Opinion: I'm A 13-Year-Old Aboriginal Boy, And This Is What I Told The “Boss Lady” Of The United Nations
Dujuan Hoosan from remote Australia writes about his meeting with “the boss lady of the United Nations” and the future he wants for Aboriginal kids.
I am Dujuan, and my skin name is Penangke on my mum’s side. That means my great-great-name from the land and the old people.
I am both Arrernte and Garrwa, and I live in Borroloola on Garrwa and Yanyuwa land. It’s far away from McDonald’s, police cars, and big buildings. We go fishing, we go hunting, burn Country proper way, play games, and walk around on the hot ground. Even nighttime is really warm. I am alive, I love my family, and I love being in this world.
Over the last three years, I was filmed for the documentary In My Blood It Runs. It is just me telling my story. I hope you can see it in the cinemas this year. I hope it gives other Aboriginal kids strength.
I have one full-grown memory: going overseas, showing the film at the United Nations, and speaking up for Aboriginal kids like me now and in the future.
Speaking at the United Nations in Switzerland in September wasn’t that scary. It was alright. My dad sat next to me and told me not to be shame and to speak up so the crowd could hear me. So I tried to not be shame and acted like nobody was in the room. When I finished making the speech everyone in the United Nations clapped. I felt like a show-off, but everybody was crying around us and I think I did us kids proud.
After that we were invited to meet with the boss lady of the United Nations (Michelle Bachelet, the high commissioner of the Human Rights Council), now my friend, at her palace. She told me that I was the youngest person ever to speak up to her. I felt very lucky to be there, but also sad because 12-year-olds shouldn’t have to ask world leaders for help to get Australia to listen and give us our rights.
I told her that my dream future is just me and a thousand dollars, maybe with a yellow Lamborghini with seats for my brother and my cousins... Nah. Jokes.
For real I told her that I think kids all around the world just want to be able to play. They want to be close to their families. To not be around fighting. To play with their friends. They should be able to learn about who they are and where their land is.
In Australia, some kids, even some of my family, are sent to juvenile detention. They are sent really young — as young as 10, which is how old I am in the film — and they are cruelled there. Prison is a place where you have to stay in a little box and you can’t get out. That’s wrong.
I told her that I want my school to be run by Aboriginal people that are like me and understand me. This year I have to leave my family and live far away to go to high school. I don’t want to, but that’s how it is here in Borroloola. I hope in 10 years there is a choice to stay with our families and be on our land for school.
I told the boss lady that I want my future to be out on land with family and strong language and culture. I want to look after land because half the land is dying. I want to know Arrernte — it’s our family’s language, but I am still learning.
I want to be a good Angangkere to look after my people. Angangkere is a traditional healing power that lives inside you, and I got mine from my great grandfather, who passed it on to me, the next generation. I am still learning how to control it and have to learn it to be in a straight line. My Angangkere needs to be on the homeland to have a good feed out there. I know what some bush medicine plants look like and I know what they smell like, but if you don’t have good eyes, and you don’t know what all the trees look like, then that means you are still learning.
I want my future to be here in Borroloola. Everything watches over me here. Spirits watch over me. If I disrespect other people and disrespect their culture then the old people, the spirits, will get angry at me. Same like when you go out bush. I never want to leave here except to visit my Arrernte family and Country at Sandy Bore. When I am really old, I will be sitting down here on the verandah in Borroloola getting wrinkly.
That lady from the United Nations told me she would tell the boss men in Australia to listen to kids like me. So in February we are going to Parliament House, and I want to meet the prime minister. I want to ask him to change some things in life for us Aboriginal kids and show him my movie. I hope his ears will listen.