For a snapshot in time, we asked eight people around the country to reflect on Australia Now. Here, Gerald Power, founder of Indigenous Cultural Adventures in Orange NSW, shares his thoughts on what the global pandemic has taught him.
Keep reading our Australia Now series here.
You are a Juru man, from Bowen in Queensland. What made you settle in Wiradjuri Country, in Orange?
Indigenous people move around a lot. Bowen is my home. But Orange is my home, too. I’ve lived here 38 years. I ran away from home aged nine due to domestic violence. My grandmother raised me and, when I turned 21, I wanted to stand on my own two feet. At that time, being black was not cool. There was always a pointed whisper when I walked in a room. Although I’d suffered racism my whole life, things felt different in Orange. I got a job picking up sticks for a local farmer and I found people here were kind. The community was beautiful. I also saw a beautiful girl and thought, ‘Right. I’m staying here’.
How did Indigenous Cultural Adventures come to be?
I had three children and, about 20 years ago, I lost my two daughters within 18 months of each other. One of my daughters was disabled; the other daughter died at just three weeks old. The stress of that experience cost me my marriage. I went into a deep depression and had a breakdown. I had worked for 16 years as a regional strategy officer for Family & Community Services for the NSW State Government and on Thursday 30 June 2016, at 5pm, I handed in my corporate card and walked out. I figured I still had my son and I wanted to focus on nurturing him. I had an inkling that I wanted to share my culture with Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and I launched my bush tucker business in November 2016.
What has launching the business taught you about yourself?
That I want to be the best human I can be. I used to chase success, but success can be quite hollow. Sharing my culture is now my journey for whatever time I have left on this Earth and I want to leave that as my legacy. I do this through my own business, Indigenous Cultural Adventures, and through partnering with companies such as Crooked Compass by Air and Country Food Trails.
What aspect of Indigenous Cultural Adventures are you most proud of?
My business has a few arms. No. 1 it’s built around sharing bush tucker food and foraging and it’s also about sharing the health benefits of First Nations food that is so readily available on this continent. The second arm of the business is cultural tours. I went to the local Wiradjuri Elders and asked for permission, and they said, ‘We trust you, we love you, you have our endorsement’. That meant the world to me. In terms of what I’m most proud of, my business catchcry is ‘Sharing our Journey’ and I employ young people to help me pass on knowledge in order to safeguard it for the future of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
How have you personally weathered the extraordinary circumstances of the past 18 months?
I turned to nature and connected to Mother Earth. I also walked a lot. When Aboriginal people are under stress, they pick the leaves from the eucalyptus trees and breathe in the aroma. It helped regenerate my spirit. I also drank a lot of lemon myrtle tea.
How do you feel about Australia right now?
It all comes back to caring for Country. If we don’t look after Mother Earth, she won’t look after us. I am the Orange NAIDOC Committee chair and for this year’s theme to be ‘Heal Country’ in the midst of a COVID crisis echoed around the world. COVID was Mother Nature saying, ‘I’m over you all. Stay home for a bit. Give nature a break’.
How can we safeguard the future of our country?
The only way for that to happen is for the Indigenous voice to be heard. I have spent the last four years campaigning as an Independent and have decided to run for council. The Greens here are very prominent and are going to give me their preferences. I told ’em, ‘When it comes to caring for Country, an Indigenous voice is as important as a voice from the Greens’. Indigenous people were the first greenies. We’ve always looked after Country. It’s about time a blackfella had a voice at the table.