Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Archive for the ‘Indigenous Australia’ Category

Aboriginal Artists from the East Kimberley

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A lot of my friends and readers were so interested in the work that I was involved with up in the East Kimberley.   However, out of respect to the Traditional Owners that I was working with, I have not written about their stories.  I do, however, have some really fantastic memories from my time up there.  Because the country is so striking, it is no surprise that the art is also incredibly striking.  So many of the TO’s that I worked with are also celebrated artists.  Indeed, Warmun is one of the most well known communities where celebrated artists find inspiration in their stories, the dreamtime, and the landscape that surrounds the small township itself.

So I was thrilled when I saw a website that has some short video clips highlighting some of the artists I have known, and have had some good laughs with.  I welcome you to check out the art and video clips of Ben Ward, a Mirriwoong man, and Gija woman Shirley Purdie.  In fact, I feel very fortunate that Shirley painted me the picture below that tells the story of Kilkayi, which is about the Barramundi dreaming in the country where I was working for her, and the other Traditional Owners.

Shirley proudly displaying her gorgeous depiction of the Barramundi dreaming (Kilkayi) story

Shirley proudly displaying her gorgeous depiction of the Barramundi dreaming (Kilkayi) story

This talk that features Churchill Cann also shows some of the magnificent country in the area.  Please do check it out!

Goolarri Media Enterprises

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Every now and again, Mar(k) are very happy to give a plug to an outstanding (and worthy!) not-for-profit organisation that is doing some fantastic work. We would like to draw your attention to Goolarri Media Enterprises, who have been nominated in SGIO’s People’s Choice Awards for The Sound Environment Project.  Goolarri is an indigenous-owned media organisation that supports the development of indigenous and non-indigenous communications in the Kimberley.

As the link below explains, the Sound Environment radio show will produce stories for broadcast and podcast featuring inspiring Broome area environmental projects and the passionate people who run them. Goolarri Media Enterprises aims to promote local environmental initiatives, encourage listeners to get involved, build awareness of environment and sustainability issues, and celebrates the community’s achievements.

If their funding was doubled or tripled through the People’s Choice Award, the number of stories produced for broadcast and podcast would be increased and the project expanded into the greater West Kimberley area.

Every vote will help, people! So if you don’t mind, you can help out a very worthy group in the Kimberley by simply clicking here, and voting for them!  Voting is until the end of July.

Thanks very much in advance, for your support! I will provide an update in early August once we find out if they are the fortunate winners of this award.

As an aside, one of the reasons we often support certain not-for-profit enterprises is because of personal knowledge of the people working within the organisations themselves.   It is just a good business / investment model from our perspective;  if you know the people well, you know the money will be well spent, and that every dollar will be put to good use.   In this particular case, if you watch the video associated with the voting, you will “meet” Kat Taylor, who is the lovely “poster girl” for Goolarri.  We first met Kat earlier this year when we were on a development-based study tour in Southern India.  She is a very committed, hard working young woman who deserves your support.   Here is a pic of Kat and Mark enjoying learning and sharing with a children’s college in southern India.

Kat and Mark with some of the students at the Pipal Tree Children's School in southern India

Kat and Mark with some of the students at the Pipal Tree Children’s School in southern India

Celebrating some inspiring Indigenous Australians

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Time to start celebrating the positive side of Indigenous CultureSo much of the time, it seems that mainstream media is filled with bad news stories.  And sometimes those news stories help to formulate our views and beliefs about certain groups, certain situations, etc.   If we don’t have any direct exposure to a certain group, for example, then what we hear and see in the media may be our only exposure to those groups of people.

In Australia, there seems to be a plethora of negative news stories that crop up when dealing with Indigenous Australians.  Most of us would be familiar with the common news clips about high rates of incarceration for Indigenous people, poorer health outcomes (see Close the Gap for more information about this one), lower educational achievements, and the list goes on.  But the dealings that we have had with Indigenous Australians have largely been positive.  And we wonder where these good news stories are.   So today we wanted to share with you some very inspiring snapshots of some great work that is being done by 20 inspiring Indigenous Australians. Check it out here.

And finally, on a slightly more humourous note, I did also want to share this with you.  Its not really “related” to the above, per se.   But if I had a penny for every time I have had this conversation, I would definitely be a wealthy woman!   Check it out, it is good for a laugh.  Be sure to watch the off-takes at the end as well.   Hope you guys all have a fabulous day!

 

Black, White and Shades of Grey

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shades of greyDuring the festive season, there are countless posts about giving, generosity, the “Top 10 _____” (insert whatever is appropriate).   But we thought we’d take a slightly more somber look at development issues generally, but using a specific example closer to our (Australian) home – that of the plight of Indigenous Australians – in particular, the acute housing shortage that is found in remote parts of the country.

We are not going to delve into this particular issue ourselves, but would refer you here, where you will find an excellent, multi-media summary that highlights the acute housing crisis in the Tennant Creek area of the Northern Territory.  As this excellent article points out, the myriad of issues facing Indigenous Australians is unlikely to be solved by addressing the housing crisis.   It is the tip of the iceberg, but certainly SHELTER features pretty high on Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy.

What we did want to share was our experiences in dealing with development type issues.  Part of the training we did (with Australian Volunteers International) before we set off to Ghana, was to help us understand that things are rarely black and white.  Indeed, at first glance, many issues appear to have a simple solution.   As we found on the ground, this is rarely the case.   If things were as black and white as this, then the multitude of development issues (poverty, lack of education, lack of sanitary conditions, racism, lack of water, discrimination, disability, and the list goes on….) would have been solved long ago.   Greater minds than ours have looked at these issues, and have tried to find solutions for decades.  Instead, what our experience as volunteers has taught us, is that there are many shades of grey.  Things are rarely as they originally appear, and the day to day experience of people needs to be understood thoroughly before aid can make a qualitative (and quantitative) difference in people’s lives.

We are always mildly bemused when well intentioned (or perhaps ill informed?) people quickly jump to a conclusion that will look something like this:   “What the _____(insert disadvantaged group here) need to do is _____”.    or this:   “The problem with _____ is simply that they should be doing ______”.     You get the picture.

In our experience, the bigger the problem, the more complex it is to solve.  The dependency of a number of factors, coupled with things like generational trauma, systemic discrimination, and poverty more generally serve to put people behind the eight ball.   It is difficult to ever get in front if you are constantly scrambling to just keep afloat.

There are no easy answers, but we can all do our part.   May 2014 be filled with abundance and blessings to you.  Thank you for continuing to read our blog, and we look forward to bringing you more material into the new year.   We are going to be heading off to India, where we will be seeing some “development ideas in action”, that we look forward to being inspired by.   Stay tuned!

Factivism: Eradicating Extreme Poverty – can it be done?

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The Shox have just watched a very empowering video which you can also watch by clicking here.   This is a TED talk which talks about the POWER OF THE PEOPLE.   The message here is that extreme poverty CAN be eliminated, and it can be done within our lifetimes.

power of the people

For those of us who work in development, it can be very disheartening sometimes to read/listen/watch the media machine churn out the bad news stories.   Floods, famine, subsistence farming, drought, and more.   But the fact of the matter is – there ARE some good news stories out there, and they need to be shared.   Facts like the huge success that the use of anti-retroviral drugs has had in halting / stopping the spread of AIDS, particularly in children.  Facts like the decrease in some countries of the killer malaria by up to 75%.   Facts like the decline in child mortality.  Facts like the POSSIBILITY that we could live in a world by 2030 that has eliminated extreme poverty (which is defined as those who live on less than $1.25 per day).   This is all exciting, good news stuff!  And unfortunately, for some reason, these stories don’t sell.  But it is important for people to know that there IS hope, and that the good work that so many great NGO organisations do, really can (and do!) make a difference.

So we just wanted to help put it out there, to help spread the word – that extreme poverty CAN be overcome, and we can all help to make it happen.

We would love to hear what sort of things YOU are doing to help make this world a better place for everyone!    Thanks for reading, people!

Helping others help themselves – Show us the money!

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Happy New Year everyone!   I am fascinated by the amount of articles I have read over the past few weeks about resolutions, that somehow 2013 is going to be THE YEAR WE STICK TO OUR RESOLUTIONS.   Yet we hear this every year!   So in turning over a new leaf for the Shox’s, what we have been doing is a bit of a stocktake about what is important for us, and how we best follow our passion(s).   For us, that includes helping others.   But how do we go about helping others?   This takes a myriad of forms, and the answer is different for everyone, even if the goal is the same.   Some people are time poor, yet are able to dig into their pocketbook and assist others by providing some financial assistance.   A wonderful, and worthy thing to do.

Small change for some!

Small change for some! But for others, this can be life changing.

If this is you, can we suggest an organisation that you may (or may not!) be familiar with – Kiva.   We are big fans of Kiva, because it is all about helping others lift themselves out of poverty through the use of small loans.   Yes it is micro finance, and it works!   Kiva has been around since 2005 and since that time has lent over $392 million dollars to over 875,000 people.    Impressive figures.  But what makes it even better is that they have a 99% success rate on repayments.   The website is great – you can look at a variety of investment opportunities (ie: people!) by searching by gender, by country, by type of business people have, etc…   And for as little as $25, you can help someone get on their way to helping themselves.

Altantuya, a small business woman in Mongolia

Altantuya, a small business woman in Mongolia

We have a number of small  investments, and it is always with excitement when I see an e-mail from Kiva in my inbox, advising “You’ve received X repayments!”.    It is a sign that the system works.   And it is humbling.   In my last email, one of the women I had lent to (Altantuya who lives in Mongolia), had provided her first repayment.   It was for the sum of 69 cents.   Yes, that’s right.   She was able to repay back 2.76% of the original loan amount of $25.00.   And let me tell you, that made me feel great.   Such small amounts to some people are truly life changing amounts for others.

Once loans have been paid back, you have the options of taking back your original investment, or else re-investing it with others.   So through the great multiplier effect, a comparatively small initial amount can keep working to help others over time.   Try it!  We think you’ll like it!

The above example is great for people who are time poor, but want to help.   But for others, they may have time on their hands, or they may be employed in the development sector, making a career out of helping others!   What can we offer these people?   Well, another recent post that was brought to my attention by a former colleague in Ghana (thank you, Tanko, if you are reading this!), was the concept of “helping others” by “shutting up, and listening!”.     Great advice!   So many people think they have all the answers for others, but never stop to consider what it is that people need help with.   No question – the best person to be able to tell you what they need – is that person themselves!    You can listen to a TED talk here that explores this idea in more depth.   It is 15 minutes in length, so have a cuppa and a listen when you want to be inspired.

So while we are on a bit of a roll, I also wanted to share a link with you about a great idea that builds on the concept that THE PEOPLE who we want to “help” are in the best position to know what they need.   In this case, the idea is simple:  Give them money!   We’re not talking about vast sums of capital here – we are talking about small, life changing amounts (similar to micro finance amounts) that can best be directed according to people’s needs.  Again, not a panacea for all the wrongs out there, but another innovative, out of the box idea to work towards a more equal society for all.

Can’t get no satisfaction? Try Volunteering!

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Today is International Volunteering Day, and so we thought it was appropriate to provide a bit of an update on some of the volunteering activities we are actively involved in!

Mar continues to spend a lot of time working with the Mirriwoong and Gija people up in the East Kimberley, through her directorship on a couple of different indigenous trusts.   Although the directorship itself is a remunerated position, there are a lot of other things that she is doing up there that aren’t paid jobs!   Together the Shox have found it hugely rewarding to work on a functional numeracy and literacy project for new Traditional Owner directors on the board, which has seen some good success!  The highest accolade one could possibly get from a Traditional Owner would be to be considered “deadly”… and that is exactly what Mar got from a TO recently, after a successful meeting!   Very gratifying work!

The other key area of involvement for Mar has been in working with Victim Support Services, helping victims of crime navigate the justice system.

For Mark, he continues to take on more and more responsibility with his main organisation CARAD (Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees), working on the executive committee, fundraising committee and also providing homework support to two fabulous young Burmese girls (see photo).  This is a very politically hot topic in Australia at the moment, and it is very rewarding to be able to make a tangible difference in people’s lives.

Finally, the other main volunteering role that Mark has is as Vice President of the Perth Jazz Society.  We continue to be avid supporters of the jazz scene in Perth, and regularly get out to local gigs to support the fantastic musicians that Perth has on offer.

Volunteering really does make the world go around, and we applaud all the awesome (deadly, even!) volunteers out there who make a difference every day, to so many people (or animals, or environments!)   Happy International Volunteering Day, everyone!   If you are thinking about volunteering, you can check out some options (in Australia) here,  or if you are thinking of volunteering overseas, maybe check out things here!