Sussex Street Community Law Service was proud to attend the screening of In My Blood It Runs and group discussion with local Elders.
Ten-year-old Dujuan is a child-healer, a good hunter and speaks three languages. As he shares his wisdom of history and the complex world around him we see his spark and intelligence.
Yet Dujuan is ‘failing’ in school and facing increasing scrutiny from welfare and the police. As he travels perilously close to incarceration, his family fight to give him a strong Arrernte education alongside his western education lest he becomes another statistic.
We walk with him as he grapples with these pressures, shares his truths and somewhere in-between finds space to dream, imagine and hope for his future self.
Source: About – In My Blood It Runs
There is a strong theme set early in the film. We are quickly introduced to Dujuan’s aspirations in terms of his obligations and desires to grow into a man of good character.
He speaks confidently about his aspirations at the same time showing a respectfulness for his young age and the journey of growth that he will inevitably take.
"When in bush, we are strong like a lion but when in town, our spirit is wobbly".
This quote struck me. It was said by Dujuan, a boy so young in years but still demonstrating a deep cultural and traditional connection with country.
Spiritual concepts show a young boy who is connected with powerful stories and a sense of the world very similar to the many traditions shared and celebrated globally in different cultures.
Image description : Dujuan sits in a field with arms crossed thinking, with his heard turned facing over his left shoulder, wearing gray sweatpants and yellow t-shirt.
"What is wrong with me?"
The film strongly depicts the struggles of a young boy, who is challenged by a system, including an education system that isn't designed for him. He finds himself asking “what is wrong with me?”. The movie demonstrates a link between the young boy’s struggles in a deeply flawed system and how that leads to suspension, low grades and in some cases, minor vandalism.
The film strongly depicts how the experience of this one young person is not isolated. Instead, it shows his difficulties as common experiences shared by family, friends and people around him.
There is a strong communal commitment to his education. Family members take an interest in his education and reinforcing the need to persist, despite the difficulties in front of him. Lovingly, this family and community support is present whilst also appreciating the realities he is facing and will face in the system. The film depicts a loving support that comes from his family and friends’ shared experience over the generations.
Image description : Dujuan smiles happily whilst receiving a birthday cake lit with candles and sparkles, wearing a grey t-shirt.
Halfway through the film, there is a clear focus on how the effects of the Stolen Generation sits within the psyche of the young boy and his community.
We are introduced to generations of family members, casually but painfully recounting
their experiences of running and hiding so as they could avoid being taken to missions or relocated to white families.
"This movie is about me, and what I think is 'stop taking kids away, that's wrong'!"
At this point the movie starts to shift. You get a sense of how all of Dujuan’s courage, intelligence, confidence and pride can be mixed with anger and easily become focused on resistance against a system that is viewed as always ready to remove children from their families and depict them as underperforming and incapable; whilst not considering the many forms of learning and applied knowledge that is evident in the human experience.
“If you finish primary school and high school, then you learn. But I'm a bush kid!”.
The film begins to show how disengaged Dujuan and his classmates become. But only after doing what could be considered an excellent job of showing how inadequate the system is and holistic education that meets the needs of all children, families and cultures.
“I feel like a bad mum.”
What is also powerfully displayed, is the family's care. The sense of 'shame' expressed by Dujuan's mother as she feels like, in her words “a bad mum” when Dujuan is truant and misbehaving. The commitment that his mother and wider family has at all levels in multiple ways to lovingly discipline, encourage and in supporting Dujuan’s growth and development is clear throughout.
We are then brought back to be reminded of the demonstrations across the country in response to the treatment of young Aboriginal children in the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre. It was a perfectly timed reminder of the systemic failings that underpin the challenges experienced by Dujuan and his friends, family and community around him.
Spring Creek Homeland
"I'll explain it like this: The black way is when you don't have to use a frying pan to cook a fish."
It was a pleasure to see Dujuan returning to Spring Creek, attending school that met his cultural and learning needs, being out in country and with his father. The film was able to bring some relief and hope as we watched Dujuan being taught to drive and spending time in what is described as his traditional home.
Image description : Dujuan sits and rows a canoe down a river with trees along the riverbank and person sitting in the coxswain position.
At this point of the film, there is a noticeable increase in male influences. His father speaks briefly about the mistakes that he has made but seems consoled by the fact his son still wants to spend time with him. Something I’m sure many parents can relate to.
Dujuan powerfully expresses his desire to grow up and stop the injustice he and his community have experienced. He shows a beautifully articulated balance of assertive determination, intelligence, commitment to justice and compassion. Traits that we as community legal centres no doubt share deeply.
When he points out that he wants to grow up, go to the Prime Minister and tell him to “stop killing Aboriginal people!”, I couldn't help sensing his powerful reserve and unbelievable constraint.
The film ends by stating that at the time of filming one hundred percent of children detained in the Northern Territory juvenile justice system are Aboriginal.
Dujuan continued to stay in country and proudly reaffirmed his Aboriginal heritage.
As part of Reconciliation Week 2022, this film definitely gave viewers a safe, but also powerful glimpse into inequality experienced by many Australians.
For those of us wanting to learn more about our First Nation's people and who wish to journey further into a more inclusive approach to reaching and providing access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities, In My Blood It Runs is a good first step.
If you would like to watch the film, follow the link below for different viewing options.
Sussex Street Community Law Service would like to thank the City of Belmont for the invitation and allowing us to be part of this screening as well as making this screening available to so many.
Thank you to Rose Ngoga, IDAS Team Leader, for recommending this cultural development opportunity.
To find out more about what you can do to support reconciliation, visit the Reconciliation Australia Website for ideas, information and resources.
At Sussex Street Community Law Service, we respectfully acknowledge Traditional Owners of country, the Aboriginal people of the many lands that we work throughout Western Australia and across Australia.
We recognise their continuing connections to land, sea and community.
We pay our respects to elders past and present; and extend our respect to all Aboriginal communities of today.