My name is Sherilee. I grew up in Sydney and while I knew that I had Aboriginal relatives, I didn’t know that I was a First Nations person. As I grew, I started doing a family tree, asking questions and that’s when the truth started coming out. But I have always felt more calm, more balanced, bare foot in the dirt, in the water, out bush, on the coast, just in nature.
When I was spoken to about the job opportunity with the HAPEE program, my first thought was: great! I’ll get to travel a little bit, I’ll get to help some people in community, it will be awesome! But when I was sitting in the waiting room, waiting for my job interview for this role, there was a video playing in the reception called ‘Catching Dragonflies’. I watched that video maybe three or four times. Through that video, I learnt that 85% of Aboriginals in Australian prisons have a hearing impairment and that this impairment can start while these kids are young from undetected otitis media. It can lead to children not learning properly because the teachers put the children down to being ignorant and naughty, which was wrong.
The HAPEE program is giving us the ability to get into these communities and do hearing assessments for the kids before they start school. We’re getting out there into community. I’m getting my bare feet on the ground in many, many different lands across this Country. We are talking to health workers and Aboriginal health practitioners. We are talking to GPs, to parents, to early educators, and carers. We’re going to be able to help these kids hear better and if they can hear better, then they learn better. If kids learn better, they have a better chance of employment and if they have a better chance of employment, we might be able to keep them out of the criminal justice system. The change is starting.