Family Space Resources for nurturing healthy families and communities.

Three keys we should give our young women

When I was about 13 or 14 my dad came to the girls group I was part of to teach us some self-defence techniques, just in case we needed…

When I was about 13 or 14 my dad came to the girls group I was part of to teach us some self-defence techniques, just in case we needed to defend ourselves ‘out in the world’.

In my early 20’s a friend taught me to hold a key in between my fingers when I was walking at night, another self-defence strategy added to my collection. To this day, holding my keys in my hand while walking at night has become second nature. 

As a woman, now in my 30’s, I recognise it would be far, far better to live in a world where such strategies are not necessary, but living ‘out in the world’, as my dad would say, requires pragmatism and wisdom – I’ll still hold my keys in my hand a little longer.

It’s sad I need a key between my fingers to feel safe. The purpose of a key is to unlock something – something that’s usually positive – not to be used as a physical defence strategy.

So here are three other positive keys (pun intended) we should be giving our young women as they grow up. 

Number one: VALUE.

What values do we identify in women?

Proverbs 31 says, “Charm can be deceptive and physical beauty will not last, but a woman who reveres the Eternal should be praised above all others. Celebrate all she has achieved. Let all her accomplishments publicly praise her.” (v30-31)

Too often our celebration of young women goes only skin deep. While I have no problem with complementing a sister on her outfit or hairstyle, is that where my verbal appreciation stops? Am I as verbose in my admiration for her thoughtfulness and hard work in study, work, and relationships as I am for her new shoes?

And as important as the value we place on others is, it’s also important to consider what we value in ourselves. I set the standard of value for the young women in my life. I can find this difficult and uncomfortable, but if I don’t/can’t identify what is valuable in me, how can I expect or instruct the young women around me to identify it in themselves?

Here are three deep value areas to look for and verbally acknowledge in yourself and the young women in your life:

  1. Achievement (“Congratulations on your graduation/new job/sporting success…etc.”)
  2. Effort (“I noticed how hard you worked on that project, I’m so glad you didn’t give up.”)
  3. Character (“I really appreciate how patient you are with your younger siblings.”)

Number two: STRENGTH. 

“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” (Proverbs 31:17) 

Strengths are demonstrated as built-in capacities for ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. I’m going to call these capacities Strength Patterns.

We aren’t all strong in everything, but we are all strong in something. I am an organised person.

My mind sorts things into categories and systems and I order my physical world accordingly. I am also a relational person and want to use my organisational skills to help others. When I identify my strength patterns and tap into them, I get a greater sense of fulfilment from my life.

I can also help others identify their strength patterns so that they too can experience a greater sense of fulfilment. Young women can struggle to identify their strengths, especially if they don’t fit the stereotypical brain, beauty, brawn patterns. As caring adults, a gift we can give young women (any young person for that matter) is to identify the strength patterns we see in them.

How do we identify potential patterns of strength in the young people around us?

Look for these three clues:

  1. Use (frequency and repetition of engagement in the activity -Thinking/Feeling/Behaving)
  2. Energy (never gets tired of and seems to be energised by participating in the activity)
  3. Performance (is skilled at it).

Number three: POWER. 

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:25-26)

We tend to take our voices for granted, but when used wisely and appropriately, the voice can be one of the most powerful instruments in the human body.

Proverbs 18 says the power of life and death is in the tongue. When we encourage young women to use their voices, we empower them to ignite change in their world.

How do we encourage young women to exercise the power of their voice?

  1. Ask her questions (“What do you think about…?”). And listen for her answers.
  2. Invite her into decision making discussions, giving her opportunities to voice her ideas/concerns/opinions. 
  3. Be a role model. Let her see you using your voice on issues that matter to you. 

Young women, I want to remind you today that you are valuable beyond the superficial, strong in unique ways, and powerful to make change! 

Carry these keys wherever you go.

 

About the author…

Narelle is a former youth worker with more than 10 years of experience. She now serves in SU QLD’s vocational training team, equipping the next generation of chaplains and youth workers. She is especially passionate about empowering young women.

Posted: 9/04/2021

Christians are good at remembering Palm Sunday ‘Part 1’ – but what about ‘Part 2’?

At the church I grew up in, Palm Sunday was always an event to remember. Every year, those running the morning service would get the kids to dress up…

At the church I grew up in, Palm Sunday was always an event to remember. Every year, those running the morning service would get the kids to dress up in the appropriate clothes from the costume box (complete with tea towels on heads), grab a palm frond from the gathered pile and march down the centre aisle crying out, “Hosanna, Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

It was great stuff. I must have seen it 20 years in a row. I never got tired of it.

And this is pretty much what we think about when we think of Palm Sunday. Jesus, on a donkey, riding into Jerusalem at Passover time, with crowds around him waving palm fronds and shouting about how he is the one who God has sent to save them. That he is the long-awaited Messiah. This event is often referred to as ‘The Triumphal Entry’ of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). It’s the occasion that marks the beginning of Passion Week, the week that leads up to the death and resurrection of Jesus, the most important event in the Christian calendar.

I like to think of this as ‘Palm Sunday – Part 1’.

And we often don’t get to ‘Palm Sunday – Part 2’… but this over-the-top, Messianic parade is not the only thing that Jesus gets up to on this first ‘Palm Sunday’ (Matthew 21:21-17).

When Jesus gets to Jerusalem, he goes on to the temple. When he gets there, he finds that the temple courts, the part of the temple that has been set up for outsiders to engage with God, has been turned into a place to buy and sell temple sacrifices. The little space that outsiders have been given in the temple for worship is being denied them by those who run the place. Jesus makes a huge scene, overturning tables, scattering money and condemning those in charge for turning his house of prayer into a den for thieves.

The blind and the lame then come to the temple and Jesus heals them. The children start shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and those in charge of the temple try to get Jesus to stop them from doing that. But he doesn’t. Instead, Jesus encourages the children, saying to the religious leaders that their own scriptures tell them that God’s praises will come from the lips of children like these.

I tell you, Jesus is really asking for trouble here. This kind of stuff could get a person killed…

[spoiler alert]

I’m not sure that the people who were shouting for Jesus to save them earlier in the day knew what kind of saviour God had sent them. Some say the hype from the earlier parade flowed from a deep, collective hope that Jesus might be some kind of warrior king who would unite them to fight off the occupying Roman force.

And while it doesn’t look like Jesus is going to be that kind of Messiah, it doesn’t mean he’s not a fighter.

When Jesus goes to the temple, he fights for the religious outsiders to have a space where they can engage with God. He fights for those who have been dealt a bad hand in this life so that they might experience the good things God wants for them. And he fights for the children to know that God is for them and for their chance to shout that hope out to the world.

Jesus fights for our good, and particularly for the good of those who are missing out in some way. He stands with us, pushing against the powers that seek to hold us back.

That’s what kind of Messiah Jesus is shaping up to be on this Palm Sunday, both Parts 1 & 2.

“Hosanna…!!!”

“God is saving us…!!!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…!!!”

PS – a challenge to the organisers of next year’s Palm Sunday services. Please keep the re-enactments of ‘Palm Sunday – Part 1’ coming, but I’d love to see someone do a re-enactment of ‘Palm Sunday – Part 2’.

That would be something…

 

 

About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

Posted: 27/03/2021

NUA Film Series – Easter!

SU Ireland and SU Scotland have teamed up yet again to produce this free 3 part video series that provides a fresh perspective on Easter and why it matters…

SU Ireland and SU Scotland have teamed up yet again to produce this free 3 part video series that provides a fresh perspective on Easter and why it matters for us today!

Check it out by clicking the link here: https://nuafilmseries.org/nua-easter-registration-form

Posted: 22/03/2021

What Michael Jordan taught me about ministry

Over my recent holidays I watched The Last Dance, a documentary about the Chicago Bulls basketball team that dominated the NBA (the highest-level basketball league in the world) throughout…

Over my recent holidays I watched The Last Dance, a documentary about the Chicago Bulls basketball team that dominated the NBA (the highest-level basketball league in the world) throughout the 1990s.

At the heart of this story about one of the most successful franchises in basketball history, there lies another story – the story of their star player (and arguably the world’s greatest ever basketballer) Michael Jordan.

I have to confess, I’ve never been a big basketball fan, but I love sport. It took me just one minute of that first episode and I was hooked.

What stood out to me as I watched was the relentless determination that Michael Jordan had to be the best. It was this pursuit of excellence that led Michael to put in hours and hours of training.

“I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat.” Michael Jordan

As I kept watching I couldn’t help but think of my role as a camps specialist with SU QLD. There’s a lot of fun when it comes to camping and schoolies events, but behind all that I spend a lot of time training people.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard camp leaders say, “but I did training last year” or “I’ve covered this material before” and “do I really need to do this again?”.

When I hear these questions, I certainly understand the frustrations behind them. We don’t get involved in camps to do training, we do it because it’s exciting, fun and a great way to help young people grow in their Christian faith. But without training, without preparation, we’re not setting ourselves up for success.

In the field of children’s ministry and youth work, training can sometimes look similar or cover similar topics. But what I’ve discovered over the years is that every situation, small group and circumstance requires different adaptations of the same skills.

When we attend training with a group of peers, we have the opportunity to share ideas and challenge the way we currently support the next generation – so we can do it better.

If you already have the perfect youth and children’s program, please send me a copy. But if you’re not there yet, I’d like to share my top reasons for making training a priority:

  1. Every setting requires something different. There are many ways of doing youth and children’s work and each organisation you are part of will have different reporting systems and ways of doing things. We may feel the content is the same, but the outworking could be very different
  2. Look for ‘the new’ in each training. As we grow in experience we tend to understand concepts on a deeper level. Your training from three years ago may have a completely new outworking when you hear it after you’ve had three years of experience to bring to the table.
  3. Training is done better together. Sometimes the most important part of a training event is not the content delivered, but the conversation you have over a biscuit and tea with another team member about what you have just heard. Fellowship with other leaders can be a huge growth contributor.
  4. As people who work in children and youth ministry, who understand that each and every young person matters deeply to God and deserves a safe and meaningful life, we need to be passionate about training and ensuring that our young people are safe (it’s also a requirement that has come out of the Royal Commission).
  5. Your experience will add to the content. Whenever I deliver training material I always assume there is someone in the room who could know something about our topic that I don’t know. Your input, stories, and wisdom in training is just as valuable to the group as the content from the person delivering the training.

Michael Jordan’s relentless pursuit of excellence led to his name being known by millions of people around the world. But how much better would it be to know that through your relentless pursuit of excellence that you could make an eternal and life-transforming difference in the lives of the young people you lead on your next camp.

Get trained in 2021 by attending Amplify Conference on Saturday 6 March. Click here to find out more: www.amplifyconference.com.au

 

 

About the author…

Beavs is a former High School Maths and Christian Education Teacher who has been working and volunteering with SU QLD Camps for almost 20 years. As Camps Specialist he supports volunteers and chaplains run camps and community outreach events throughout Queensland, reaching over 4500 young people. Beavs is married with 3 children, and loves coffee and watching sport.

Posted: 18/02/2021

7 life lessons I have learnt from jig-saw puzzles

An unfinished jig-saw puzzle has always sat on the table at my parent’s house. When we visit, it doesn’t take long before we are gathered around the table, absorbed…

An unfinished jig-saw puzzle has always sat on the table at my parent’s house. When we visit, it doesn’t take long before we are gathered around the table, absorbed in the emerging picture, examining the puzzle pieces and trying to match them and fill the available gaps.

My father and mother had a very practical approach to teaching their six kids important life skills. They rarely ‘lectured’ or ‘preached’, rather they excelled at finding aspects of activities or situations where they could get us thinking about what we could learn from what we were doing.

Thanks to the hundreds of jig-saw puzzles we have done over the years, I’ve learned a lot about problem solving. In fact, I’ve used these learnings as ‘guide posts’ to help me meet the challenges I have encountered in life.

So today, I would love to share these insights with you in the hope that you’ll find these helpful when facing your own challenges.

1. Start with the end in mind.

Most jig-saw puzzles come in a box that shows a picture of what the finished product will look like. There is a clear goal we are working towards. If we know what we are trying to achieve, it is easier to map out steps to achieve the goal. It is important to keep looking back at the picture – to see where the parts fit into the whole.

2. Put boundaries in place.

When doing a puzzle, we usually start with the edge pieces. This sets the boundaries around the project. It is important to be clear about boundaries, what is in, what is out, what is my responsibility, what is not, what is within my control, what is not!

3. Only bite off what you can chew.

The biggest puzzle I have done was 1500 pieces, the smallest was eight pieces. There are factors to consider in choosing the size of the puzzle. It is important to assess your environment, your ability and the resources you have available before making a decision. While there is limited fun to be found in an eight-piece puzzle, starting a 500-piece puzzle over a 30-minute lunch at McDonalds is just silly!

4. Match your approach to your situation.

Different parts of the puzzle benefit from different approaches. Sometimes matching colours is the best strategy, or matching shapes, or sometimes trial and error is the only way! Trial and error is the most time consuming and least rewarding. It’s really a last resort.

5. Celebrate your successes.

We tend to start with the edge, then the sections of the puzzle that will be the easiest. The flowers of the field with their varying colours and shapes are formed fairly quickly under our busy hands. We stop often to admire our achievement and happily chatter away. Then we come to a solid block of blue sky only discolored by the occasional puff of white cloud. Nerves become more frazzled as the tedious ‘trial and error’ method must be employed, we celebrate our successes with an exclamation of ‘got a piece in’ which, when the going is slow, warrants a cheer and congratulations.

6. Start with what you can do, not what you can’t.

With a puzzle one tends to work on patches that seem easy. If you are stuck, move to a different part or simply look at what you are working on from a different angle. Sometimes it is best to put the puzzle on hold and come back afresh.

7. Know when to walk away.

This last ‘lesson’ is one that I have found particularly difficult. Recently, for the first time ever, we actually gave up on a puzzle. We pulled apart what we had done and put it back in the box. After many hours working on it my mother and I made a decision that it was just not worth continuing. As we solemnly packed it away, we reflected on times when we have pushed forward in what we thought was perseverance when time showed it to have been simply obstinance. While never giving up is a great catch cry, sometimes the struggle and fall out of continuing is simply not worth it

Most activities we engage in with kids lend themselves to ‘lessons’. So whether it is soccer, swimming, monopoly or even a computer game, it is worth taking the time to join in and help your kids discover their own life lessons through the activities they do.

Posted: 11/02/2021

What is ‘Ordinary Time’ and why is it important?

Well, it would seem we’re back into it for another year… >  Christmas – Done…! >  New Year’s – Done…! >  Back to work… Done…! >  Back to school……

Well, it would seem we’re back into it for another year…

>  Christmas – Done…!

>  New Year’s – Done…!

>  Back to work… Done…!

>  Back to school… Done…!

And now it’s “2021 – Here we come, ready or not”…

In the Christian liturgical calendar, this time we’re in now is called Ordinary Time. It’s the in-between time between the celebrations of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. In this season, we step out of special times of celebration and commemoration and step into the business of living our everyday lives.

But don’t let the title fool you. Ordinary Time isn’t meant to highlight how mundane, tiresome or uninteresting everyday life is. Instead, it’s supposed to prompt us to appreciate how sacred our oft taken-for-granted daily schedules and movements actually are. Sounds good doesn’t it?

But let’s be honest… for a lot of the time, our ordinary time can feel pretty, well, ordinary – and we find ourselves looking to the next distraction or celebration to get us through.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to live in Ordinary Time in a more extraordinary way?

Recently, I came across an article called The Eucharistic Life. I was intrigued by the title but had no idea what it could possibly mean. I knew that “eucharist” was another name for communion or “The Lord’s Supper” as my tradition calls it, and I understood that this vital ceremony expressed a deep truth at the heart of the Christian faith. But I’d never heard the ceremony linked to a way of living in the world.

So, I looked into it…

Towards the end of Jesus’ life, he celebrated Passover with his disciples. You may have heard of this. It’s often referred to as “The Last Supper”. As part of this meal, Jesus took bread, gave thanks to God for it, broke it and shared it out (Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:19). This process of taking, giving thanks, breaking and sharing, when applied to our own lives, is a template for living a more extraordinary ‘Eucharistic Life’.

It looks something like this…

First, we take hold of our lives. We recognise that our lives are ours! That they are precious and worth grabbing onto with both hands. We need to own all the good and bad bits of our lives and take responsibility for what we can.

Secondly, we give thanks for our lives. Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you’, that would be sufficient.” When we understand each ordinary moment as a gift from God, our gratitude transforms those successive moments into a more extraordinary life.

Thirdly, we allow our lives to be broken. We need to accept, even embrace, that we haven’t got it all together and that’s okay. Some of our best life-learning will come from humble openness to this reality about ourselves. I love the Leonard Cohen song line, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Fourthly, we share our lives with others. Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls us is where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” When we take hold of our lives, living them with a deep gratitude and humility, we position ourselves to make the difference in the world that only we can make.

Now that we’re back into it for 2021, let’s make the most of our Ordinary Time…

 

About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

Posted: 4/02/2021

Christmas Day 2020 – a reason to hope

Christmas Day has a few extra feels in 2020, at the end of what has been an *unprecedented* (had to get in one more time!) year. Even now as…

Christmas Day has a few extra feels in 2020, at the end of what has been an *unprecedented* (had to get in one more time!) year.

Even now as I write, we are watching aghast as NSW closes down with what seems to be a new outbreak, and Christmas and summer plans for thousands and thousands of people are being wrecked. The nightmare of Covid-19 lingers on.

In Australia we have charted the year better than most countries, graciously, but even here we have experienced huge doses of fear, frustration, isolation and disruption. As if this was not enough, we have also seen vast bush fires, global racial conflicts, and fierce divisions over politics, vaccines and almost every issue of importance.

So we come up to Christmas, surrounded by the familiar and strangely comforting trappings of carols, decorations and shopping. In such a different year this public holiday is looming with extra meaning and value.

As I ponder why I am feeling Christmas more than in past years, I have been struck with three reasons that the season brings me hope:

  1. Simplicity – there is much that we normally do that we’ve been forced to give up (which changes depending on where we’re located), like travel, parties, going to the movies, avoiding crowds at shopping centres, and not being able to see some people we love. Our world has shrunk, as we have spent so much time at home. For many of us, Christmas will be smaller, local and with just the basics. This pared back experience initially felt like a loss, but as it gets closer I am finding it special and wonderful. After all, that very first Christmas was a simple, yet wonderful and meaningful affair.
  2. Family – or more specifically, the people I love and who love me. I sadly concede that not everyone has or relishes time with their own family, but whether it be one person or a crowd, Christmas presents a time to find and hold onto those who are yours. We are social beings who share a bond with our flesh and blood, or tribe or mob or gang, or those who we feel at home with. Especially in a year of so much separation, Christmas invites fresh connection – in person if we can, or virtually – if necessary.
  3. Gifts – I cannot shake the weird wonderfulness of giving at Christmas, the selflessness of finding and buying things to give to others. This entails spending hours at the shops (or online), spending our money, wrapping our presents and placing them under a tree – all so we can hand them out so that our special others can rip off the paper and discover the treasure they have received. This is quite literally a gesture of national generosity, unlike any other single time in our lives. Ok, so it is capitalism gone crazy, but still, isn’t the giving of gifts amazing.

It may not surprise that each of these reasons also remind me of the background story of Christmas. As a follower of Jesus, this man-made celebration is based on the truly remarkable story in the Bible of the arrival of a baby to earth.

The creator of the universe came as a mere baby, in a most simple and completely unremarkable fashion. While fully God, this baby came to a young family, Joseph and Mary, under social and moral clouds because of a virgin conception. They were without a home due to a government ruling and a threat to the life of their child. This baby came as God’s gift to our world, to reveal in human form his character and teachings, and to ultimately offer a sacrifice that would save the world from our sin and struggles.

I do love this time of year. And this year maybe more than ever before in my life. May you and yours find new hope in this Christmas season, and may your 2021 be full of joy and blessing.

 

About the Author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

Posted: 24/12/2020

4 reasons why it’s important for everyone to understand mental illness

There are many negative perceptions around mental illness. Some people think depression is just a ‘myth’. These sorts of opinions can have a huge impact on those going through…

There are many negative perceptions around mental illness. Some people think depression is just a ‘myth’. These sorts of opinions can have a huge impact on those going through serious mental illness.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for children aged between five and 17 years. One in every five Australians are affected by mental illness every year, 1 in 7 are aged 4-17, yet many don’t seek help. (Mental Health Australlia).

Why is that? And what can we do to support our Children and Youth in seeking help?

Mental Health can have a negative stigma when viewing a person suffering from mental illness. They are treated differently and can be viewed as “Dangerous” or “Crazy”. Having these stigmas can lead to discrimination, bullying, and in some cases it can lead to them becoming a target for violence or abuse.

However, if a person suffering from mental illness is feeling that negative stigma it can also mean they are less likely to seek treatment when needed.

What can we do about it?

1. Educate yourself about mental illness

This will help you understand how mental illness impacts a person’s life and how we can support those around us.

2. Use facts

Media can be a powerful tool to reinforcing negative stigma, so be sure to know the difference between fact and myths when it comes to mental illness

3. Help reduce stigma

Advocate for those who are suffering from mental illness, encourage those around you to seek the facts and know that people with mental illness have the same rights as everyone else.

4. Encourage to seek support

If you know of someone suffering from mental illness, encourage them to seek help. Let them know that it is okay to look after your mental wellbeing, and that stigma should not stop them from seeking treatment.

 

It is important for us to be able to contribute to how we can increase the awareness of mental illness and how it is viewed in our communities and schools.

If we can have a positive view of mental illness, we can help reduce the negative stigma and encourage those around us to seek the help they need.

Our children and young people need to know that it is okay to look after your mental health and ask for help.

 

About the author…
Jane has been involved with SU Camps and Community Outreaches for 15 years. She has experience working as a chaplain and has a background in nursing. Jane currently works as the Camp Specialist for SU QLD, overseeing the camps and missions across Queensland.

 

 

References:
https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-stigma
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics
https://mhaustralia.org/our-work/world-mental-health-day-oct-10

Posted: 11/12/2020

Why do I celebrate NAIDOC Week?

As a non-Indigenous Australian man, I confess to being a little nervous about penning a blog post about NAIDOC Week, which runs from 8-15 November this year (later than…

As a non-Indigenous Australian man, I confess to being a little nervous about penning a blog post about NAIDOC Week, which runs from 8-15 November this year (later than the usual July dates due to COVID-19). This time is about our First Nations people, and I feel a little like an intruder.

Standing for “National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee”, NAIDOC has its roots in the 1920s and 1930s as a protest against the status and treatment of our Indigenous peoples. Nowadays the week – which sometimes extends over the month – is a celebration of the history, culture and achievements of these First Australians.

So while with trepidation, I am also embracing the chance to reflect on why I personally believe NAIDOC Week is so special and why we all need it:

1. First Australians have had and continue to have unfair struggles

Sadly my starting point is the disparity between life experiences of First Australian peoples compared to the majority of us from non-Indigenous backgrounds. The statistics are shocking, necessitating a national government policy called, strikingly, “Closing the Gap”. Just a couple of the stats include:

  • A child death rate of 146 per 100,000 for Indigenous children, compared to 70 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous children – twice as high!*
  • Life expectancy of 71.6 years and 75.6 years for Indigenous males and females, compared to 80.2 and 83.4 years for non-Indigenous males and females – a gap of 8.6 and 7.8 years!** However in 2018, the median age at death for Indigenous Australians was 60, compared with 82 for non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged between 15 and 24 are almost four times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous people the same age.***

These numbers are only a small part of the picture, and do not include challenges like rates of incarceration, deaths in custody, low levels of education, and the general blight of racism. These are unfair and not right.

However – this is not the whole picture! Despite these sobering realities I do not see our Indigenous peoples as victims and helpless pawns forever defeated by history. There are many other reasons to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

2. First Australian have an amazing culture

Australia is a unique country in the world, marked by a rich, vibrant and unique contribution from our First Australian peoples. No one else has their didgeridoos and boomerangs, art and dance, dreamtime stories and connection to country.

I have to confess that my perspective on this comes from my own experience of having grown up in an Indigenous community, and from having lived overseas and missing home, but I still feel a sense of pride whenever First Australians are represented in the image we project to the world. I feel a sense that this beautiful and ancient culture is ours, and we’re so blessed to have it.

3. First Australians have much to teach us, to build a better Australia

As someone who is wired to rush through life, being busy and productive and ticking off my never ending to-do list, I admire and quite honestly envy our First Australians’ approach to life. In fact, I find myself becoming a student of their values and rhythms, and reckon they hold powerful truths we could all benefit from.

One of these is asking “who is your mob?” where they cherish the past, our roots and the people who we come from, and so intentionally recognise our cultural identity. We are not islands but connected to our ancestors, and knowing this is invaluable to establishing where we fit in now and how we will see and build the future.

Another priceless lesson is their practice of yarning or conversation, where they take the time to sit down and talk, to tell stories, to listen and to learn from each other, and together work out solutions. My nature fights this, but as I practice this discipline I start to see different solutions and experience different feelings of what progress might be.

4. First Australians are people like me

The Bible tells me that God made all people and that each is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and Jesus tells me that I should “love my neighbour as I love myself” (Mark 12:31). My First Australian neighbours were made by God just like I was, and each have hopes and dreams and fears and struggles just like I do.

However as a tiny minority (less than 3% of our population) their voice is small. Every single one of us have at times experienced being the odd one out, the newbie, the exception to the group – and know how good it is when we are included, when we are invited into the whole and made to feel special.

Like on our birthday when our family and friends celebrate us being born, NAIDOC Week is a special time to lift up and honour our First Australians.

May NAIDOC Week be a step, together, for all Australians to better understand each other, to revel in and learn from each other, for every week of the year. And like in any relationship, we need to acknowledge the hurts and the misunderstandings, but also to be open to being changed and having our perspective widened.

I know I’d like that, so that is what I seek for my First Australian friends and countrymen. In fact, it’s what I would like to see for our nation, and even our world.

About the author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

 

*  [Indigenous child mortality and life expectancy] https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/ed34c67c-e1aa-4d4f-9ff2-366ea6f27b52/aihw-aus-221-chapter-6-3.pdf.aspx

** [Indigenous life expectancy and deaths – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/indigenous-life-expectancy-and-deaths)

*** [Suicide rate for Indigenous Australians remains ‘distressingly high’ | NITV] https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2019/09/26/suicide-rate-indigenous-australians-remains-distressingly-high

Posted: 12/11/2020

Make Empathy Great Again

A presidential campaign and election in a country far, far away has been dominating our news feeds.  Amidst the drama of this world-impacting, democratic process, you may have missed…

A presidential campaign and election in a country far, far away has been dominating our news feeds.  Amidst the drama of this world-impacting, democratic process, you may have missed a less publicised movement.  Make Empathy Great Again, commenced in the lead up to the 2016 US election and is a small, but expanding movement/operation. Both campaigns aim to make a difference. I wonder if we were to compare the potential long-term outcomes, which would be the most world changing?   

You may ask whether empathy ever stopped being great or has it just disappeared from view. In the Gonski-Growing Up Digital Study*, 80% of the almost 2000 Australian teachers and school leaders surveyed, reported student empathy has declined over the last five years.  This statistic means the majority of our country’s classrooms and playgrounds have been impacted. In a time when our young people would benefit from more rather than less understanding, maybe it’s time to Make Empathy Great Again.

Empathy is the ability to feel with someone, it’s about creating connection that leads to compassion.  It’s a skill that can be modelled and taught to young children and according to Brene Brown*, also mastered in adulthood.  It is different from sympathy, which is feeling sorry for someone else.  Empathy improves relationships, reduces conflict and is essential for good leadership. 

Screen time is up, face-to-face time is down. Competition has become a lifestyle, and our culture of offence and blame are some of multiple explanations for declining empathy.  It’s worth reflecting on these causes, as is Making Empathy Great Again, by modelling, encouraging and deliberately creating opportunities to develop it as part of family life. As in most learning there will be setbacks but practicing empathetic responses can only happen in relationships.

Here are three areas that might be worth focusing on.

In Conversation

The weight of a problem lessens when we sense we have been heard. Being aware of our own feelings and thoughts as we pay attention in conversation is important to really listening.  Being curious without trying to fix someone, recognising and tuning in to the other person’s feelings and checking for meaning can be encouraged in general conversation, after school debriefs and while reading books or watching movies – particularly those with some emotionally charged moments. Modelling and explaining the aspects of empathetic conversation with our kids will give them real tools they can use in relationships outside our homes.  

In Conflict

Conflict is often the reason students visit my chaplaincy room.  Rather than lecturing and expecting reluctant, meaningless apologies, I’ve noticed the transformation that occurs as I start by acknowledging the pain and how difficult it is to get along. Next, I encourage kids to consider how their own feelings may have influenced the way they acted and then I ask them to listen to the perspective and feelings of the other person. Often this leads to the realisation that they were actually trying to achieve the same thing.

I must admit smiling (internally), as two teary, fighting girls, realised that they both simply wanted to be accepted and valued.  They voluntarily offered, “I am sorry I called you a Ranga.”  “I am sorry I called you a Monobrow.”

As a parent, I realise the times I have blamed or lectured my kids for fighting with their siblings may not have been the empathetic modelling they needed.

In Connection

Jesus spoke about inviting those in need to our dinner table. This could be the elderly neighbour, the family with a different cultural background, or the isolated single parent of the “class behaviour problem,” among others. When we have opened up our home, I have at times, struggled with my own attitude while simultaneously learning from people who I presumed had not much to teach me.  I have fielded complaints from my kids, “Do they have to come over?” It has at times been inconvenient and out of my comfort zone and it has grown empathy.

In Romans, Paul wrote, bless those who persecute you—bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be proud, but associate with the lowly. It sounds like a way to Make Empathy Great Again!

 

About the author…

Andrea is a former secondary school teacher and counsellor. She has worked as a school chaplain for over 19 years and now also serves part-time on SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. Andrea and her husband are parents to three adult children and grandparents to two.

 

References

Gonski Institute – Growing Up Digital Report, (2020)

Brene Brown – Dare to Lead, (2018)

Posted: 5/11/2020

What is Family Space?

Family Space is a resource-based website that’s all about nurturing the family unit.

Our mission is to equip, empower and nurture family households and church families across Australia.

Family Space seeks to support children, teenagers, parents and churches through practical resources, activities and expert advice.

We’re all about nurturing healthy families and creating healthy communities.

See how your support impacts young lives
Sign up to our monthly e-News