Not My Culture – is a short animated conversation on Alcohol, other drugs and indigenous culture. “Strong and deadly – true culture is strength!”
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‘We recognise that the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural wellbeing of the whole community is paramount in determining the health and wellbeing of individual members. The holistic nature of our knowledge and cultures locates health in culture, community and kinship networks.’
Janine Mohamed, CEO, Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (Closing Gap Report 2019 page 119)
“…Smoking and tobacco use, is the leading contributor to cancer, respiratory and circulatory diseases (mainly the cardiovascular diseases), and accounted for 12 per cent of the total Indigenous disease burden in 2011 (AIHW 2016). There has been some progress in controlling prevalence of these risk factors. Smoking prevalence for Indigenous Australians (aged 15 years and over) has declined significantly from 51 to 42 per cent between 2002 and 2014–15. The rate of drinking alcohol at lifetime risky levels has also declined from 19 per cent to 15 per cent, between 2008 and 2014–15, among Indigenous Australians (aged 15 and over) (AHMAC 2016). However, while some health effects of the positive changes in risk factor prevalence may be immediate, there is a long lag between changes in risk behaviours and the full impact upon mortality outcomes. For example, the long latent period for lung cancer which can be up to 30 years, means that, despite falls in smoking rates, smoking related deaths may continue to rise over the next decade, before peaking (Lovett, Thurber & Maddox 2017). Page 134
Acclaimed indigenous artist Stan ‘Yarra’ Yarramunua ditched the booze and picked up a paintbrush in 1991. He writes of his transformation in his new book
I WAS lucky when I gave up the grog that I had something to fill the empty space left by the booze. This was another big development from my time down there in Galiamble (Men’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Centre), one that changed my life. One of the programs Galiamble ran for the clients was an art class. A woman, Samantha, used to come to Grey St (St Kilda) and show the guys how to paint on canvas. It happened one fine day that I was mooching through the studio and stopped to look at what the clients were up to. There was a blank canvas on offer. I thought, “Stan, my friend, give it a crack.” I set to work squeezing out colours onto the palette. I rested the canvas flat on the bench top and let inspiration take over. I had no knowledge of traditional designs, had barely seen indigenous artwork before, but even without knowing, I began to create what was a true indigenous painting.
...No one disturbed me. I filled one brush then another with colours from the tubes in a dreamy state, and my hands did the painting. I left the picture in the studio when I was finished, and it was still there the next day when Samantha returned. I happened to be there at the moment she caught sight of my picture. She picked it up in both hands, and stared at it in a puzzled way. “Whose is this?” “That one? That’s mine. Sorry if I wasted a canvas. Just fooling round.” “Stan, this is terrific. Perfect. Do you want to sell it?” “Yeah? You want to buy this?” “Yes, I do. How much do you want?” I didn’t know anything about prices. Samantha said she’d give me a hundred bucks. I thought, “She’s mad.” But I said sure. That was when my life as an artist began...
As soon as I went to work on a canvas, I was in that state that made the world disappear. I might have wanted to flip out a picture every 20, 30 minutes but the truth was that the artist in me had a much bigger say in things than the merchant in me. I had to get the picture right. And I couldn’t paint the same picture over and over. Each one had to have something special about it. What was happening to me as an artist was what happens to all the other artists in the world, that’s my guess. I was being forced to accept a deal...
Soon the demand for my stuff was too much for me to handle. I drove to the northwest of the state in my rubbish Nissan to work something out with my uncles, aunties and cousins on Mum’s side...There was only so much I could put on show in the space on the Esplanade, so I took myself up to Queen Victoria Market. I negotiated a site with the market people. But even a site in St Kilda and another at the Queen Vic weren’t enough to get art into the hands of people who wanted it. I applied for a second site at QV, and a third.
I was still off the booze, and I loved my new life. I was working a seven-day fortnight at Turana, but I was packed with energy. Once I was off the booze, I could hold that paintbrush for hours and hours, singing and whistling to myself. I was ready for anything.
EDITED EXTRACT FROM A MAN CALLED YARRA, BY STAN YARRAMUNUA (WITH ROBERT HILLMAN), PUBLISHED BY NERO BOOKS, RRP $33, OUT NOW. AVAILABLE THROUGH BLACKINCBOOKS.COM OR BOOKSHOPS. STAN YARRAMUNUA’S ART GALLERY, ART YARRAMUNUA, IS AT 112 ACLAND ST, ST KILDA
For complete article go to June 2 issue of The Herald Sun Digital Edition http://heraldsun.digitaleditions.com.au/ Copyright © 2018 The Herald Sun