Transcript for
The gift of resilience – the hopes of an Aboriginal father

Runtime 00:29:15
Released 9/12/22

Lou Turner (00:00): Providing a platform for them to grow their resilience, to grow their identity. If they encounter racism or anything that impacts on their identity, that I’m a place of strength and safety for them to have conversations with. And I can also point them in direction of others, as well. I can call upon my experiences and my time of maybe not having things in place, people to go to. So I bring to bear all of those experiences and life lessons that I’ve learned, so my children don’t have to learn such hard lessons, but still needing to learn some lessons because to become resilient, you have to face challenges. You have to face hardships and work out ways of instilling a base of strength and a response to that.

Narrator (00:43): Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast.

Jasmine Bald (00:48): Hello, I’m Jasmine Bald from Emerging Minds, and welcome to our podcast. Today, we will be sharing a very special conversation we had with Lou Turner. Lou kindly shared his story as part of our Emerging Minds online course, ‘Rebuilding our shields: Sharing stories of deadly dads’.

(01:04): Lou Turner is a proud Anangu father with Pitjantjatjara connections to Docker River and Mutitjulu communities.

(01:11): In this podcast, Lou will share his journey of walking in two worlds, and the hopes and challenges he faces as an Aboriginal father in contemporary Australia. Lou provides his insights and hopes that he has for his children and community, which will develop your understanding and connection points when supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers.

(01:30): To hear more stories of First Nation fathers, the Rebuilding our shields documentary and course can be found on our website. You will find more information and links in our show notes.

(01:39): We would like to acknowledge and thank the many Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander men who have shared their stories so generously in this documentary. We encourage you to listen deeply to these stories, to understand the impact colonisation has had on the roles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers, and learn their strengths and resilience, and the valuable knowledge that they hold, and the hopes that they have of their children to help gain a better understanding of the critical role that First Nation fathers have in supporting children to grow up healthy, strong, and thriving.

(02:09): Now let’s hear from Lou.

(02:11): Hi, Lou. Thank you for your willingness to share your story with us. Did you want to start off by telling us a little bit about you and your background?

Lou Turner (02:18): My name’s Lou Turner, but my birth name that I was given is Alucius Turner. I’m a person of multiple descendancies, so I’ve got an Indonesian bloodline, I’ve got an Aboriginal Pitjantjatjara bloodline and I’ve got a Scottish and English, Anglo-Saxon bloodline. My Aboriginal family are big, like most families, but we’re scattered around the country as well. Currently, I’m living here in South Australia, but my family’s story starts in Central Australia. My grandmother, she was born in Docker River. She was a child that was taken, that was stolen with her five sisters and her story then, through that removal story, ended up in Darwin where she met a lovely fellow up there and my mother was born. So my story and association with family from Darwin, I was born in Brisbane, but raised in Darwin amongst my Aboriginal family. And also, that started my journey, I guess, in understanding the wonderful, the beautiful complex scope of living in family and being a part of community.

Jasmine Bald (03:22): Thanks, Lou. Did you want to tell me a little bit about your children and family?

Lou Turner (03:27): Yeah, look, my immediate family, I have a lovely partner, she’s not Aboriginal, and I’m blessed to have two children with her. So two sons, Wolfie and Arlo, both different looking boys, same genetic stock, but I call them my salt and pepper boys cause Wolfie is a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed, he’s got that Germanic stock, European sort of lineage coming through strongly. And Arlo is like a little mini-me. I would say. He’s reflective of those sort of genetic qualities, Indonesian features, my First Nation, my Aboriginal features coming through, and also the Anglo features.

(04:03): And then I have my dear daughter, my firstborn child to a previous relationship. And she’s such a special person in all of our lives because she represents that first hope and that first experience of becoming a father. And she’s my only daughter and she’s the only girl in our family amongst her siblings. So yeah, look, we are a little family. We’ve got complexities in our family. Like most families, we’ve got challenges, we’ve got stories of autism in our family. We’ve got stories of complex trauma on both sides that comes through and managing that, but surrounded by good family.

Jasmine Bald (04:39): What do you mean by that? Your daughter being that first hope. Do you want to elaborate? What was that hope?

Lou Turner (04:46): That hope, that moment of change, that schismic change in any parent’s life when you see your child for the first time and you just sort of look in wonderment what that life holds. And then beyond that, you start wondering, as you always do, through our entire lives, my entire life is going to be wonderment of making sure that my daughter is going to be happy first and foremost, but is going to be confident in growing into her own identity, whatever that will hold for her. That’s for her to create. But also to navigate safely through the complexities of this modern world. But also know that she carries with her a long lineage of culture that’s grounded in ways of living with one another in peace and harmony and balance.

Jasmine Bald (05:33): How, as a dad, do you manage and develop your parenting around gender with your daughter, which in many ways speaks of a complexity of balancing the two worlds of living?

Lou Turner (05:44): Well look, as a father, I’m acutely aware that I can only provide a certain set of needs for my daughter. As a man, I see myself as the first man in my daughter’s life. I am hopefully a role model to other men and form the basis of the way that she sees the world and looks at other men. So that’s an important thing for me, to represent the best qualities and the qualities that I would like her to seek in friendships and relationships with boys now, but men in her growing life into an adulthood.

(06:20): Certainly, I’ll provide a place of safety and comfort and compassion and strength for my daughter to come to if she needs to. And that if I identify those times where she needs some support, I’ll come to my daughter. But also for me, my role as a man and an Aboriginal father is to identify those strong women around her that can guide her in the ways that men can’t and support her identity as a female. This is her life, but it’s surrounding herself with good people regardless of gender expression, with good values. So it’s an extension of my values and principles, which come from my mother, I believe.

(07:03): Yeah, and she’s got her mother, who is a strong woman as well. And so it’s about creating a place between homes between her mother and myself to raise her confidently as well.

Jasmine Bald (07:17): If you feel comfortable, would you like to share a little more about your grandmother?

Lou Turner (07:21): Well, I guess I’ve got to go back to my mother’s story as well and acknowledge and honour the story of my aunties and uncles and honouring my grandmother’s sort of story, that legacy of connection, but also the legacy of trauma that was passed down through the experience of removal that my grandmother experienced, but also that my mother also experienced. She was removed, along with her brothers and sisters, and placed in different homes and institutions.

That impact, in our family, like a lot of families impacted by this story has led to, I guess, the qualities of, I guess, the holistic approach to parenting, the holistic approach to care. Obviously, if you understand this story, there’s certain factors that weren’t available to parents, to my grandmother when she grew up. She was taken at four-years-old. My mother was taken as a young girl. So growing up, navigating, creating safe relationships, forming relationships, having children, what do you base your parenting skills on? What do you base your strengths? How do you bring to bear everything that you know?

But a lot of that stuff, fortunately, is innate, whether it’s a human quality that’s in every human being, but I believe it’s more intrinsically sort of connected for First Nations people. The Aboriginal experience is about connection. So to me, it’s understanding what the disconnection was to reframe and position an experience of reconnection and connection for myself and my family. And that’s understanding the stories, I guess, the stories of in my family and the impact on men, on women, and on children.

Jasmine Bald (09:09): What do you see as some of those impacts? Can you expand a little around the discourse as a result of that trauma that is portrayed in the media, Aboriginal’s perceptions of Aboriginal fathers or Aboriginal men?

Lou Turner (09:22): Yeah, that’s a really important question and as an Aboriginal father, it’s something that I’m coming to understand because it’s what we’re challenged by, I guess, the discourse. We didn’t create that.

(09:34): As a collective, we’re Aboriginal men and Aboriginal fathers, I guess, have been painted in current times of media has been insufficient. Our base and our strength has been taken away. That’s a contemporary impact and a challenge to us amongst what was taken away previously through past times. So I think it’s just a total negative picture that’s been painted about Aboriginal fathers, Aboriginal men as a whole.

(10:06): I guess this sort of modern time, part of the challenges is the social discourses. There’s group politics. People like to put you in a basket. The media is really good at that. That’s what they do. They try to capture stories but interpret them, those stories, from their perspectives, so they’re putting all Aboriginal men in a particular basket. Not all media, but the impact on that, that it creates a greater sort of challenge for us to be able to navigate through the discourse, to challenge the opinions, challenge the negative narrative that’s been created through that.

Jasmine Bald (10:46): What are some helpful ways to challenge those discourses? What’s been helpful for you or maybe what hasn’t been helpful as well as?

Lou Turner (10:54): Yeah, I guess what’s been helpful is being able to walk with other strong, grounded Aboriginal men, but also walk with men that have been challenged, men that are being challenged by the discourse, challenged by the system because it’s a complete experience. For me, it’s about informing my experience by the experiences of others because it’s a collective impact.

(11:16): But for me, it’s about identifying really, really strong Aboriginal men. And when I say strong, I don’t mean physically powerful, but I mean men that have a really clear way of understanding their position, their roles, their obligations as men. There’s that sort of honour and integrity and obligations to community, to family, to women and to other men. So to me, I always try to seek out those men and there’s a lot of beautiful, strong men around me in my life that I tap into. Yeah.

Jasmine Bald (11:49):

This is a strange and off-the-cuff kind of question, but men might present or seem to present in services as angry as a result of those discourses. What would you share with a practitioner so they may understand that anger and to be able to respond to that?

Lou Turner (12:05):

Well, it’s about … When I think of a practitioner’s position, there’s certain, I guess, authority provided to that person in the service that they’re providing, but also, the position in society that they are a knowledge holder and that knowledge is recognised. So I would say equally, when you’re stepping into a space with another person, with an Aboriginal father, it’s about recognising that person’s expertise and possibly that person’s position of authority that they hold within their family, equally walking alongside the mother of the child. It’s also their community.

(12:50): Yeah, look, I would say decenter yourself. Don’t position yourself as the expert in that person’s life and knowing how to seek solutions to the challenges that that person is coming to you with. Understand the complexity. I would say try to understand the complexity, be genuine, be open, be curious, and be humble in understanding the complexity of that person’s life. So that’s understanding the context of impact of colonisation on Aboriginal people and then maybe creating a story of what that has been to that person’s life through their families’ experience.

Jasmine Bald (13:31): So historically within Aboriginal and Torres Islander families and communities, the ways of being and doing, there was really clearly defined roles, responsibilities and ways of being, knowing and doing, which is quite different to the western mainstream society which we now live in. How do you balance that? What do you see as the challenges around that and what are the good parts and what are that are not so good parts of that?

Lou Turner (13:56): Yeah, look, I guess always going back into that walking in two worlds experience, it’s about where we are now is in an urban sort of setting. It’s prescribing to the societal norms of this sort of contemporary Australia that we’re in. So it’s placing myself within that and to navigate harmoniously with that, but it’s also about going back, or not going back, but looking into the traditional cultural values and ways of living and ways of existing within Aboriginal culture that I can draw upon, that I can draw strength from.

(14:32): For me, in my experience, I’m a descendant of Stolen Generation survivors, so there’s a challenge within a challenge to that. There’s, I would say, a triple challenge in that firstly, we’re placed in this sort of identity box of being a good citizen in this country, but then I’m a man within that identity box. And then my identity as an Aboriginal person and as an Aboriginal man and a father, there’s an identity box there and how do, I guess, fill that box or fulfil that? That’s understanding those roles and obligations and it’s safely melding and finding ways of integrating that into our existence and my life and my family’s life now.

(15:15): For me it’s about reclaiming, it’s about seeking that out through that sort of story of Stolen Generations and disconnection. It’s about finding those relationships, finding those family members who have those stories, who can share those stories, who understand the qualities and the needs. That’s a healing process. To me, that’s a restorative thing that will restore and create and empower a space in our family to raise children safely through all of their stages of development into adulthood.

(15:48): When I was talking to the challenges that impact on Aboriginal fathers, but myself in navigating through in this modern world, the walking in two worlds, there’s the challenges of identity politics. There’s no way around it because we have individual, we have group, and we have collective, but there’s so much social pressures in this modern time and things are even more polarised between and apart, within identity politics, around choosing a camp or being placed in a camp. And to me, I find that such a great challenge and an impact because to me, I just want to be me, you know? And no one has the authority to create my identity as an individual and as a father and as an Aboriginal person other than me.

(16:32): So there’s almost a prescription to needing to be placed in one of those camps. It’s almost this sort of going back to a raw tribalist space, and to me, that’s not healthy for us to live in harmony. It’s in conflict and it challenges, it’s incongruent with cultural ways of living and working because things were already planned out. There was harmony, there was law, there was roles and obligations in that. So how do we draw the distinction but find a way of integrating all of that traditional cultural value, living experience that we seek safety within in this modern complexity of politics, of group identity politics? Because that can really interrupt and cause further harm to Aboriginal people. It can exacerbate underlying traumas and create new traumas and it can stop opportunities, inhibit opportunities to heal, inhibit opportunities to strengthen and restore.

(17:36): So I would say, to me, that’s a great challenge in being able to navigate that myself, but also, to support my children being able to navigate that without the impact because the end result is not good for a lot of people. There’s mental health and wellbeing issues and concerns, and then there’s also the questioning of identity and that’s not good.

Jasmine Bald (17:57): What are your hopes for your children in navigating those through that complexity? What gift could you give them from your own experiences that will help them in their path to be able to balance that?

Lou Turner (18:08): The gift of resilience when getting knocked back, when getting knocked down, when getting confronted by ignorance, by racism. And it’s a fine balance sometimes between understanding where ignorance and racism, but there’s an overlay there, but it’s still equally impactful on an Aboriginal person growing up and finding their own identity and place of strength and confidence in that identity.

(18:34): So it’s providing a platform for them to grow their resilience, to grow their identity. If they encounter racism or anything that impacts on their identity, that I’m a place of strength and safety for them to have conversations with. And I can also point them in direction of others as well. I can call upon my experiences. That’s what I’ll probably use and my time of maybe not having things in place, people to go to. So I bring to bear all of those sort of experiences and life lessons that I’ve learned so my children don’t have to learn such hard lessons, but still, needing to learn some lessons because to become resilient, you have to face challenges. You have to face hardships and work out ways of instilling a base of strength and a response to that.

Jasmine Bald (19:28): That was beautifully spoken, Lou.
This question is a little different, but I think important. If you feel comfortable, can you share something that’s happened recently that, as a dad, that’s made you really proud, one that you’ve looked at and you’ve gone, “Wow, that was pretty amazing”?

Lou Turner (19:47): It sounds like a simple question because there’s many moments to reflect on. They’re all proud moments. They’re all just observing my children in wonderment of growing. But I think I look at proud moments though when I see my children making meaning of the world and understanding and having breakthroughs and being wowed by the world and reliving that wonderment through their eyes again.

(20:12): So it’s exciting to watch them grow and work things out, but doing it in their way. Because I will say that the greatest teachers are our children, like the greatest wisdom holders are our elders, but the greatest teachers are our children because they’ll teach us things that no one else will teach about ourselves, about our foibles, about our deficiencies, but also about what’s good about ourselves, our strengths. So as an Aboriginal father, I would say, look to our children, they are our future. They are our hope. They are our lesson givers.

Jasmine Bald (20:47): So I don’t know how we capture that in question. So do you want to talk to me a little bit about how oppression, where that comes from and the impacts of that in spirit, in wellbeing, but also in actions? Did I capture that very well? I don’t know if I captured that.

Lou Turner (21:01):

In our nation, oppression’s a very broad and long story, but it’s a new story to Aboriginal First Nations people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And that oppression story has many layers. So I’m going to speak from the layer of the impact on Aboriginal men, the perception and the experience of oppression as an Aboriginal father. They’re the challenges, they’re the things that can inhibit the journey of being able to provide those roles, those responsibilities, and continue the obligations as an Aboriginal man and a father.

(21:36): So when we’re talking about an expression story, it’s about disempowerment, it’s about what was taken away from Aboriginal men. And before I get into that story, I always have to acknowledge the story of oppression for our Aboriginal women because I am a son that was given life through a woman. So I have to acknowledge women and my mother and my grandmother and the lineage of women in my family.

(22:04): But for men, our position, and I can’t imagine, and I don’t want to imagine what our men experienced in the early stages and the impacts of colonisation, of having a really clear rightful place, roles that sat in harmony with our women. But those roles of protecting, of providing protection, of providing a place of strength and safety for community, they were taken away. That role was taken away. I can’t imagine seeing our women and our children taken from us, not being able to protect them while our women were raped, our women were murdered and abused. And the total feeling of disempowerment and what that would’ve meant to the psyche and how that then continued the ripple through time, the ponds of time effect to now.

(22:54): And I guess when we’re talking about the discourse, those stories that the media carry and portray, it’s holding on to what you might see present, that oppression present through frustration, through anger, through hopelessness. When we are experiencing Aboriginal men, when I experience an Aboriginal man, but if I place myself in the shoes of a practitioner, as a non-Aboriginal practitioner, and if I was confronted with, I guess, an experience that was foreign to my experience of knowing how people behave, how people talk, and how people express, you’re not going to be presented by that. It’s an experience of trauma, of behaviour that’s laced with trauma, that comes through from a trauma base, through an oppressive base. And it’s a voice of an Aboriginal man that’s trying to find a place of strength again and who’s seeking support in feeling safe and being provided a platform to safely restore his voice and his presence in the world.

(24:07): So elevated language, elevated sort of levels, expressions of what we might perceive as anger can be quite confronting, that just needs to be understood within the context of what that person’s life’s about and what it’s been and what that person is bringing to you now. So there’s a responsibility to hold that, understand that, not be fearful of that, but seek guidance and solace in that as well because it’s about building a relationship with an Aboriginal man to support an Aboriginal man, and understanding that pain and that hurt that you are seeing.

(24:42): And that’s an expression of trauma. Pure, pure trauma at times of disempowerment, of not having a rightful place as an Aboriginal man. So it’s about finding that place again, it’s about restoring that. It’s about restoring harmony to relationships within family, within society, and walking in two worlds to do that. So for practitioners to understand that journey and to walk respectfully, safely, and curiously with Aboriginal men, it’s about understanding that story of oppression and not putting every Aboriginal man in one basket because there’s individual stories and then there’s collective stories. So it’s understanding there’s distinctions, but then it is complex. It is complex.

Jasmine Bald (25:30): I’m sure that you’ll have those feelings of oppression as a father in and out of your life. There will be times when you’ll feel wonderful and there’s amazing hope and wonder, but then there’ll be times of challenges and despair around that. How do you deal with that? What are the things that you do to keep yourself strong?

Lou Turner (25:49): As an Aboriginal man, what I do to keep myself strong and safe is to be with other Aboriginal men in a supportive way, to be supported and held by Aboriginal men. To hold a story of what it is to be an Aboriginal man, our roles, our responsibilities, walking with love and respect and harmony and integrity as men. I’ve got to find those places and I’ve got to sit with other Aboriginal men.

(26:17): And some of those places and some of the men that I sit with, there’s stories of hardships, those oppression stories, and it’s being supported, but it’s supporting all the same. So that’s in my personal life, but also professionally as well. In the professional realm, I’ve got to seek those relationships as well. And it’s not just with other Aboriginal men, it’s with good men and also being guided by good women.

Jasmine Bald (26:44): That is important. I wonder, and this is a very narrative question, I wonder if we go back to the beginning and what your grandmother would be thinking to hear you be such an advocate for her, her experience, her story, and your story that is a result of that.

Lou Turner (27:00): I’m getting emotional here because I can only hope that I do, my words and my voice and my story give her life, provide a justice, a sense of pride. I know she’s always with me and my mother. I talk about my membership of support that people in the physical sort of space around me and my life, but also in the life thereafter in the spiritual space, their voices and the images are equally as loud and clear to me.

(27:29): So when I think of my grandmother and my mother, I just think that I want to do everything that I can to continue their steps and their footprints in my life and their grandchildren’s life to make them proud, to stand up for what their values are, what they gave me through what they’ve provided.

Jasmine Bald (27:50): So your boys going forward, what’s the gift that you want to give them in their journey to fatherhood or not fatherhood, or men, or whatever they choose to be? What would your guiding hopes and dreams and words of wisdom be for them?

Lou Turner (28:05): Well, I would say, “Look, sons, look at me as an example of a man, but don’t be like me. Be yourselves. Be curious in the world. Be open to the world. Be open to experiences and take every opportunity to learn from those experiences and to grow from those experiences and to walk with honour, integrity, respect, and harmony with others and with this world that we find ourselves in the environmental space as well.

Jasmine Bald (28:35): Thank you so much, Lou. I feel very honoured to hear and be able to share this very important and personal story today.

Narrator (28:44): Visit our website at to access a range of resources to assist your practice. Brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, led by Emerging Minds. The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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