“Seeing the World Through Aboriginal Youth”


I have about 40 pairs of shoes. Most of them are from my days playing basketball.


This story took place in 2001.


I had established a good relationship with a group of Aboriginal kids in a community not far from a major Australian tourist port. The “Hoops 4 Health” program had been conducting sessions (at this community) on a weekly basis.


The reason I won’t name the community is I feel this is not the issue. This simple life story highlights the bleak outlook, trauma and the amount of grieving that happens in Aboriginal communtites.




A young chap come up to me and asked “Timmy, how many pairs of shoes do you have?”


Having worn a different pair each time I visited, he must of noticed and asked the simple question. For some unknown reason I put the question back on him and asked:


“Well brother...... how many shoes do you have?”.


He replied  



I then asked him “What do you use them for?”


He said:

“Well the first pair are used for school, the second pair are worn for rugby and the third pair are used for funerals.”


The first two answers were pretty standard for any young person living in Australia in 2001.


The third answer not really re-affirmed what I was thinking, but drove me even more to keep on keeping on with the continued fight to improve the national emergency.


This national emergency has overall been more about the rhetoric than the action. The national emergency “would become” the intervention in 2007.


Ten years later the national emergency continues in 2017 with the Royal Commission into Youth Detention in Don Dale.


Reports like Bringing Them Home in 1997, Little Children Are Sacred in the mid 2000’s and the Royal Commissions into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in the early 1990’s still reaffirm the evidence but suggest the action and outcomes are limited.


The question remains; Is the gap closing or is the gap widening? As the “Shoe Story” suggests, put yourself in the shoes and world of Aboriginal Youth, and look at the traumas associated with one’s mindset and identify the social and cultural determinants of health. If we are genuinely true to making improvement as a country, our youth need not to be looking at a pair of shoes as a symbol of death.


Timmy Duggan

Duggan’s Dribble


Hoops 4 Health Australia

0431 428 767

The Shoe Story


Darwin NT, Australia