In Queensland we’re lucky to have families of all shapes, sizes, cultures, backgrounds, abilities, outlooks, beliefs, and experiences. We have families living by the beach, on farms, in the outback, in towns and in cities. We have families that have cared for this land for over 65,000 years, and families who have just arrived and ready to start a new life. When we get to spend time with such diverse people, from all walks of life, we become wiser, more creative, and more understanding of the diversity this world carries. We get to learn from the lives of others. We get to broaden our mind with new perspectives. And our kids get to grow up with a well-rounded view of the world they’re living in, and the different kinds of lives they can build.
We had the chance to interview our fellow Queenslander, John, a proud Gumbaynggirr person living on Turrbal country. He works on a project called Families are First, celebrating the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. He shared with us his thoughts on celebrating his own diverse family and families across Queensland.
What does family diversity mean to you?
Look there’s no one size fits all with families and I think that’s what makes families so great. In some sense, compared to other countries, we have more ability to have a diverse family – whether its regard to how many kids you have, cultures, abilities and all those sorts of things.
In our family, I have three daughters. My eldest is from a previous relationship that ended when she was four. One thing her mum and I wanted to ensure was that she wasn’t affected by us separating. That’s one reason we maintained a really good relationship – it was all about the kids for us.
When I met my new partner, it was similar. I was never going to deny I had an older daughter when we were courting – that was part of the package, that came with me. I was pretty blessed. She has been an awesome stepmum. It’s been really great. My now wife and my eldest’s Mum are Facebook friends – I wasn’t even Facebook friends with her when I was on Facebook!! And she has a partner as well – my eldest’s stepdad. The family has grown so much.
What was it like with a new stepdad on the scene?
I always had faith that whoever my ex-partner brought into their lives would be amazing for my daughter. I couldn’t ask for a better male role-model to be around her. He’s the softest, most loving guy that I know. His heart is in the right place. They’ve found each other which is awesome for them, but great for my daughter as well.
There’s so much fear around being in a separated family and what it means for our kid’s futures – it’s really nice to hear when it can work out in a way that works so well and makes the family bigger and better.
I suppose lessons were learnt from what I’d experienced. I came from a “broken” family, and that was really nasty. We went through the family court and all those sorts of things. I remember as a child watching what you say around certain people, and really having to be mature beyond my age. That was the last thing I wanted to put on my kids.
It’s about learning from your past and what you can pass on. You can always make things a bit better for the next generation. To quote Adam Briggs, “Our job is to be good so you can be great.” It’s about not putting the stuff we’ve experienced onto our kids. I know I can be guilty of it, but I check myself as much as I can.
How do you juggle raising your kids across different families and cultures?
There’s a fair bit of negotiation there. I could have pushed points, fought for different things – but I had to do what was best for her.
And I try to do my best with my youngest kids. They aren’t my first kids, but they are my wife’s first kids, and I wanted her to experience all the things about parenthood she could without me telling her how to do it.
You mentioned your kids have a mix of cultures. What does your family do to celebrate that mix of cultures?
Full respect. Full respect to my daughter’s Fijian culture, for my Aboriginal Australian culture, and full respect to my wife and her Christianity and instilling that in our girls. I’ve fallen off the wagon in that respect, but I’d never take that from my kids.
And I guess my eldest is blessed – I see her as blessed. She has an amazing extended family on both sides. She’s got really strong women around her. Strong men as well. Everyone wants the best for her. She’s grown up in a strong cultural place on both sides. I have to give full credit to her Mum. She’s very respectful my Gumbaynggirr culture, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Always had been prior to me coming along.
November is NAIDOC, recognising and celebrating First Nations people. How would you like to see Queensland Families celebrating NAIDOC?
I say it every year – get out there. There’s something going on in your community. Get out there and find it and be a part of it. Don’t be scared to go to a NAIDOC event and feel like you don’t belong. NAIDOC is about celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and people – we can celebrate amongst ourselves as much as we want, but it’s awesome when people outside of the usual suspects join us in celebrating and take something away from it. Whether its year by year, or baby steps– you’re more knowledgeable if you do it, than if you don’t.
If you or your family need support navigating some of the trickier stuff raised visit www.oneplace.org.au to find local services near you.