Teacher Feature – Uncle Clem Domic, Queensland
Narragunnawali’s Zoe Betar caught up with Kalkadoon man from Mount Isa, Uncle Clem Domic, who currently works with Glenmore State School in Rockhampton, Queensland. As an Aboriginal man, who has worked in education for 21 years in communities across NSW, ACT and QLD, Uncle Clem’s passion, courage and strength is demonstrated in speaking up for people who don’t have a voice and sharing “the reconciliation message” everyday.
Zoe: Hey Uncle! Great to sit and have a yarn with you! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the work you are currently doing with the kids in Rockhampton?
Uncle Clem: My main role is supporting the provision of equal and equitable access to Aboriginal education programs around Health and Physical Education, the Close the Gap Campaign, helping shape wider education/curriculum, and linking the school with local community initiatives and events.
Zoe: Wow! You are a busy man! Can you tell us a bit about some of those programs and supports you’ve helped bring into the school and community?
Uncle Clem: Being aware of the importance of good health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the power of technology for future job opportunities, I help coordinate the Deadly Ears program and, in 2016, was part of the pilot Indigenous Digital Excellence Flint Program. Together, these programs have meaningfully combined local Aboriginal cultures, histories and knowledges with the mainstream curriculum, and with new technologies and positive health outcomes for the students.
Zoe: That’s really cool. It sounds like you do a lot for the kids you work with. What about parents and teachers? Being an Aboriginal Education Support Officer and community man, how do you extend your work outside of the classroom, so to speak?
Uncle Clem: Well I think we have to have those conversations with the parents and teachers. We have to tell the reconciliation truths. So I get up and address the whole school and community in our assemblies and share histories, cultures and truths about significant dates, events and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, past and present. When I get up, I’m to the point. I know that there are a lot of curriculums that don’t have the ‘truth’ in them, so there are opportunities for us to shed light on that truth. Parents have received these messages well. I mean, when we work with the kids, it has to be done sensitively, but it must be done, and they take it well. They listen. Parents learn from their own kids as they take that information home.
Zoe: That’s really great to hear that you’re teaching others about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures. Speaking of teaching, this year’s theme for NRW is Don’t Keep History a Mystery. What do you think you might do for this year’s NRW? Can you share what you have done previously?
Uncle Clem: As part of last year’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW) celebrations – commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum – I worked with the local council who opened up both swimming pools for free for the whole community, and worked with local organisations who provided food and a cake for the celebration. Sharing and talking about the significance of the Referendum with all of the families. This year I’ll focus on local Elders, histories and languages being part of our NRW celebrations.
Thinking of the NRW theme this year, there really is a need for historical acceptance to be a stronger part of local and national conversations and learning journeys. While some teachers and parents may, at times, be confronted by what they learn, it is so important that the truth is nevertheless told and understood. These understandings will then be filtered down to the students, so that negative assumptions and stereotypes about being an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person can be erased. We have to bring it back to the continued strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures while sharing the historical truths about the relationship between colonial Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in a sensitive way. That’s the key to promoting a stronger future of reconciliation for Australia.
So that is what and why I do what I do. To make it better for these young generations. They should have it easier than what we had it. It’s equity for them and equality for the future.