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Keeping culture strong: From Wadeye to Thursday Island and back again

Cornelius Mollingin

This week I came to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait… It is the first time I have left the Northern Territory since 1982.

My name is Cornelius. I am an Aboriginal man from Wadeye in the Northern Territory.

My skin name is Tharnama. My totem is Black Cockatoo. I am 57 years old and I have one daughter.

I work in radio in my community. It makes me proud to be able to give my community the important information they need, and my community is proud of me.

I love my community. I love my family and my culture. But we have problems there. It is complicated.

We have many nations from across Australia and overseas all living together, but there are not enough jobs for people there, not enough to do. This makes it easy to get into trouble. Lots of people are doing their best to keep culture strong, working hard to help their families, but it is hard when there are not enough opportunities for everybody to have enough.

This week I came to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait with two other Aboriginal people from Wadeye, Fransisco and Martina. We came here for the Remote Indigenous Media Festival to meet other Indigenous people working in remote radio from all over Australia.

It is the first time I have left the Northern Territory since 1982.

When we came here the traditional owners were very welcoming. They opened the door for our mob. We are all in the same boat but we are different. I’m here on this island and it is helping me open my eyes. I’m seeing how it supposed to be done in my community, everything straight, everybody following their law. I find it hard in my community because everything is Wuywuyinga (confused).

Some of us get blinded, loose our way and get caught in the circle. Sometimes it is frustrating because it’s very hard to break the circle with so much pressure coming from different ways. I want to go back and share this knowledge from Thursday Island. I want to break the circle. I want to open peoples eyes back in Wadeye.

I am lucky that I was able to come to Thursday Island and meet and talk to other Aboriginal people and hear the good and bad things in their communities and share ideas about how we can help ourselves, and each other, to be strong.

I am lucky that I was able to see strong culture and strong community here on Thursday Island and it has made me hopeful that we can do this too back in Wadeye.

I love my family. I love my culture. I love my community.

I want us all to be strong. To be happy. Sometimes people are too shy to talk but I want to be a voice in Wadeye and share my life experiences to encourage other people to help change things for our future.

We were happy in the old days, before we had all these problems that come with Western society. I want us to be happy again.

For me that means looking after country. Living on homelands. Being healthy. Sharing our stories and our culture to keep it strong.

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