‘Kids need to be back in community’: Amanda’s story
Wednesday 27 February 2019
Amanda King is the Aboriginal Education Officer at Menindee Central School, near Broken Hill in Far West NSW.
As well as working with kids in out-of-home care at the school, Amanda has worked with Kutanya Cultural Camps, a program which gives Aboriginal children in the child protection system a chance to get back to country during the school holidays.
The camps were started by a local – a young Aboriginal man – and now they happen five times a year.
“Had these not started, there’s kids that would have been leaving care who wouldn’t have had a clue who they were or who their people were. Those kids are blacker than me but didn’t really know that they were black Aboriginal-like. It was just mind-blowing,” Amanda said.
At the camps, the kids and teens do cultural activities like traditional cooking and learning language. They also create their family trees and identify their relatives.
“They didn’t know their connections to communities, didn’t know about the language, didn’t eat Aboriginal food, they knew nothing at all [of their culture],” Amanda said.
“They were actually surprised of how many of the kids that were at the Kutanya camp that were related to them.
“Just seeing the looks on their faces put it in perspective for us, like these kids really do need this. They need to be back in community.”
The camp is just one example of how Menindee locals look out for one another. At the time we spoke to her, Amanda was about to open her doors to the children of one of her cousins, who was going through a tough time. She told us about another young boy in Menindee who had lived with his grandmother, because his mother was in prison. Sadly the grandmother passed away, so then the little boy went to live with his aunty.
Even though he was still with family, the whole community looked out for him. It’s pretty easy living in a small community; everyone knows everyone and they help each other because we want the best for every kid.
Amanda says the Aboriginal parents in Menindee are devoted to their kids, even when they themselves are doing it tough – like right now, during the water crisis affecting the beloved Barka (the local name for the Darling River).
“Menindee kids do a lot of things but parents do miss out on a lot of things because they give everything to their kids. We don’t get a lot of help with kids going away and things, or getting stuff given to them for the community.”
The environmental damage to the Barka has had a major impact on kids and families in Menindee. The fish deaths and the resulting smell mean that children can no longer play along the river banks or take part in traditional, cultural activities.
As the NSW state election approaches on 23 March, Amanda wants politicians to commit to Aboriginal children and families respecting kids’ rights to their family, culture and community and cleaning up the Barka.