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(generated from captions) Hello, and welcome to Message Stick. I'm Aden Ridgeway. This week we travel to Kempsey, on the NSW mid-north Coast, Dunghutti Country. The debutantes ball is an important moment in a young girl's life. It can be nerve-wracking and great fun. If you've ever been to a debutantes ball or been a deb yourself, then you'll know the feeling. Producer Kelrick Martin gives us a heart-warming story with a twist. So stick around and let Message Stick

take you to a deb ball with a difference. MAN: Tonight, we can see we've got ABC here tonight.

I don't know if everyone realises, this is our last rehearsal. The dancing never left us, you know. Give a little bit of space as we're coming out. Don't rush this part.

OK. Give a little bit of space, remember. Give a little bit of space. Some people who didn't even know how to dance... Like, sometimes I had two left feet. Take our time as we come out, 'cause we don't want to rush this.

I just like to dance, that's it. Take our time as we're coming out. So we're ready? So we're ready for the music. OLD-TIME DANCE MUSIC PLAYS WOMAN: It's been six years in the making. It's an Elders debutante ball, which goes out of the norm of the normal traditional debutante ball which means you should be 16, and you're just stepping into being a woman, and things like that. With the Elders debutante ball, we're giving the opportunity to these Aboriginal ladies who didn't have the opportunity to do it when they were 16 - I think due to racial tensions, or things like that - when they were 16. Basically, you know who you are.

Again, it's the same. The outside circle will exit the floor, so Aunty Grace is here. So Aunty Grace will exit the floor.

They just love that I've come along to coordinate this night, because before I come along, it was a bit hectic.

OK. So any of the dancers - Aunty, you'll stay there. The rehearsals have been good. I mean, like, being this time of the year it's cold, people don't want to bloody get here and... But when you get here, you feel good when you leave here. Now youse are comin' up to our standards. OK. We ready? So everyone has to pay attention because... Otherwise, youse are all gonna be stressed out. The atmosphere's awesome. Obviously, you have a bit of people who have not performed or... Not that it's a performance, but not actually being like... ..you know, done anything like this. And the next ones, fold in. So they've been a little bit less confident and... But no, it's progressing pretty good. Yeah. It's going great. TAMMY NEWMAN: All of our Elders that are doing the deb have either got their sons or their grandsons as their partners.

And a lot of the grandsons - well, these days, wouldn't be caught dead with their grandparents. But I know one lady, she...

Up until just recently, she wanted to pull out. She just got a little bit disheartened and wanted to pull out and her grandson, who's 13, said, "No, Nan, you've come this far, let's keep going. "I want to do it," so... And it's all about the young ones getting dressed up in the suits and it's just bringing the young ones and the Elders together, and it's good to see. Something we haven't seen for a long while. My grandson just gets me and swing me around, all the time, eh! Oh... Yeah, when I swing around, Scott will just say to me, "Nan, you right? They think I'm gonna keel over there on the floor. TAMMY NEWMAN: Well, in Kempsey alone, I think Kempsey's got a high crime rate, and just keeping, giving the young boys something to look forward to, and something to say, "Well, you know, I'm my Nan's partner,

"and she's doing her debut." Like, it'd be just amazing for 'em to do that. So... And I think it's keeping a lot of them off the streets as well, having to come to dance practice, and making sure they go and get fitted for their suits, and pay for their suits and things, so... And it's all about them having respect in themselves. Well, I hope it does do something, you know,

because it's so easy to go off the tracks here I'm Kempsey, so easy, and... ..I try to build that up with my grandson. Yeah. I like to do the right thing in life. I want them to see that there's more to life. ROB SILVA: Go through one time and that's the end of the rehearsal. We got a letter in the mail to say that they're havin' a ball for Aboriginal Week. And the wife and I sat down and we looked it through. And we said, "Oh, this will be nice." I felt so good, you know. It was something that I... ..me and the wife was lookin' forward to - "Oh, gee, this is something nice. We never ever done this before. "And we gettin' involved with something that we really enjoy." Like, the wife and I, we love dancing. She really did love dancing. Everything was goin' good with me and the wife till around about April. When I lost me wife, when she passed away, My wife's name was Roslyn Fay Roberts. She was nice person, good person, lovely wife, lovely mother, grandmother. But everyone has their ups and downs, you know. You don't live a perfect life. Sometimes she'd say a few things to me. Well...

It's only just part of, part of life. But she was a wonderful person. She was, as I said, wonderful mother... ..grandmother... ..mother-in-law... ..great-great-grandmother. So we really, really enjoyed our 45 years together. Mm. Tanya? What? What do you reckon, just cover... Do you want to fold that hanky in there? Or what do you reckon would go with that? We had everything planned in... ..for me granddaughter to replace me deceased wife. She'll never replace the wife, as everyone know, but Tanya is doin' a very good job. She doin' a very good job, dancing, tellin' me what to do sometimes. Tellin' me what to do sometimes - she'll say, "Pop, you're doing wrong." And I really appreciate it. Yeah. You know, I say to her, I said, "Mate," I said, "You are doin' a good part, "you are playin' a good part of your grandmother's." I said, "There's no more your grandmother can do, "than what you doin'." And I, I sort of give her a bit of...

..gladness in herself. Mmm, that's what I look at. I am Margaret Ridgeway.

And my other half here is Marjorie Ritchie. And we grew up together on Burnt Bridge Mission. It's a... ..a thing that I, I'm lookin' for. Because to dress up like I did then... ..we didn't have much, those days. Everywhere there was a dance, we went. We used to push our aunties to have these dances. Well, when they used to have the balls, the girls, young girls around that time really went out of - being dolled up for it, you know. I used to remember one lady, used to have the stole on, and the long gloves. And when she used to dance, she used to float around the dance floor with her partners. Is this Dave? That's Dave. A lot just loved gettin' up and dancin' and that, 'cause it was like a barn dance. Barn, yeah. Changing partners. We enjoyed that part the best, changing partners. It reminds us of Burnt Bridge, you know, at... It was our home then and... ..we had a happy time. And dances was our happy times. SONG: # I cry my myself to sleep each night # wishing I could you tight KATHLEEN MORRIS: We had the guitar, and the violin and the mouth organ, and just listen to the music. But it was really good in the olden days. Well, my name's Kathleen. But they all call me Aunty Kate. I don't like Kate, I like Kathleen. 'Cause my grandfather's Irish. And he gave me that name, Kathleen. Yeah, well, they... had all these little huts - When we came down here they you know, they call 'em, huts - tin. before they built the homes. All around the Mission And then they... and we went to school out there, They had a school, Burnt Bridge. to any other school. 'Cause we couldn't go But we had good fun out there. and we used to dance there, We had the hall and play all sorts of sports. Then see, we... when I was 15. I went to do nursing couldn't go to high school. 'Cause we didn't, at the high school. 'Cause we wasn't allowed you know. This town is very prejudiced, in the shops to try clothes on. We couldn't go to, a deb ball. I never heard of it years ago, That's why we're doin' it now, couldn't do it years ago. 'cause we didn't, I'm gonna enjoy it. are you wearing today? What colour dress Nice colour? Oh, OK, yep. and a little bit on your face. We can put it to the side Yeah, this way. deb balls or anything growing up. Well, I never really made any I dunno, I just wasn't into it. what I really look like dolled up. I wanna show them before the dance I think I'll be tired

we have to do! with all the running around Can you do that button up, please? through and through and, I've been thinking it I haven't got my wife," "I haven't go my wife, but then after a while I think, I've got my granddaughter, "No, I haven't got my wife, to play a wonderful part, who's going who can help me pull through this." I'll be good. And after a while, I'll be right, to play a very, very big part." But I think, "Ted, you're going No, around this way. There. and handsome now, my father! There. You look nice Awwww! to dress formal, it's all formal. Tonight, all the guests have from the Elders doing the deb, And that came from a request to take pride in themselves, that they wanted Aboriginal people

they have what everybody else has, to get dressed up and show that

and look as good as anybody else. and they can get dressed up OLD-STYLE MUSIC PLAYS BACKGROUND CONVERSATION OK, righto, big smile. I've got a mad grandson. like that Michael Jackson bizzo. He likes swinging his legs do that to me tonight. I think, "Oh, don't you dare on the floor." "(Laughs) I'll be choking you the aisle with our high-heeled shoes. See, and we'll be walking down We need our steady partners you know what I mean? to hold onto us so we won't slip, in high-heeled shoes to go, Because we don't dress up you know, to anything. This is a special occasion, shoes and long dresses and that. make-up and earrings and high-heeled Fantastic, what a great couple! PHOTOGRAPHER: Good on you, mate. Thank you. BACKGROUND CONVERSATION OLD-STYLE MUSIC PLAYS, up near North Street in Armidale. We used to have this big hall different-coloured dresses And they'd all have these beautiful and shoes and that. They'd let the children dance first, and then the Elders would dance. Everybody mixes together. But now it's really different. MUSIC AND CONVERSATION CONTINUES SONG: # It's the good life # To be free and explore the unknown # Like the heartaches when you learn # You must face them alone # Please remember I still want you # And in case you wonder why # Well, just wake up # And kiss that good life goodbye (All cheer and applaud) in the community at the moment. ROB SILVA: It's a big time the people that are coming tonight, I was just talking to some of and there's gonna be lots of tears. will be of sadness... Some of those tears in the community, a big loss. There's actually been a loss just yesterday. An Elder's passed away there's gonna be some sad tears, So there's gonna be some happy tears, and a big night overall.

When the missus passed away, I knew him - we had the priest come here - "Keith, that Saturday night, he said, "I'll take two prayers for you." The only thing I'm frightened of, when they pronounce our names, when I walk, and then I walk down, down, and we bow.

5 or 10 seconds or whatever, That's it, just for you'll be right. once you get over that, I haven't got a husband. MARGARET RIDGEWAY: about eight years ago. My husband died And I...I wanted to prove like some of my grandsons. that there was someone there for me, ever since I started this. So he took - he's been with me And... with all these grandsons and that, ..I see now, they was looking forward from day one, to being with their nans, you know? I just like to dance, that's it. KATHLEEN MORRIS: since I was 15, 'Cause I've been dancing so it just carried on from that. No, I feel good. I feel good about that.

on the floor and dance. It's lovely to get out with this ball today, Today, with this... how times have changed I feel...you know, and everything, with the dancing styles to hold one another, you know? they don't know what it's like MARGARET: Yeah. and shaking themselves. Standing miles apart

we want to show them, hey, And I want to show them - what it's like to hold one another on the dance floor. and enjoy one another MARGARET: Yeah. I'm looking forward to it. So...I'm really, to put their hands together Now can we get everybody beautiful debutantes tonight. for all our happiness to everybody's lives. I hope that it just brings be able to see And especially the young ones,

and get all dressed up and things. their nans get up and dance to see this, I think it'll be excellent for them "Well, I can do that, too." and to be able to say, And age is not a barrier. a barrier for anyone. I don't think age should ever be you're never too old for anything. I think people should always say 'NUTBUSH CITY LIMITS' PLAYS TINA TURNER'S It's a tricky thing, hey, doing the deb now. I'm past all that... Well, gee, I can't help it tonight. Everything turned out so good! (Sighs) Oh, the family support tonight was very, very good. No, I could speak highly of the family support here tonight. And they said to me in the earlier part, they said, "Dad, when you go down, "don't sit on your own and think about Mum. "Get out, enjoy yourself with people, "and let people know you're there." Well, I've done that,

and it was very, very good tonight. Very outstanding, yeah, yeah. It's real-life, and really bush. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It gave me a time... it gave me a time to dress up and show some of my grandkids

that I can be the same as them. 'NUTBUSH CITY LIMITS' CONTINUES WHALE SINGS MAN SINGS IN TRADITIONAL LANGUAGE WOMAN: In September 1998, on a remote cliff top in southern Australia, 85 Indigenous elders and others from around the globe came together to share their traditions and spirituality. 'Cause all things are connected... Their hopes, their dreams for a better world. The gathering was called by two people from very different cultures. One, a song man from a tribe of displaced people. The other, a film-maker from a distant land. This is a story that embraces creation myths and legends that began in the stars. A story of confrontation... ..of decimated Indigenous cultures... ..and fractured tribes. Of a world in peril. But it is also a story of great hope. Of the return of a tribe of Aboriginal whale dreamers.

Of meetings with people of influence. And the re-awakening to our collective connection with the natural world. But what really happened on that remote cliff top? What ideas were seeded there? And how are the stories that were revealed at that time relevant today, and continuing to unfold? We will do what we can. ABORIGINAL MUSIC PLAYS

And that's our show for this week.

And if you want to find out more about Message Stick, go to the Message Stick website: I'll see you next time. Closed Captions by Captioning and Subtitling International

This program is not subtitled

Hello, friends. I'm Pete Rowsthorn. Welcome to Can We Help?, the show where we do the detective work for you and answer your puzzles of everyday life. Let's see what our team of super sleuths to my left, right here, have been up to this week. Sleuthy team? Speaking of piecing together the puzzles of everyday life, we've had a request from a person that wishes to find the head for a lady in order that she might be whole again. This torso of a figurehead was found in mangroves off Port Adelaide. And I'm glad to say that I've kept my head, that's firmly attached, but I'm a little bit worried about my mind. MAN: Your eyes are gonna lock a little tighter, and I'm just gonna weld this one closed here and that one closed there

and they're totally welded now. I want you to really try and open them and notice they just lock down more. I can't open my eyes. Things we do in the name of answering your questions. And my assignment this week is to find out the origins of this game. BOTH: Paper, scissors, rock. Scissors cut paper. That question actually came from my 8-year-old son and I hope you're watching. Just once would be nice, thanks. Moving on to tonight's Big Challenge - we received a call from Gail Lancaster of Warrnambool in beautiful Victoria.

Gail was placed in a children's home in South Yarra when she was 11 months old in a foster home and lived most of her teenage years in Bendigo, Victoria. to find out the truth. And Gail has come to us that my parents were dead, I grew up believing

when I was a baby. killed in a car accident 50 is a big age, Well, as you can imagine, and when she turned 50, about her biological family she wanted to know more for her personal records and so she applied Act, under the Freedom of Information

almost everything she'd been told and what she discovered was that

the circumstances of their death about her parents and was a lie. back in 1957, My parents weren't killed like I was led to believe. a bit sick, actually. I was shocked and I sort of got

further, VERITY: As Gail investigated to visit her in the children's home, she found that her parents had tried but they were turned away. through her records She continued to search startling revelation. and she came across yet another

married previously We discovered that my mother was and she had a daughter,

called Marlene. so I have a half-sister with various adoption agencies Since then, Gail has been in contact and government departments,

about the whereabouts of her family, desperate to find anything she can she knows very little about. especially the half-sister my sister Well, now I just wanna find

my parents. and then find out all about I've got a right to know. I just wanna know. the story of finding Gail's family. We'll be back later with more on Right now, it's time to ask Verity.