The year 1999 will always be viewed by me as a watershed year as it was the time when I reprioritised my personal and family goals. It was the year I applied myself to the critical proactive role I needed to play to support my immediate family as opposed to the untenable desire of always attempting to satisfy my extended family and friends’ shallow expectations.
This process was quite painful in its infancy as I stopped lending money to family and friends - most of which was not returned in full, if at all - and I declined requests from them to bunk down for the night at my residence when visiting from out of town.
While my actions initially put me off side with disgruntled relatives and long standing acquaintances, it nevertheless gave me complete confidence in my ability to provide uncompromising safety and financial security for my family - not to mention an increase in quality time alone with them.
I chose not to have people, men in particular, in town on business sleeping under the same roof as my young children, principally because I wasn’t fully aware of their past history with children. I’d never be able to live with myself if I allowed someone to stay the night - and, to later find he abused my trust by wandering into one of my children’s rooms with the intent of violating their innocence.
Today I sleep soundly knowing they; Stephen 16 and Jayde 13, are safe in their beds without a worry in the world of devious intrusions from within.
The only disturbance I hear today in my house comes often in the morning when my son enters into friendly banter with his mother and sister for.
Sadly, however, the same cannot be said of significant numbers of Indigenous parents sleeping soundly in their homes at night around the nation. For them the weight of community expectation is often so great they inevitably succumb to the pestering of visitors seeking free accommodation under the same roof for the night - and often longer.
It is this issue of overcrowding in Indigenous homes - something that has not raised any notable attention in the past - that has now been identified, in 2007 The Little Children are Sacred Report, as one of the chief reasons for the high incidence of child sexual abuse.
Besides making assertive statements placing my home off bounds for visitors and declining requests for financial loans from family and friends, I’ve also given up drinking alcohol and all forms of gambling, as a personal goal, to be an even greater role model than I previously was for my children.
As a young public servant starting out in Canberra in the early 1980s I thought drinking and gambling was an Australian norm and thought nothing of it until the late 1990s when I married Rhonda and had nothing to show for my considerable working life - except for minor alcohol related health problems and a bank account that remained perilously pronounced on or adjacent to the red, for most weeks of the year.
In making reference to my past unhealthy social practices I have, in effect, prefaced this paper by touching on the more pertinent causal effects of family violence, if left unchecked: overcrowding, drinking and gambling.
I hope my frank admissions might inspire others, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who still engage in these pastimes to re-evaluate their personal and professional goals.
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