My wife, Mona, and I are grateful to GK Australia for the unique privilege of being able to listen to the hopes and dreams of well-meaning Australians, especially in making their country greater than what it is already.
We come from a developing country where poverty is very much pronounced, where the more common approaches to the restoration of the dignity of the poor are through programs for decent homes, food on the table, health and education services. It was not surprising that when we first arrived in Dubbo, most people that we met found it difficult to see how our GK experience in addressing poverty can be relevant to the problems of Australian communities in government housing, particularly at the Apollo Estate.
We spent most of our time listening to people. Our visit to the homes of some Apollo families allowed us to listen to some of the stories and concerns regarding the situation of the community. We also listened to some groups and individuals from the larger Dubbo community regarding their thoughts and views on the Apollo situation.
The people we talked to said that problems with alcohol, drugs and crime are prevalent in the community. One even said that his wife is afraid to go to the Apollo Estate because of the criminality in the area. The picture that emerged during our chats was of a culture where human dignity is fast fading. Unfortunately, some of the people from outside the Apollo Estate mistake the bad practices as Aboriginal. We don’t think so.
We talked with Patricia Doolan, Rod Towney, and had long conversations with “Riverbank” Frank Doolan and a few others. Through them, we could sense the desire of Aboriginal people to take more active control of their life-situations and to be respected. The same desire for a much better kind of life was shared by the Apollo residents that we visited. Using the assessment of GKA volunteer, Andrew Chalk, a lawyer based in Sydney who works with Aboriginal communities, these bad behaviours and practices do not reflect Aboriginal culture but the culture of poverty.
The involvement of the residents in community activities, including social gatherings, is minimal. Some of the residents said that most of them lack self-confidence, which is caused by their lack of education and other people’s lack of confidence in them.
If trust among neighbors has to be strengthened, the relationship with the larger Dubbo community needs serious overhauling. While some Apollo residents are open to the idea of relating to GK volunteers, the difficulty in building friendships also lies in the negative perception that the larger Dubbo community has about the Apollo residents.
Many from within and outside the Apollo community believe that there is so much to hope for. During the community barbecue in December 2015, where the residents were involved in the preparation and management of the activities, many of the Apollo residents participated. The event reflected the desire of the residents to participate in decisions regarding community programs and activities.
The root cause of poverty, whether in a rich or in a developing country, is the same. It is the lack of sincere caring for others, the need for people to make their presence and kindness felt by those who need care. With people like Patricia Doolan, Johanna Leader and her Apollo House teammates, caring for the community has already started. With people like “Riverbank” Frank Doolan, Nicole Edwards, Michael Ferres, Alan Parker, Leah Mckinney, Vic Avila, and the others who committed to become GK volunteers, the healing of whatever brokenness in relationship has already taken root. With people who want to do Gawad Kalinga (give care) and journey together in building lasting friendship, making Dubbo a more united community is already a dream come true.
Butch Ozarraga, GK Area Coordinator, North-eastern Mindanao