Indi Clarke is an Executive Member of the Koorie Youth Council and has played a central role in the Koorie Youth Summit. As the staff member of Mallee District Aboriginal Services in Mildura Indi has created important pathways for Kalinya to work with the Mildura community on a number of projects.
Who’s your mob? Tell us about yourself?
On my father’s side I have ties to Muthi Muthi also the Boonwurrung and on my mother’s side I’m a Lardil man.
I am the youth and community engagement facilitator at Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS). I love working with my community, the people who have done so much for me – to give back to them is a huge honour. And working in a culturally safe workplace is pretty special. It’s humbling and I’m grateful to work with the people I do. For me, there’s no better way to spend your time than working with young people and helping empower them.
What makes you proud to be an Aboriginal man?
The simple fact that we’ve been here; we are the oldest living continuing culture in the world. We’ve been on this earth for sixty thousand years. As Uncle Richard Franklin says, I am one of 1500 generations and I walk in the footsteps of our Ancestors. I always look to what Benson Saulo says, our Aboriginality is our power – it’s our very essence. It’s what makes us, and that’s where our resilience comes from. Having that strong cultural connection is so special. I absolutely love it.
What was your experience of the first Koorie Youth Summit?
I still remember it like it was yesterday! The Summit has probably had the biggest impact on me personally and professionally. More than I could have ever imagined. I walked in so shy, but within a few hours, that guard you normally have was just gone. You could feel the passion, and the vibe, being around that many deadly young people – you didn’t even have to do anything. It was empowering in itself just to be around each other. Leaving the Summit was kind of depressing, because I was on such a high. But I remember walking out just feeling so empowered, and I took that back to my job and I was a more enlightened and energetic man, ready to take on the world!
You have gone from a Summit delegate, to an Executive Member of Koorie Youth Council and key facilitator at the 2016 Summit. Tell us about that journey?
That happened at the first Summit in 2014. I remember thinking, how can I get involved. This is amazing. A big thing for me was wanting to close the information gap for regional areas, to make sure we know about events and opportunities.
So I jumped on board so I could share information in my area. I am passionate about this, and what better way to get involved than with an organisation that advocates for Indigenous youth.
We often hear about the challenges of living in regional communities, but what are the benefits?
Living in regional towns you are far away in some respects, but at the same time you’re so close with your own community. I love going to Melbourne, but I love coming back to Mildura and knowing I can smile at someone and they’ll smile back and have a conversation. Mildura has been my home since I was four years old, and I think it always will be. It’s a family like environment in a little community – if an event is going on, I normally know about it. Even if it’s at the other end of town – the other end of town is only 20 minutes away! Significantly, it’s starting to become a culturally safe place. The local council launched a Reconciliation Action Plan last year, the local footy clubs have an Indigenous round, and some special things are happening out here. At MDAS we deliver cultural awareness training to local services and we always challenge people to take this knowledge back and create culturally safe spaces, this is something I love. It’s all one-step at a time, those ripple effects are what is create change.
What does it mean for you to live on Country, on the traditional lands of your Ancestors?
I really appreciate living on country at the times when I need to be grounded and I need to have my own time. When life is overwhelming and things are getting a bit too hard, the fact that I can drive down the river in five minutes, and put my feet in the sand and just sit there, listening to the trees and the birds, and just sit there. I probably didn’t realise how special it was – but it can do so much for the soul. It doesn’t matter where you live though; it’s what you make of it. There’s always going to be pros and cons, but you should always look at the pros.
Who mentored you? Who are your role models?
I’ve been pretty fortunate to have a lot of mentors in my life. The number one being my beautiful mother. She’s my rock and my best friend who’s been there for me. My dad passed away when I was pretty young so she took on both roles. My godmother Helen Healey, she’s played an important role in my life, telling me the things I didn’t want to hear when I needed to hear them. Also amazing people like Uncle Richard Franklin who are wise beyond their years, and who I could sit and listen to forever. Also a lot of family members. I think my dad, from beyond the grave, is a massive spiritual mentor to me who helps me to this day. Everything he did within Aboriginal education is something I really look up to and flows through to me.
I’ve got a lot of role models. Uncle Richard Franklin is definitely one of them. The way he can captivate an audience and be so powerful in what he says but so passionate at the same time. Another man for me would be Jonathon Thurston. He’s the ultimate gentleman on and off the field. It’s all the little things he does. I believe in the ripple effect, and the little things he does both on and off the field will have a lasting impact. This beautiful young woman Jirra Lulla Harvey is a big sister to me. To watch where she’s come from, and to now be this deadly young Indigenous woman running her own business, it’s something to follow in her footsteps. And of course, all of our Ancestors. They are my role models.
How do you balance being true to yourself, your own aspirations with being a role model and doing what’s right for community?
This is probably one of the things that has been the trickiest for me. It’s something we call the cultural loads. I’m pretty lucky that staying true to myself is part of my job. Doing things for community and for my mob brings me great joy. Staying on top of it though, that’s the challenge. I make sure I’ve got time for myself. So I play sport, go out on country to be mindful, allowing myself quiet time and being able to just breathe. Also having great support and friends beside you.
You approach life’s hardships with attitudes of positivity, what advice do you give the young ones you work with?
I encourage everyone to live a life of empathy and compassion. Too often we forget about the human factor. Before we say stuff, before we make judgements, we have to try and understand people more. As Nelson Mandela says, love comes more naturally to the human heart and that’s what we’ve got to do more of. Positive thoughts create positive things. It can be hard at times to see things that but as they say nothing ever comes easy, so practice it and take it one step at a time.