Additional Publication Information
Speaking about the problems affecting Wik youth of Aurukun, Cape York, a local community health worker, Derek Walpo, lamented that ‘their spirits have wandered too far. We need to call them back.’ The poignant reflection was made at a debriefing session following a social and wellbeing festival in Aurukun.1 The five-day event culminated in a Mary G concert, in which almost all the township gathered to laugh and cheer the indomitable Broome ‘lady’. It was not just Mary G’s ribald humour that vitalised and galvanised the crowd, but also her performance that playfully reflected back and validated some of the locals’ experiences and values, such as humour in the face of hardship. Derek was emphasising the importance of community celebrations and cultural ceremony as vehicles for improving the wellbeing of Aboriginal youth and community. Without denying or eclipsing the specificity of his remark, I would suggest that he was referring to an existential problem: the young people are overwhelmed by the dominant culture and fracturing local life and have lost a purpose of existence. His words underscore the ephemeral qualities that are vital to a good life. More, he evokes Indigenous life worlds that the settler-colonial state finds difficult to countenance.