Recently I had my uncle's birthday and you know we got a lot of uncles eh? A lot of uncles and a lot of dads and a lot of aunties and a lot of mums. And in Aboriginal culture, uncles are also dads, dads are also uncles, just like nephews are also sons and nieces are also daughters. You know what I'm saying, eh? That our brothers' sisters and our sisters' brothers are our brothers and our sisters as well, and of course we have a lot of responsibility to look after them through kinship.
This uncle of mine, well his name was Uncle Gary, and he lived in Western Sydney out near the Blue Mountains. He had his birthday not long ago and recently I was starting to think about Uncle Gary. He's been one of those fullas that's been a real big influence in my life. He used to be able to fix anything with his hands. He was a mechanic, he'd fix cars, he'd fix bikes, he'd build houses and all sorts of things.
I didn't have to say much to him when I was growing up. I just watched him. I didn't have a lot of good role models... my old man, my biological father, wasn’t there for me much, but this uncle of mine, Uncle Gary, well I used to watch him and I used to listen to him and I used to want to be like him, mostly because he never gave up. He showed me there was always a way to fix something... even if you didn't know how, you'd somehow work it out.
And I watched him one day, with my grandmother watching us, and we were fixing a car together. And I probably would've been about 12 years old. And Uncle Gary showed me how to fix the contact points in the distributor in the engine, he showed me how to change the spark plugs, he showed me how to tune the engine, how to adjust the carburetor, all those sorts of things. And I just listened and watched, and I learnt from him. He's an old fulla now, but thinking about him now still reminds me of the uncle… the role model… that I want to be. You know, like when there's all these young fullas around us, and they're looking up at us, and there's young girls and they're looking up at us, and they're looking for a role model, just like I was with my Uncle Gary.
These days, I’ll often ask myself: what sort of an uncle am I being? What sort of a dad or a role model am I being? Are my kids gonna grow up, are my nephews gonna grow up, are my nieces gonna grow up one day, and are they going to say, "Hey, you know that Uncle Jonzy? He was the one reason we believed in ourselves. He was the one thing that always kept us happy about life, who motivated us to be stronger, to think about what life could be like, and to believe in ourselves. He was always there when we needed him. He always gave us strong advice and he gave us love when we needed it. He was always happy. He was always positive, and he taught me things that I needed to know."
Are you going to be that sort of uncle like Uncle Gary was for me? Are you going to be that sort of auntie, like so many of our aunties who are out there?
Now we all know what it looks like to have that uncle or that auntie that always fails, that always drinks, that always gets into trouble, that always makes promises and never keeps them. But are you going to be that role model that our young fullas, our young women, one day get to our age and be like, "Hey, you know what? I love that Uncle Jonzy. He was always there for me."
Maybe you're that uncle now, maybe you're that auntie now, maybe you’re that big brother or that big sister. But even if you're not right now, it's something to look forward to, to be that person for those young kids, because now more than ever we need them… and they need us.