a Happy Boxes Project takeover
Having grown up in the community of Yirrkala surrounded by her family and beloved culture, Siena Stubbs is a young Yolnu woman that has an intense love for learning and sharing her knowledge between both of her worlds; Yolnu and Napaki.
Instilled with a strong sense of self, Siena has achieved a whole heap of great things. This is her story.
My name is Siena. Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Miḻkiḻa Mitjparal Yumalil Baḏatjuna Barakara Stubbs. I am a Yolŋu woman from Yirrkala in Northeast Arnhem Land. When people don’t know where that is, I tell them that if you looked at the Northern Territory as a rectangle, we are the top right corner. Yolŋu land consists of white-sand, blue water beaches and red dirt, green eucalyptus bush. Last year I graduated from Nhulunbuy High School. For twelve years, I caught the school bus 12 minutes into town. It was all I knew. So this year, I chose to take a step back and work for my community before I left for uni.
Growing up, my family have always supported me in anything I wanted to do, including the time I wanted to learn violin and my mum and dad bought me a one and organised fortnightly lessons for me. They have always nurtured my aspirations.
In year 6, I randomly decided that I wanted to become a scientist that lived in a treehouse in the rainforest. For my remaining high school years up until year 12, I worked hard to honour this dream and even did all Stage 2 Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematical Methods. While this was one of the hardest years of my life, at the end of it, I decided I wanted to follow my naturally creative pathway. I am currently working at The Mulka Project, learning about filming, editing, photography, coding, and so much more. This is the path I have always gravitated towards and I hope to one day in the future, use this to share my culture with the world.
For 60,000 years, Yolŋu have learnt the land, the sea, the wind, the seasons, people, everything. Our system of gurrutu, kinship, relationships with one another and everything in between has shaped the way we are all connected. We are all equal, we are all one, which is the way we live our life.
A basic version of this structure can be found in most, if not all indigenous cultures of the world. This is not the principle of the western world, so as the world has collectively modernised over the past couple of centuries, from the outside, it would look like indigenous people are falling behind. The truth is that we are rich in culture and knowledge far beyond any case study or lecture could teach.
While this is true, it’s not difficult to see the inequity between Yolŋu and non-indigenous people. That’s why I, along with my family and community, believe organisations like the Happy Boxes Project do a really lovely job in providing essential supplies and support to people in communities like mine who need it.
I am very lucky to live in my house with my mum, dad and my two dogs. I get to have my own room, with my own bed. But it is not like this for everyone. Because of gurrutu, everyone in the community is closely connected and everyone shares everything. This means that at any given point, 4 generations could be living under one roof, with great-grandparents and new-born babies who both require attentive care. The rest of the people living in the house are school-aged kids and 2/3 adults who work to bring the money into the household. As these adults are working hard to take care of the grandparents, babies and the whole household, there are times when teenagers, don’t always get the love and care they need.
This is why the Happy Boxes Project is important. These boxes are sometimes the highlight of someone’s day, maybe even week. It is a little gift to them, and really, sometimes that's all that's needed.
Find out more on the Happy Boxes Project here.
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