“My name is Kerry, this is where I’ve come from and this is my mob”
By Jamie Reynolds
Kerry Bloxsome, an Aboriginal Service Support Specialist, works with Indigenous families on Yuin country. She sits down with me to discuss working with age, disability and home care, on how she supports her clients with their work, education and family life and what it means to her to have an Aboriginal identity.
The Bloxsomes have a history at Wreck Bay on the far South Coast as one of the first families to move there. Having strong connections on both sides of the family and establishing themselves as strong members of the community, they have a cultural connection to that land as part of the Yuin nation.
“My family originates from Orient Point, Jerrinja and my Grandmother was born in Coolangatta Mountain, Cullunghutti,” she starts. “Being born an Aboriginal person and having an Aboriginal identity is really important to who I am as a person.”
Kerry talks about the significance of supporting her community in her role.
“It’s important when you’re part of a community to show some responsibility, especially when you come from it.“ she explains, citing her extended family members and colleagues who live around the Shoalhaven and South Coast. “It’s really crucial to all of us that we maintain that support from each other”.
Kate Smith, June Riemer and Kerry Bloxsome representing the NSW Healthcare system.
In what ways do you help your community overcome adversity?
I am given the opportunity to provide a really practical style of support. Working directly with families includes planning ways that they can socialise together, which is important because it means being able to attend cultural events. It could also mean providing respite to help build the capacity for that child or person with a disability, this helps build up their socialisation skills and develop some independence. Some parents are unsure how to manage their emotions because they’re still experiencing trauma from their own childhoods, and a lot of Aboriginal families, or individuals have barriers such as chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease; as well as a lack of dental care.
What still needs to be done in terms of systemic support?
Spaces where services are provided such as the Aboriginal Medical Service, Waminda (Women’s health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation) and the child and family centers at Cullunghutti, are working hard to support them. We have a lot of health issues right now, but there are programs that have been developed to help, such as Close the Gap. They’re trying to provide more funding into helping Aboriginal families build that capacity for employment and education, but it’s not doing as much as we need.
Why, in your opinion, is government funding not working?
It’s less about funding these agencies, and more about getting families from the space that they’re in, and the social disadvantages that they’re experiencing. Drugs, alcohol or other things that are now a part of Aboriginal peoples lives, and taking a huge effect on who they are as people is influencing it. Even though there are providers available to them, or AMS’s (Aboriginal Medical Services) that are getting funding, you then have the dilemma of families choosing not to use certain providers because of the relationship issues that come with going into an Aboriginal agency. It’s been systemic from things that have happened in the past, people are still experiencing the flow on effect of the Stolen Generations, the intergenerational issues that come from family members that have been removed from their parents and families.
How is the Stolen Generation still affecting the Indigenous community today?
We have some generations that have missed out on being able to nurture and maintain identity in their family. Once that’s lost, unfortunately you have a family that you are trying to support that generally has trouble making decisions. If it’s not motivation, it’s keeping up with financial expectations of keeping a family. It’s finding employment – which is a huge issue because whilst kids are being encouraged to attend school some aren’t, and miss out on their education [it’s because of family commitments] they have to stay home with their family member who is sick. Or they can’t get to school because they don’t have a car. So there are situations where their education is limited and they’re not encouraged to participate in school, or to see it as a way of building their future.
What strengths do you draw from your identity as an Indigenous woman?
I’ve found that the strength of being an Aboriginal person is that we have the ability to connect to a lot of people, and our community – even though we might not know them. Wherever we go, around Australia, we can identify an Aboriginal person with a shared look. We have the ability to connect with each other instantly, when we share this same identity. It might sound strange, but in terms of being an Aboriginal person, it is really important to us, and we can acknowledge that in different communities where we go. Aboriginal families work really hard to stay together, they’re compassionate, caring and are all about supporting one another.