In loving memory of Auntie Amy Levai

“Teaching has been my life, it has been the thing that I loved doing the most. To be able to give to children and help them to learn, grow and move forward is a very special opportunity” ~ Amy Levai, November 2012 in response to the then Minister for Education and Child Development in South Australia, Grace Portolesi, when she announced that the SA Department for Education and Child Development would award ten annual scholarships to carry Amy’s name as the Amy Levai Aboriginal Teaching Scholarships, to assist the recipients as they embark on the new Pathways into Teaching program. The scholarships provide financial assistance and a pathway to employment for Aboriginal people studying to become teachers.  Amy was congratulated for her 35 years of service teaching in South Australian primary schools and for her professionalism, dedication and inspirational teaching practices.

Family honours Aunty Amy Levai’s wonderful life with memorial fund

Amy-and-Lowitja

Auntie Amy Levai (nee O’Donoghue) passed away peacefully in Adelaide on Good Friday, March 29 2013 after an 18 month battle with bowel cancer.

Her legacy will always remain for as long as children everywhere are given the opportunity to learn to read and write and are encouraged to be the best that they can be.

Auntie Amy was a loved and devoted mother and mother-in-law of Deborah, Paul and Annika, Kristine and Les, Robert and Nina, Stephen, adored Grandma of Ruby, Mahailia and Bianca, Jacob and Brianna, Dean and Kate, Trisha and Tim Jordan and Terri, great grandma of Lachlan and Hollee, loving sister of Eileen, Violet and Geoffrey (deceased) and of Lowitja. Daughter of Lily and Thomas (deceased) and cherished friend of Tony.

Auntie Amy is now reunited in memory with Matyas (deceased) from whom she had been divorced for over 20 years but still they remained good friends.

As we collectively mourn the loss of another respected Elder we can be encouraged and humbled by her ongoing legacy and story being carried forward by the actions of her daughter, Deb Edwards.

Paying tribute to a loved one is a special way to keep our memories alive and to carry on the important legacies that many of our Elders have fought constantly to achieve, paving the way for the important work that is still needed to create harmony in this country today.

By honouring the life works of our Elders we can encapsulate and reminisce on all the positive things that they have given to enrich the lives of many Aboriginal and Islander (including the Torres Strait) communities and non-Aboriginal peoples alike.

Auntie Amy was the first Aboriginal teacher to be trained and permitted to teach in South Australia after completing her Early Childhood Certificate for kindergarten in 1950. She then spent three years as the Kindergarten Director at Mt Margaret Mission in Western Australia.

In 1950, Amy applied to attend the Adelaide Teachers College but was rejected. She was told “we do not have Aboriginal people in teacher training”.

That knock back and the subsequent ones to follow, made Amy more determined and she continued to “pester” the South Australian Education Department until she was finally accepted in 1957.

Teaching in many schools around South Australia including Parkside Primary School, Williamstown Primary School, Eden Hills Primary School, Kaurna Plains Aboriginal School and her beloved North Adelaide Primary School where she taught for 14 years she was a much loved and admired teacher for her gentle and warm approach to educating children.

There are literally thousands of children who were lucky enough to have been taught by Auntie Amy. They have never forgotten her and they never will.

Former South Australian Premier Dean Brown, singer Sia (Furler) and model Emma Balfour are amongst some of Auntie Amy’s former students.

Auntie Amy retired from teaching in 1993 and for five years couldn’t even walk past a school, she found it too “painful”. She had always led a very busy life teaching and she also managed to fit in a marriage plus raising five children – three stepchildren and two of her own.

In 1989, Auntie Amy was awarded NAIDOC Aboriginal of The Year and in 1998 NAIDOC Aboriginal Elder of The Year in South Australia. She also received an award for Outstanding Service in March 2010 from the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Forum of the Council of Aboriginal Elders SA.

In November 2012, the then Minister for Education and Child Development in South Australia, Grace Portolesi, announced that the SA Department for Education and Child Development would award 10 annual scholarships to carry Auntie Amy’s name as the Amy Levai Aboriginal Teaching Scholarships, to assist recipients as they embark on the new Pathways into Teaching Program.

The scholarships provide financial assistance and a pathway to employment for Aboriginal people studying to become a teacher. Auntie Amy was congratulated for her 35 years of service teaching in South Australian primary schools and for her professionalism, dedication and inspirational teaching practices.

Auntie Amy thanked the Department by saying “Teaching has been my life, it has been the thing that I loved doing the most. To be able to give to children and help them to learn, grow and move forward is a very special opportunity”.

Auntie Amy believed as an individual, you could make a difference to each and every child in your classroom.

In honour of Auntie Amy Levai, her daughter Deb and family have asked all to consider making a donation to the Amy Levai Memorial Fund which will raise funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF).

The ILF’s core aim is to make a positive and measurable difference in the early literacy levels of Indigenous Australian children in order to raise their prospects in schools.

The collective resources of the Australian Book Industry and the goodwill of the public and corporate sector raises funds to purchase and provide books and literacy resources to Indigenous Australian children in communities.

Auntie Amy would have liked nothing better than to know that Aboriginal children will always have the opportunity to read books. If you would like to contribute to the Fund please go to http://inmemory.gofundraise.com.au/page/AmyLevai

Lets go back to the beginning to understand why we are doing what we do …

What is Lateral Violence?

Back in 2012 the sad news of the passing of a young girl in a remote community who was subjected to ongoing lateral violence really impacted on us here at Lateral Love.

As part of our going back to the beginning posts we are revisiting Part 2 today to remind ourselves of our original purpose in tackling these serious issues in the way that we have.

Lateral violence is present at every single level within our society and when we start to recognise the behaviours in ourselves and others, we can really see the level of reach where this debilitating negative practice has taken a strong hold.

Please read our perspectives with an open mind and an open heart and if this resonates with you please share with as many people as you can with the aim of starting the conversations within your own families and communities.

Lateral violence is an extremely personal and confronting topic, through our experience every individual does have different feelings about it. Because of this there is no room for malice and cultural safety should be the ultimate priority for us all to allow the conversations that need to take place.

We must all come together and share our information whilst trying not to overreact on a personal level.

This aspect alone is terribly confronting, even with all the knowledge and understanding that continue to grow within both myself and Uncle Brian as individuals around lateral violence and lateral love, it is a daily effort to keep our own minds on task and dealing with the ingrained lateral violence is a personal choice and battle we also face. This internal chatter, what we refer to as ‘the lateral violence in your head’ is what manifests into confusion, misconceptions and poor communication, and ultimately leads to feelings that impact on our own self worth and capabilities.

The difficulty comes not only for each of us as individuals in attempting to manage our own personal feelings and responses, but also with the family, friends and colleagues that we choose to share with, and the difficult conversations that this topic will undoubtedly bring to the surface.

We know it requires strength and courage to deal with these issues and conversations, but we have faith that each and every one of us can push beyond our everyday limitations for the sake of our children and the generations yet to come.

Some of the feelings we can expect to be exposed include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Anger

– Disappointment

– Fear

– Grief

– Guilt

– Isolation

– Feeling Overwhelmed

– Relief

– Sadness

– Shame

– Threatened and Defensive

One thing is for certain, we will all have a different reaction, view and perspective which will need to be respected and nurtured along the way. It is ok to have a different oppinion to others, and we must learn to communicate respectfully and to allow this difference without getting caught up in the conflict and drama that many of us have been used to in the past.

Each of us will be ready to deal with our layers of trans-generational trauma, pain and suffering in our own space and time, but the one thing we can do collectively is have the strength to lead by example and with conviction. Start the awkward conversations and force ourselves to share information regardless of ego or personal gain. Share with each other and bring back to life that lore that gave us our beautiful ways, our caring, sharing, nurturing, love and respect.

Lateral violence happens to all people, within all cultures across the world, but the type of lateral violence we started talking about back in 2012 related specifically to Aboriginal and Islander people in this country, our own families and communities.

As Aboriginal people, the first nations people of this land we need a collective healing and we need it to come from within our own families and communities. Aboriginal people need to reconcile the rift that was created when this land was colonised.

Whilst we were denigrated to the flora and fauna act, our land, spirit and culture was divided up and handed out to the subjects of the crown as parcels of land (our land that was declared terra nullias) with which to form the stability and foundations for their children and grandchildren to prosper into the collective non-Aboriginal Australian society where many enjoy what has become know as ‘the lucky country’ over the past 300 years. Aboriginal people were systematically stripped of this very same priviledge, there was no more stability and foundation for us to continue to propser as we had done for 800,000 years prior to colonisation, to hand down to our children and grandchildren.

In no way does this conversation take away from the pain and suffering of any other culture or their experiences as this too would be a form of lateral violence. Our dead people are equally as important as every other person dead people, all of us who have experienced losing a loved one at the hand of lateral violence or through suicide are equally devestating.

There is healing required on such a vast scale that if every initiative could be built on Caring, Sharing, Nurturing, Love and Respect what a change we could expect to see. These principals need to take front and centre in all of our thought processes, actions and conversations, in everything we do.

Each and every person within our immediate circle needs to feel loved, valued and appreciated for the shift in consciousness to occur and create the ripple effect out into our families, communities and societies at large. When we do this and our motivations are for nothing more that the betterment of the human condition, the sky really is the limit.

We have chosen to utilise modern technology to share this information as widely as possible and in doing so have found it necessary to address some social networking issues immediately as they link directly to lateral violence.

Social networking is a wonderful tool that we can use to connect and indeed, re-connect with many people as technology bridges distance that is no longer a barrier to caring and sharing. The lack of verbal and non-verbal cues which become lost through this form of communication does however run the risk of causing additional distress to people on a journey of healing.

We all need to remember this when reading and posting on threads and other peoples pages and walls. What we share in cyberspace it is there forever! How it translates to the receiver may not be how it sounded in our mind when we typed our views or responses.

Most importantly, when we are hurt and our spirit is low we can feel threatened and if we are not particularly good at managing our feelings and emotions what comes out can be very negative or abusive particularly online. This is also a form of Lateral violence and can very quickly escalate to cyber bullying.

Please, and we cannot stress this point enough, when you read something disrespectful and negative about yourself, it leaves an imprint on our minds and reinforces into our subconscious much longer than that which is spoken verbally in the heat of debate.

From our own personal experience we know the damage that can come from a text message or email sent in the heat of emotion, unfortunately it can be read and re-read with the negative message reaching our loved ones again and again. We may get over whatever it was that caused our initial distress, but we can not erase the message from our loved ones phone or computer causing irreversible damage that can take years to repair and as we have all seen in mainstream media, this type of behaviour has also lead some people to suicide.

The reason we need to understand the true meaning of lateral violence is this; our children need to move beyond the survival mechanisms that we, the older generations, needed to survive. This survival instinct served us well and allowed you and I to be here, and yes we did survive. Our children need us to come together and give them a strong base of solidarity and culture to help them to grow and shape their way into the future; a solid base that is free from the binds of lateral violence and oppression and is firmly rooted in lateral love and the principals of caring, sharing, nurturing, love and respect.

Again the wisdom of Auntie Cheri Yavu Kama Harathunian explains lateral violence in a way that resonates with us and expresses the true meaning that we are speaking about on this journey, “This ‘yellow snake’, this lateral violence has been curled up in our peoples living moments for three centuries, because it sinuously crawled amongst our peoples for over the last 300 years. We were not only forced to suffer the invasion of 1788. We have been carrying that suffering with us all of this time and our ancestors learned very well and copied the violence that was perpetrated against them and used what they learned to ensure that with violence they would individually survive”…”Even in our survival techniques there was violence, because peoples had to go up against each other, go up against their loved ones, anyone that they saw who was a threat to their own survival. We learned to turn our faces away from each other, and began to wear ‘Big Shame’ in our waking and sleeping hours. We learned to be ‘takers’ not ‘givers’ and then the government blest us with welfare and for years we did not realise it but our minds were being conditioned to accept that this was our lot and we developed and then suffered from and some of us still suffer from a welfare mentality. We learned that it was okay to hit, stamp on, fight with, brutalise, torment each other just to get on, and become like the invaders because they were getting a better deal out of life”. “We were taught by religion that “White was right and black was evil”. and we learned to hate ourselves, our culture, our languages, and our own God given ways of being who we are; First Nations peoples with many nation names.  Political violence forced our ancestors to become slaves, victims and perpetrators of the violence that seemed to work and help the invaders get on and become something.  We turned into each other, and began to practice the violence that we saw and here we are today.  But it is our young, our beautiful young ones who now openly manifest this insidious thing that takes them to that place where they feel so hopeless and helpless. They go to that bleak place where for them the only solution to their pain is to take control of their own choice to take their most precious gift – life – and they choose to go to sleep forever to ease their suffering and their pain and their disconnection from themselves, their family, their people, their culture, and their sacred lands. They haven’t even lived! That ‘yellow snake’ that Lateral violence has to be addressed”. ~ Cheri Yavu Kama Harathunian 2012

We need to go beyond the surface of what we know, beyond the reactionary world we have come to live by that has done its darnedest to numb our spirituality and ignore our souls original purpose. Knowing lateral violence, and that it has underpinned our existence, is the first step to healing for each and every one of us.

We commend you all for being open and taking the time to read about this important subject. No matter how painful it is, things can only improve through our understanding and support of one another.

SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH EVERYONE YOU KNOW, LEAVE IT IN THE LUNCH ROOM AT WORK, THE RECEPTION ROOM AT THE DOCTORS, THE BUS SHELTER, FORWARD IT, COPY AND PASTE IT, PRINT IT OUT AND TAKE IT HOME TO ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS WHO DO NOT HAVE COMPUTERS, SHARE THE INFORMATION, RAISE AWARENESS AND HEAL OUR SPIRITS!

FOR OUR OWN HEALING AND FOR THE SAKE OF OUR CHILDREN!

Quote of the Day

Our children are casting the first stone @ Copley Retention Dam, South Australia - October 2013

Our children are casting the first stone @ Copley Retention Dam, South Australia – October 2013

“Caring, Sharing, Nurturing, Love and Respect, these things need to take front and centre in all of our thought processes, actions, conversations and everything we do. Each and every person within our immediate circle needs to feel loved, valued and appreciated for the shift in consciousness to occur and create the ripple effect out into our societies. When we do this and our motivations are for nothing more that the betterment of human condition, the sky really is the limit.” ~ Nicola Butler 2013

Quote of the Day

doug4

“Aboriginal People are the skeleton in the cupboard of Australia’s national life …. outcasts in our own land.” ~ Sir Doug Nicholls, National Day of Mourning speech, 1938.

“All we want is to be able to think and do the same things as white people, while still retaining our identity as a people.” ~ Sir Doug Nicholls

Quote of the Day

Our children are casting the first stone @ Copley Retention Dam, South Australia - October 2013

Our children are casting the first stone @ Copley Retention Dam, South Australia – October 2013

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ~ Mother Teresa