ECH Residency – Day 5

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Today was a special day in Emerald, the local community radio station 3MDR – 97.1fm staged a pirate radio event at the old cop-shop which is sitting empty and which the community hopes will be given to the station as its new headquarters. With the help of Emerald Community House from about 11am to 3pm there was live music, on radio interviews of locals, people dressed as pirates and the obligatory sausage sizzle. They even interviewed me about the ECH residency and the upcoming workshop series which I will be facilitating in the hall.

You can hear the full interview HERE

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Amongst the crowd there were already familiar faces including Graeme and his son Tom and Lee in full pirate get up. Everyone I had already spoken with as part of this residency brought someone else to introduce me to and I had lots of good conversations standing around not eating sausages (I’m a vegetarian). Of particular note was a lady who was there on Ash Wednesday sheltering in the Cockatoo kindergarden – we didn’t have long to chat but she is going to pop in and see me next week sometime to tell me her full story and may also join the workshops.

The longest conversation I had was with a woman called Cindy-Lee, she is a foster carer and had a lot to say about how the foster system is working to diminish resilience in her community. Cindy-Lee has been fostering for many years and spoke passionately and from experience about how there is not enough emphasis on supporting families to stay together. While she acknowledged that in some cases it is certainly necessary to remove children from parents who do not want them or are not able to provide a safe environment for them – she said that too often being removed from their family is more traumatising for the kids than anything else. She raised a deep concern that in the case of Aboriginal families in particularly the department seems to be overly ready to remove children from their families. Additionally, she said that neither the children nor the parents get enough support in the way of counselling. This, considering the deep emotional trauma involved in broken families is incredibly surprising to me. This type of pre-existing trauma places foster children, their families and their carers in the highly “at-risk” category when it comes to coping with natural disaster. Having such a high level of background stress in ones life and living with mental-health issues can sadly lead to increased rates of substance abuse, domestic violence and family breakups post natural disasters. These are the issues we need to address in ‘peace time’ in order to avoid the type of life-long trauma which natural disasters can have. Thank you Cindy-Lee for sharing your story and your concerns with me.

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Tomorrow is market day at Emerald Community House – its going to be great, my little table is all set up. Come say hi if you are in the area!

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Finally, I want to say a big thanks to Non (who also works at Emerald Community House) for bringing me a big bag of fabric today – its really great to work with material that has a connection with the people and the place I am working with.

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