My name’s Haydon Jangala Staines from Darwin, my family are Warlpiri and I’m currently teaching year four class at Nightcliff Primary School. My family have been here for about three generations now, my Grandfather had a lot to do with the building of Darwin and I grew up in Darwin. I was born in Queensland but came straight back to Darwin and spent my whole life here.
I think it was about year 11, year 12, started coming to the end of my schooling and I actually went over and went back to my father’s country and visited a few relatives and family that way and I saw that there were a lot of kids, a lot of Indigenous kids I suppose that were you know very disadvantaged, facing a lot of challenges that I don’t think a lot of other people are facing and that almost inspired me I think to travel down that road of education. I came back after this holiday and was talking to a few friends and Candice Liddy who was at my school at the time, she was doing a bit of tutoring work with me through my studies and really you know tried to encourage me and inspire me a bit more and she took me to the university and introduced me to a few people at Gumurrii which is the Indigenous Support Unit* there and got to know a few people and it just went from there I suppose so yeah.
So starting university I think that first year, year and a half was really challenging, coming from you know, that environment at school where you had all your family and your friends around you then all of a sudden you’re in a lecture with say a hundred people that you don’t know and lecturers that you’ve got to approach and you got to communicate with that you don’t know very well and a lot of Indigenous people are quite shy, they’re you know. Especially when they come from backgrounds where you know, everyone is related through skin or through family way and everyone knows everyone and you know you feel almost safe in that environment and then all of a sudden you’re in this environment where everything is very different. I know it sounds really silly but I thought that university life would just be like school, where you know, you’d have a lot of support in terms of someone almost there guiding you a lot and saying you know, you need to do these assignments or you know, you’ve got a class on tomorrow so make sure you’re there it starts at this time and it’s not like that at all, it is very independent you’re on your own learning journey and you’re obviously responsible for that learning journey, so it’s easy to forget why you’re there and almost get into a bit of a habit of not being organised but I think yeah one of the biggest things is that organisation so.
Yeah I did use the Indigenous, the university’s Indigenous Support*, that was a massive part of my university study on a whole. I think if I didn’t have that support there I probably wouldn’t have finished the degree, so you know I had people there that were you know family friends, people there that I met during my time at university that turned into really close family friends and just having people there to help you and guide you, mentor you, I really think mentoring is a massive thing especially for Indigenous students attending university.
This is something that’s been going on for 60,000 years, you’re talking about you know elders passing knowledge down and people collaboratively working together you know as a people and I think for Indigenous people through university that’s something that they should tap into and not be afraid to do. Go and actively seek these people that can help you and mentor you and it’s not so much someone holding your hand or dumbing down things for you, it’s someone there that’s you know gonna assist you and you can bounce things off them and you can learn with them and they can show you, you know what you need to do and where you need to go with it and just obviously not thinking any lower of yourself and really putting in a hundred percent effort, don’t let it get you down, you’re going to go through stages where you know it does seem hard and you’re going to go through those same stages when you have your degree and you’re working full time as well, so that’s just something you’ve got to learn to overcome and be resilient with.
Just go in guns blazing I suppose, go in there and tap into that network, get to know as many people as you can and realise that they’re there to help. Everyone wants to see you succeed and everyone around the university wants to succeed together so yeah don’t be scared to approach those people and tap into their knowledge and get them to help you and work together as a team.
I think that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the opportunity to stand up and be leaders and inspire that next generation coming through. There’s a lot of challenges that Indigenous people and Torres Strait Islander people are facing at the moment and I think through those leaders coming up and you know modelling the way to do it, showing people you know, ‘look what we can do as a nation’, it’ll inspire that next generation and we can perhaps close those gaps and start you know achieving together like we have for 60,000 years.
*Note: each university may refer to their local Indigenous support services in different ways e.g. Indigenous Education Units; Indigenous Support Units; School of Indigenous Australian Studies; Indigenous Institute etc., and may include Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander language in the naming title, as relevant to the local area.
Haydon is a teacher from Darwin, NT. Haydon has a Bachelor of Education and is currently teaching grade 4. He was inspired to study education after a trip to his dad’s Country, where he saw disadvantaged kids in need of support. For Haydon, studying education was a challenging journey but he had the encouragement of his Indigenous Education Unit to get through his studies. He believes a strong support network of peers is critical to success and development of Indigenous leaders is needed to inspire generations to come.