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Through his tears, a proud warrior celebrates his degree

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Words
Zoe Satherley
Published
2 May 2007
Kamilaroi warrior Uncle Angus Binge grins through his tears.

A proud man, he knows what it feels like to have a foot in both camps – a respected tribal Elder of the Kamilaroi tribe from the Moree area and a recent graduate of Southern Cross University.

His tears are both for the old pain of his childhood and for the new joy of achievement.

Angus now lives in Lismore but grew up on a mission in Moree where he said he was sexually abused for 10 years until he was able to legally leave as a young adult.

At 64, he can finally talk about the years of distress and degradation he suffered and begin his long healing journey because of a trauma and grief healing process he underwent as part of studying for his Master of Indigenous Studies.

“Professor Judy Atkinson led the many sessions we had. She took us through a process of looking into our personal ‘treasure chest’ where we keep all the good things in our life,” said Uncle Angus.

“The trouble was that when I looked inside my treasure chest all the good things were buried under layer upon layer of yukky stuff … bad memories that overwhelmed me with grief and sadness.

“I couldn’t really move on in my life because at a deep fundamental level I was still carting around this chest of misery. Everything good that came along just got buried under all this dark rubbish. It really affected my attitude to my life and the world.

“I didn’t want to look into that treasure chest because I was afraid of what might be lurking in there. But once I was able to tip it upside down and process what came out, I was also able to get it out of my life forever. Now my treasure chest is filled with everything in my life that is good and beautiful – like this here degree of mine.”

Uncle Angus, a father of six, grandfather of 10 and great-grandfather of three, said he hoped to be a role model for Indigenous people whatever their age.

“If I can go to University and graduate, anyone can,” he said as the tears openly rolled down his cheeks.

Uncle Angus has just accepted a position as an Aboriginal health educator in Alice Springs with the Northern Territory Government.

In previous roles he has worked for the North Coast Area Health Service as a health educator, with the NSW police Department for 12 years as an Aboriginal liaison officer and as the pastor of the Moree Aboriginal Full Gospel Church for 22 years.

“But I started out digging ditches and graves with a pick and shovel when I first left the mission. So I guess you could say I have come a long way since those days,” Uncle Angus said.

Photo: Kamilaroi warrior Uncle Angus Binge couldn’t be happier – he has just graduated with a Master of Indigenous Studies from Southern Cross University and takes up his new job as an Aboriginal health educator in Alice Springs later this month.