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PLAY

LANA'S STORY

Written by Evelyn Kandris
07 July, 2022
Lana's Story | Two Good Co.

YESTERDAY, TODAY, #TWOMORROW.

Trigger warning: This story mentions details of domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, pregnancy loss and addiction. Please proceed with care.

"It’s been a really good day today; I got here on time and I managed to get through the whole day without any shooting pains. I was diagnosed with early arthritis a few back deficiencies...from being beaten most of my life.

My biological mother went to jail when she was pregnant with me, for manslaughter – I was born in prison, and the first baby to be christened in Parramatta jail. My foster family would fly me to see her, and when she got out, I had scheduled visits with her…but I wasn’t really liking it; I’d already imprinted on my foster family. My foster dad – who passed away – he was a Wiradjuri man, so I had that connection. My foster mum is Aussie with a Welsh and English background, but she always made sure to remind us where we were from.

I ended up getting kidnapped by my biological mother when I was 7 years old. For two weeks straight, I was beaten - all day, every day - by my mother. That was the beginning of it all. Then one of my foster siblings started physically abusing me, so at 13, I had to move out to a hostel around the corner. Growing up on the streets for most of my teenage life led to a lot of fights, too…I copped more beatings there.

When I was 14, my foster dad committed suicide, which is a growing problem wirth Indigenous men…that really messed me up. He was the only man I’ve ever trusted. With addiction strong in my family, it made me go that way as well. I’ve had a few relationships where they…haven’t been very nice to me.

It’s just all catching up on me now. I struggle with a lot of pain these days…but I still get up every day and I try. I’m doin’ alright.

This was me coming back from the bottom. I lost a baby three and a half years ago, at 20 weeks. My first one. It shattered me. It's hard getting back into a job after all that. I’ve never felt so rocked in my life; after losing the baby, I just didn’t want to be in the world anymore. I masked it with drugs – I mean, I was born a methadone baby, so I was behind the 8-ball from the beginning, causing me to become a recovering addict the rest of my life.

But now I’ve been clean and just…trying to do the best I can. One of the things I’m learning is to remember to be kind to myself. I don’t really know what to do when it comes to looking after myself…I just look after everyone else. I did a lot of youth work and mentoring, so I’m used to having a purpose and getting up for everyone else.

But now, I’m trying to do it for me.

WORK WORK.

I haven’t worked in 6 years – everyone was spinning out that I got a job! It’s the most perfect job when I found out about it, and then when I got to it, it was even more perfect! I thought, is this too good to be true…turns out it’s just Two Good.

I did my first recipe with Maria and cooked lunch for everyone – ‘the mac and cheese day’. It was so great – everyone loved it! I got my hair done through their partner, the Feel Good Project – I got him to put pink streaks through my fringe and I’ve even got a few peekaboos at the back, too. And I got a really awesome red dress from Channel 9 people when they donated a bunch of clothes; my first fancy dress since I was 21.

I love the team – I love all the mentors, and I love the girls. We’ve got some new people now, just starting the program. One of the chicks - her name is Hapi - and she goes, “I’m glad you’re here today. Last week, when I started, you looked up and had the biggest smile for me…and you’re the reason I’m back today. You inspired me. So I’m really glad to see you.”

I just stopped...like, wow. I said, "I’m so glad I could do something for you." That’s what mainly stands out to me, here; the unity of women. I’ve never really had female figures in my life. Or when I did, they sort of cut my throat in the end, so I’ve never really trusted them…but I’ve made a lot of really awesome connections here.

I feel the most happiest when I’m here. I’ve never met people like this is the longest time...if ever.

They backed me until I backed myself.

ALWAYS WAS,
ALWAYS WILL BE.

For me, being indigenous means…empowerment. But with that, a lot of struggle. Not knowing your identity is hard. As an indigenous woman, it’s hard to battle everyday life, let alone trying to connect with my cultural side as well…but I never forget where I’ve come from.

NAIDOC week is about everyone getting together; there’s a big community feel. It’s so important for our younger generations; I mean, I want them to practice it every day, but it’s a really strong week for us to run together and remember the powerful side of our people. To remind them that the drugs and the drinking and the aggression is not our culture. That’s not our culture. There’s a lot of stigma, still – and it goes both ways. I think it’s a generational thing, for both sides. But the more we go along, the more openminded we’re getting. I think everyone is starting to wake up to the future and leaving that past barrier behind.

A lot of us are rallying for the date to be changed on Survival Day. That day is a real heavy day of mourning for us…if we can get that, that would be a really big thing for our people. But I’m even seeing more First Nations on commercial ads, more of us in parliament, non-indigenous people wearing our stuff. Even more than we wear it! But it’s nice to see that there’s more understanding and connection nowadays. My cousin, Yvonne Weldon, made local government – that spun me out, to see my cousin up there. It was a really proud moment.

It’s a bit of a mix, with me – I was adopted and grew up in Sydney. My adoptive family is Wiradjuri – the largest NSW tribe. And I also represent the Eora nation - not a lot of people still do. But I also tracked down some of my blood brothers and found out I’m part Afghani and Arrernte (Arundie), through my biological family up in the Northern Territory. When they were working on the Ghan Railway and helping the Europeans get across the desert, the Afghani and First Nations people teamed up - and that’s how my great, great grandfather met my great, great grandmother. And my biological dad was Egyptian and Maori too! But first and foremost, I feel most connected to being an Aboriginal woman.

I’ve always been a part of cultural things – I was an Aboriginal dancer for the Redfern Aboriginal Dance Theatre all through my childhood, up until I was 13. We used to dance at all these places, renaming them back to their traditional names. I went to a philosophy farm when I was 13, did lots of dot painting.

I learnt how to make traditional jewellery - from my aunties, originally, but I got a bit more skilled at it when I did a 6-month course. I actually just went and bought a whole bunch of stuff; I want to get back into it again, because it helps my mental health, too. There’s a lady across the road from me who can help me with a website, if I get some pieces together. And I want to start a women’s group of some sort - invite non-indigenous women to come, too – where I can teach them how to make the jewellery.

I went up to the NT once, too – I swear, half my healing came about from being there.

We got 7 different languages up there, in my tribe alone – and I thought wow, that’s amazing. I’d always see other nationalities talking their language, and I always wished we knew ours.

But all my nieces and nephews up there are only just hitting 14 and they speak it fluently, so I'm going to start learning it now.

The IGA sold kangaroo tails in their freezers, so we went and got a tail each and headed out to this beautiful cave, with these big sand dunes in between them. And you could tell I was a city kid, I had all this Nautica gear on skinning a kangaroo tail, prepping it, cooking it, eating it in front of my elders out of respect. It was a bit weird, I’m so used to having meat all prepared already - but it was a powerful meal. I definitely had strong energy for a few days after that!

It’d be really nice to get back up there again soon; do a healing ceremony with my cousin and aunty. Healing ceremonies are very powerful – I’ve only done a few down here, but up there it’s a different game. Way different game. The air is that thick with our ancestors…all that power and culture and spirituality. It’s insane.

Yeah, I hope to get back up there soon.

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