A level playing field

I was watching St George play footy last Friday.

Now I dont like rugby, but Im in love with a St George supporter, and its called taking an interest.

With all the hoo-ha over the proposed Koori footy carnival for Lismore, initially rejected by mayor Merv King and six of his fellow councillors, but now possibly back on the cards, I have to admit it was all a bit more interesting.

For the first time I guess I understood how revered these rugby super-stars are amongst a broad sector of our society.

When the cameras zoomed in on the young Koori St George player, it really hit home what it could mean if Lismore hosted this rugby carnival. The impact the event could have for.well,...lets say, a 15-year-old Aboriginal boy living in Coraki with no job, no education and no hope for his future. A boy who seems destined to head off the rails.But hes not there just yet.

I have met this boy.

I picked him up hitch-hiking out past Bunnings two years ago. He was small and skinny and he had that whole little boy lost air about him which meant I couldnt just drive on past. He told me he was heading back home to Coraki.

I couldnt believe my luck. It just so happened that I was writing a story about vandalism problems in Coraki nothing too serious, mind, this was two years ago. A few wheelie bin fires and some kids throwing stones and smashing the windows of derelict buildings.

The same old argument of bored youth having nothing to do had reared its head and I was keen to talk to a young person from Coraki to get their perspective.

The poor boy, hadnt signed up to be interviewed when he stuck his thumb out for a ride, but that was what happened as I drove him to the Coraki turn-off.

He told me he spent half his time hitch-hiking around the district hooking up with other boys, and the rest of the time in Coraki bored.

So what do kids do in Coraki? I asked.

Not much, he replied. Maybe go into town, maybe get into a fight, chase a dog, play footy with the other boys.

PLAY FOOTY.

Thats right. Imagine if this boy could hitch-hike into Lismore and be part of a four-day Aboriginal rugby league event, in a drug and alcohol-free environment, maybe even be part of the youth rugby tournament and youth rugby clinics on offer.

A modern-day corroboree.

Something to get inspired about.

Surrounded by role models.

Were all horrified when we hear about Aboriginal kids running amuck in Corakior Casino or Goonellabah. In fact Corakis woes even hit the national media earlier this year.

But heres the Aboriginal community presenting a solution.

A rugby league carnival which has run incident-free for 36 years. A huge honour being bestowed upon the Bundjalung Nation by the Redfern mob who want to host this years carnival in Lismore.

If you were a community development worker you couldnt dream up a better project to reach out to this boy. To engage him, and hopefully inspire him.

And we cant get our heads around a few minor, logistical hurdles to make it happen when a ready-made solution is being presented on a plate? And its going to cost us nothing?

Sure theres the rubbish clean-up after the event.

But we threw that in for free when the Titans came to town. We also gave them the use of Oakes Oval for free and they got to keep the bar takings as well. There wasnt even a murmur when that happened.

No, lets talk tough on crime and lower the age of criminal responsibility to 10. Thatll work much better. Lets fill our jails with kids. Thatll be much cheaper.

Golly, it works in the good old US of A. Theyve got the highest incarceration rate in the world. And theyre a perfect model of racial harmony and social cohesion.

No. Lismore can do much better. Not only for the sake of that 15-year-old boy in Coraki, but for all of us.

Rachel Scollay

Editor


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