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2017: What a Year!

A couple of weekends ago, I was asked what I would do if I had twenty-four hours to live.

Apart from the vague ‘I’d want to travel’, I didn’t have an answer. Thinking back on that question now… I would continue doing exactly what I’m doing at this moment. Writing poetry. Meeting new people. Tweeting about my existential crises. Making a social impact through my research and project work. Taking life one day at a time.

 

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Everything is awesome!

 

I love what I do. My current career is split between research and project work for Walanga Muru, the Indigenous Strategy Office at Macquarie University, and YLab, a social enterprise that falls under the banner of the Foundation of Young Australians (FYA).

Since beginning both roles, I have learned a lot about myself. Personally, professionally, and creatively. But it wasn’t until I attended an ‘unconventional conference’ (Unconference) with YLab a couple of weeks ago that I realised how much I have grown in the last twelve months.

 

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“Mum, I’m leaving home to find myself.”

 

Those who know me—and even some who don’t—know that I am always busy.

The people closest to me share their concern that I take on too much work, that I need to learn how to say ‘No’. Maybe they’re right. But I’ve found that I like keeping busy. Otherwise, I begin floundering. A friend once called it ‘proactive anxiety’.

It wasn’t until the YLab Unconference, when I was forced to relax and do nothing, that I began learning to control the chaos in my mind.

At the Unconference, we were asked after each activity or workshop to take a moment and reflect on what we had just learned and why. On the first day of the Unconference, during those moments of reflection, my mind went into ‘busy’ mode. I thought of all the projects I had to finish, the tasks I might complete—anything that didn’t include sitting in a room with a group of strangers and reflecting.

I felt as if I floundered that day.

That night, however, I found myself thinking about all that I had done that day—and all that I had done this past year.

 

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Class of 2016 (Macquarie University)

 

Since December 2016, I have completed an undergraduate degree, picked up a casual job, moved interstate, enrolled in a Masters course, began a writing career, picked up a second casual job, changed my Masters degree to a Graduate Certificate, graduated from that Graduate Certificate, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What is the point of telling you all this?

 

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Existential crisis #3062

 

With each opportunity, with each new experience, with each dog I have pet, I have inevitably learned something about myself (and the world) that I was previously ignorant to. Here are seven things 2017 taught me:

  1. There is no need to rush

Don’t get me wrong, I still love to stay busy! But I’ve learned that taking a moment to relax and reflect on what I have accomplished is usually a good thing. It was during one of these reflective moments that I realised that I wasn’t in the mindset to complete my Masters degree and that I wanted to take a belated Gap Year.

I’ve taken the time to take risks, and I’m no longer worried about what to do if they don’t pan out.

 

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It’s the journey, not the destination

 

  1. Don’t feel pressured to please everyone

Deciding to graduate with a Graduate Certificate instead of completing a Masters degree was a big decision for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t value the Certificate as a qualification; it was that I had openly committed to the Masters path and felt like a flake for not keeping my word. I had placed too much pressure on myself and was constantly worried about what people would think. When I finally told everyone my plans, I felt such a sense of relief.

 

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Thanks, Kat

 

  1. Step out of your comfort zone

In August of this year, a friend told me about an opportunity to read some of my poetry at a local bookstore. At first, I was hesitant. I hated public speaking. On more than one occasion, I have had intense panic attacks when making presentations in front of my peers. But to speak in front of strangers? And to read them my personal poetry collection? What if they thought I was a terrible writer? What if my stutter got so bad that no one could understand me? I was more than terrified.

When I stepped up in front of that audience at that bookstore and I read my work, my entire body was shaking—but I made it through. I went on to read at more events. I grew confident. Now, I can’t stop talking!

 

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Voiceworks #109 ‘Sprawl’ launch (Brisbane, October 2017)

 

  1. Do what makes you happy

All through my youth, I didn’t have a concrete idea of what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’. I wanted to be a writer and a journalist and an archaeologist and an historian and (at one stage) a hairdresser. I had too many dreams and wanted to do them all. As I ‘grew up’, my dream career continued to change. But a few things remained: my love of writing, my love of history and culture, and my need to have a dozen different projects going at the one time.

It’s taken a while, but I feel like I’ve finally found a middle ground. (Let’s hope I have, at least!)

 

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Everything is fine!

 

  1. Question everything

My mother told me that, as a small child, I would always ask ‘why?’ She found this horribly irritating and steered me toward the local public library when the questions got too hard. This lead to my lifelong obsession with books and learning. Still, books do not answer all of life’s questions, and throughout my life, I have been afraid to verbalise questions. What if people think I’m stupid? What if I ask a question that has already been answered but I missed it? All of these questions, and more, ran through my mind.

I don’t have a revelation for when this mentality began to wane, but I was in class one day—in a small group of about seven people—and I asked a question I had been wanting to ask for a while but was too shy to do so. And guess what? The world didn’t end!

 

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There are no silly questions!

 

  1. Always have unconditional positive regard

At the YLab Unconference, one of the commitments we made to each other as a group was to have unconditional positive regard for one another. This did not mean we had to agree or get along. It meant accepting people as they are and going into conversations and workshops with the best intentions, and believing everyone else had the best intentions too. While there is a lot of criticism of ‘unconditional positive regard’ in psychology, as a life philosophy, I’m excited to give it a try.

 

 

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I have become the personification of a wholesome meme

 

 

  1. Be open to learning new things

In my studies, I learned what career paths I might want to follow in the future. In my research and project work, I realised what my strengths and weaknesses are, I’ve challenged myself and I’ve reaped the rewards. Through my budding writing career, I have fulfilled a lifelong dream and realised that I might be good enough after all! I would have never learned these things about myself without being open to new things and learning from those experiences.

 

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As long as you try your best…

 

2017 has been an… interesting year, to say the least. Though this blog post is reflecting on the past twelve months, I feel like it’s the beginning of the next chapter in my life. Truth be told, I was a little anxious about posting it. It felt a bit corny, a bit narcissistic. But I feel that, in order to move into the new year, I need to say goodbye to this year first.

As the end of 2017 nears and pretty, new 2018 planners stare longingly at me in the windows of overly expensive stationery stores, I am excited to see what the new year will bring. And, for once, I’m not scared of the unknown.

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Why the death of Elijah Doughty is a racial matter.

WORDS | Raelee Lancaster

A young boy. Aged fourteen. His name, Elijah Doughty, spoken in either harsh whispers or excruciating, tortured cries.

A man. Aged fifty-six. Identity unknown – withheld to protect him and his family.

The man gets in his Nissan Navara 4WD and drives to Gribble Creek, near Kalgoorlie, Western Australia to look for two stolen motorbikes, allegedly with the knowledge and approval of the local police (Menagh & Tomlin, 2017; Wahlquist, 2017).The man saw the boy with one of the stolen bikes and decided to speed after him in his car, driving closely behind the young teen. In the short chase, the boy allegedly veered in front of the man’s car. The man didn’t stop in time. The boy went under the car. The motorbike was smashed. The boy died at the scene. (Menagh, 2017; Wahlquist, 2017).

A young boy. Aged fourteen. Dead.

A man. Aged fifty-six. Alive.

This week on Friday 21 July 2017, a supreme court jury spent six and a half hours deliberating on how to handle this situation (Wahlquist, 2017). 

Was it manslaughter, or was it recklessness? 

According to WA Police crash reconstruction expert, Peter Price, there were no obvious signs of swerving or heavy braking, though moderately may have occurred but was not visible on site (NITV, 2017). The man said he did not commit a crime when killing a boy in order to serve up some vigilante justice, though he admits he might have been driving a bit dangerously. 

Was the death of a child at the hands of an adult a serious crime, or merely an accident?

The jury did not spent even one full day deliberating before they decided on the latter. A child is dead, and a man is acquitted of manslaughter and gets three years in jail for dangerous driving, with the possibility of parole as early as January 2018 (Wahlquist, 2017).

To add to this case, media attention has been limited, with little push for more discussion on the issue. On social media, people came out of the woodwork either to speak out against the injustice against Elijah Doughty and his family or to defended the man who killed Elijah and demonise the boy.

People have defended the man and said Elijah wouldn’t have died if he didn’t steal.

People defended the man and said Elijah  deserved to die because he broke the law.

 

Regardless of whether or not Elijah stole the motorbike, theft does not warrant a child losing his life.

So, why are people blaming this boy for his own death. Why are people demonising Elijah’s family and community for protesting his death and asking for justice? Why are people defending his killer? Why did his killer only received a three-year prison sentence?

To put it simply, Elijah Doughty died because he was black.

He was demonised because he was black.

Don’t agree?

This wasn’t the first time an Aboriginal boy was hit by a man driving recklessly and seeking justice. An Aboriginal boy from Pilbara, Western Australia was ‘mowed down’ in May 2016 by a would-be vigilante who was driving reckless. The boy was badly injured and media only reported that the people responsible were charged. Pilbara has also come under fire for their treatment of young Aboriginal boys in the recent past. (Taylor, 2016). 

Stories about Aboriginal people dying or being seriously and critically injured at the hands of vigilantes or authority figures such as the police occur too often. Similarly, these instances are often disregarded by the media and general public too often, else they are used to demonise Aboriginal people.

Still unsure?

Anglo-Saxon Australians love to flip the racial dynamics to spur their racism, so let’s flip the racial dynamics of this situation to help them understand why this really is a racial issue.

Eli Westlake. Caucasian. Aged twenty-one. Hit by a car and killed because the woman driving was angry at him for throwing food at her car. The woman driving was sentenced to at least eighteen years in jail (Kontominas, 2010). A woman killed a white boy and was sentenced to almost two decades behind bars.

Here, I’ve set up a little table for you to compare the pair.

Elijah Doughty Eli Westlake
Black White
Allegedly stole a bike Threw food at woman’s car
Chased by a man in car Chased by woman in car
Hit by car Hit by car
Killed Killed
Man receives three years jail Woman received eighteen years jail

Aboriginal people are dying at alarming rates. Aboriginal people are incarcerated at alarming rates. Children are still being taken from their families and communities. Racism is very much a current issue. Suicide rates are staggering. Mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction are fuelled by two hundred years’ worth of intergenerational trauma. We are treated like second-class citizens. Some people still see us as animals.

If Elijah Doughty did steal that bike, he deserved the chance to make up for his mistakes and learn from them. He deserved to go home to his family. He deserved to grow up and have a family of his own.

He did not deserve to die. He did not deserve to be chased down like an animal and slaughtered. His murderer does not deserve to live out such a short sentence for killing a child.

 

Works cited:

Kontominas, B 2010, ‘Cheese ball road rage killer jailed for 25 years’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April, accessed July 2017 from The Sydney Morning Herald.

Menagh, J & Sam Tomlin 2017, ‘Elijah Doughty trial: Man jailed for three years over death of Kalgoorlie teenager’, ABC News, 21 July, accessed July 2017 from ABC News.

Menagh, J 2017, ‘Elijah Doughty trial: Jury sent out to rule on alleged manslaughter of Kalgoorlie teenager’, ABC News, 22 July, accessed July 2017 from ABC News.

NITV 2017, ‘Driver not guilty of Indigenous teen Elijah Doughty’s manslaughter ‘, NITV, 21 July, accessed July 2017 from NITV.

Taylor, P 2016, ‘Pilbara boy run down by car raises vigilante claims’, The Weekend Australian, 9 July, accessed July 2017 from The Weekend Australian.

Wahlquist, C 2017, ‘The killing of Elijah Doughty: oil patch at crime scene fades but stain remains’, The Guardian, 21 July, accessed July 2017 from The Guardian.

Works consulted:

Gorrie, N 2016, ‘On Black Rage, New Funerals, And The Exhausting Resilience Of Our Mob’, Junkee, 1 September, accessed July 2017 from Junkee.

Paddenburg, T 2016, ‘Crime wave in WA’s Pilbara blamed on hungry kids breaking into homes for food’, PerthNow, 10 July, accessed July 2017 from PerthNow.

Wahlquist, C 2017, ‘Elijah Doughty jury told: decide if man’s driving was ‘crime against the state”, The Guardian, 20 July, accessed July 2017 from The Guardian.