This weekend, across Western Australia, kids will be running out onto ovals across the state to play in footy finals. Good kids, troubled kids and struggling kids. Kids united by a jumper, a love of footy, supported by family, friends and entire communities.
But this weekend, one kid will be missing. A teenager, who was good, possibly troubled but resiliently struggling. A fourteen year old boy, who, like his mates and like so many teenage boys from Kalgoorlie, loved breaking the constraints of life in a land locked town, by playing footy and riding dirt bikes along the bush trails.
His love of this pastime time was sometimes frustrated, for he had previously had his own bikes stolen. Yet it was a pastime that helped him escape from the seemingly hopeless environment that besets too many Indigenous children in a town fixated with reaping the wealth of resource exploitation. Only weeks ago, this state’s most privileged gathered in Kalgoorlie for the annual Diggers and Dealers Conference.
Sadly, in this very same place, where the resource rich celebrated their wealth, this week our Aboriginal community mourned the loss of a child, killed a day after his birthday. Fuelling insult to his loss was the unrelenting campaign waged on Facebook to incite bigotry, hatred and inhumanity. A campaign that preceded this tragedy and if tackled at the time, may have averted this profound loss.
And so a riot ensued, a communal frustration, fuelled by grief and anger. This week has seen the chasm between black and white exposed. A void much greater than the town’s super pit; between the haves and the have nots, the accumulators and the dispossessed. However, amidst this turmoil two strong Indigenous women stood shoulder to shoulder to calm the pent up sadness, desperation and anger.
This weekend, the under 14 Kalgoorlie City’s Kangaroos will run out in the Grand Final, united in their black and white jumpers.
Tragically your much loved team mate will not be there. Win, lose or draw, you are honouring your friend. We are united behind you.
CEO, Aboriginal Legal Service of WA