more of my time to connecting with my own language and my creative outlets. I am still so saddened at the immense loss many people have faced, but I am also proud at the resilience my people, and many others have shown through the pandemic. I see more posts on social media around self-care, connection, some great resources being shared around and most recently posts that are empowering and truth-telling. I think this experience will further push me into staying connected, enable me to value add to my studies through a new inspired way to create content and art and it has made me more appreciative of the people I interact with everyday whether that be zoom, dishing out elbow bumps at the supermarket or being at home with my family, enjoying the time to cook and create moments with my family in the midst of a historical event.