Skip to Content

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons.

I thought long and hard about the meaning of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day theme, My Dreaming, My Future, and shared some time with family talking about It. To me, Dreaming refers to history – where ancestors carried culture and songlines through generations to create the culture we practice today. It is important for ampe (children) to recognise where they come from, recognise the Country we walk and care for, and to speak our language.

For Arrernte people, our history has allowed us to thrive. History tells us about the relationships we have and the responsibility that we carry through to our adult lives.

Modern history has not been so compassionate towards First Nations people across Australia. There have been Frontier Wars, and many thousands more people killed and enslaved. Waves of destruction through the western introduction of disease, alcohol, and other harmful substances. The energy needed for Sorry Business is frequent and support needed for damaged families is daily. On this National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, I hope people reflect on children who were removed from their families and continued to be removed through an unjust system brought about by government.

If I am telling my children about their history, I need to tell them the unbroken truth and not just the nice parts if I think my kids would have any chance of a good future. I ask my children about Dreaming and they say, “Is it good dreams or bad dreams Mum?” being unsure if I am referring to the sleepy thoughts that have kept their minds racing while they slept. I think my response is “both.”

In reality, the word ‘Dreaming’ for me, and many First Nations people I know, is a coloniser word. To me, it gives some essence of make-believe, fantasy, or hallucination –hinting at the creation stories of First Nations people as having some falseness behind them. Religion holds many descriptions of unworldly beings, stories of floods and fires that covered the earth, yet rarely their accuracy is questioned.

Our Arrernte ancestors extended their stories across Countries. They showed connection and lineage to other First Nations groups, through songs and stories of Country. This is also seen in tools and instruments that are used in hunting, ceremonies, and other important events across our culture.

When speaking with Arrernte Senior Elder Nana MK Turner, she spoke of Altyerre ayeye, her story and her telling of that story. We shared thoughts on the importance of children knowing their history; that it was very important. Children should learn their teachings from the beginning. The strength of knowing where you come from is the power that pushes you to know your purpose when you become a mother or father, that you can carry on what has been taught to you.

To know your Altyerre ayeye, is to know yourself, your story. It is not a dream.

Auntie Marita Mcmillan told me Altyerre comes from everything. I feel it – it’s in the ground, it’s the kwatye (water) that we drink; the air that surrounds us. Altyerre is the story of the beginning of everything we know, see, hear, taste and touch. I’ll tell my children to think of their Altyerre ayeye and the knowledge that they gain from our Elders, so that it can give them the ability to champion for their people. For their Dreaming is more than their culture, their song and their dance. It is two ways: Cultural way and the reality of our collective history. It is the human rights that my ancestors fought for – our rights to basic access for healthcare, housing, and social justice. All that they want to do in this life is guided by it.

When I think about this year’s theme for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, ‘My Dreaming, My Future,’ I imagine a future where my children walk strong in their identity, led by their culture and community and their voices are elevated and carried through every aspect of their lives. I’ll not only tell my children, but I’ll show them. This is our ampe-kenhe ayeye! (children’s story).

About the author

Cherisse Buzzacott

Arrernte woman and Head of Health at Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe (Children’s Ground Central Australia)

— Posted on 08 Mar 2022