Volume 1 Number 5
Strong Enough to Trust
01 January 1988
Since he left school and home as a 14-year-old, Reg Blow has tried most things: railway construction, truck driving, boxing, fruit picking, share farming, to name a few.
Since he left school and home as a 14-year-old, Reg Blow has tried most things: railway construction, truck driving, boxing, fruit picking, share farming, to name a few. But all have stood him in good stead for his present work - Aboriginal programme development officer in the Victorian correctional services.
`I find it ironic that I end up working in a system that has oppressed my people since European settlement,' says Blow, referring to 'the national shame' of Aboriginal imprisonment rates ten times that of any other section of the community, and the current enquiry into the deaths of 80 or even 100 Aboriginals in custody in the last seven years. He feels that much of the fabric of Aboriginal society is `in tatters'. `We are being sucked into a way of life that has no spiritual values, where moral principles take second place to materialistic pursuits and instant gratification.
`Today Aboriginal people need to rebuild their communities on rock solid cultural foundations - those principles that allowed Aboriginal people to exist for thousands of years in harmony with their physical and social environment.' These principles are the basis of operation for Aboriginal community panels, at present being established in Victoria.
From years of drifting between Aboriginal communities on the East Coast ('I was a pretty shady character in those days'), Blow understands the confusion of identity that holds his people back and the `don't care' attitude of many whites which causes so much bitterness.
He also understands from experience what brings a cure. Discovering Christianity has helped him find his `Aboriginal spirituality' and has `brought a big change in my lifestyle. Of all the gifts in the world none could be greater than genuine honesty and absolute love. I am sorry for my bitterness, and have found a new compassion.'
`By caring for our oppressors,' he says `we Aboriginal people can give them the chance to change. But if we feed their race hate or indifference to us, then it will only allow them to justify their attitudes to us. In my work (with government) I have tried toimplement trust in my dealings with people and groups. Trust is not the same as gullibility to trust people takes strength.' One person who trusts Blow and works a great deal with him is a senior executive in Melbourne's Collins Street, Tom Ramsay. He heard Blow speaking about the past 200 years -`history I'd certainly heard before. But it was the first time I actually stopped to listen to it. I learned more in those few moments so far as Aboriginal people were concerned, than in the 50 years I'd been living in Australia.' Ramsay arranged for Blow to speak to an association of professionals in the mining and exploration area: the first time many of them had listened to an Aboriginal.
Blow is clear: 1988 is for him not a year of celebration, but he `will use it to bring recognition to my people. Aboriginal people have an important role bringing change in Australia.'
Blow's wife, Walda, is employed by the Uniting Church and has coordinated the return of Church proper-ties to Aboriginal communities. `Before any healing can come,' she says, `Aboriginal people have to be reconciled with themselves, with the things which have caused their hurt. The dispossession of land and, through this, the loss of culture and indendence, are some of the things which take away one's dignity and self-respect.
`A deeply ingrained bitterness in my community shows itself in the refusal to play the game according to the norms of this society,' says Walda. `It's going to take a long time to heal these things, and healing is desperately needed within my people today.’