Ch 1. The pig dog growled
My name is Kate Bricknell. I have taught in Rural and Remote New South Wales for close to 30 years. I have worked in student welfare for almost all those years. As a teacher, I have led the introduction of White Ribbon Projects in Tamworth. This year I will have the privilege of travelling with Kirrily Dear and the RAV team as we travel from Broken Hill to Sydney. Why am I doing this? What is my motivation? Over the next few weeks I will share my story. Then, hopefully; as we travel, I will get to hear and share yours. The sceptre of Domestic Violence is like an untrained pig dog sitting near the children who know its fear. Country people know a trained pig dog is a great mate… but an untrained pig dog is unreliable, gives no warning when it will erupt and no indication when the calm will suddenly be filled with violence. This pig dog growls in the lives of children who live with the violence behind closed doors.
My childhood was idyllic. My Mum and Dad loved each other and we grew up on a diet of respect, love, and high expectations. I blissfully went to school with no knowledge of the untrained pig dog that must have sat in my classrooms; silently sitting, casting a shadow over some of my classmates; growling in their ears, ready to pounce on their minds, walking fear over their thoughts. I did not know of the violence that they went home to or the constant churning in the stomach that tonight might be even worse than last night. I did not know about the pig dog. No-one spoke of it. No-one acknowledged it. It just sat there ready to pounce without warning and without control.
I was very young when I confidently walked into teach my first class. I was 21, full of excitement and keen to teach the young people in front of me. I loved my job. It was so cool… and in those long-ago days… so was I. My first term was fabulous. I met new people, I taught fun lessons, I played lots of sport and had a few laughs with my classes. Then, on the last day of term; I met the pig dog.
The day had been busy. AIDS education had just been introduced so I had taught some very serious and challenging lessons. I was tired and ready to head home for the holidays. I felt the deep weariness that the final bell of term announces for those who teach. I was packing up after saying good-bye to my class when I looked up and saw him still sitting there.
“Are you going home Mate?”
“Nuh, not yet Miss.”
“Oh… Okay… do you want to lock up with me?”
This was a new for me… I always dashed out of school at the end of term. I did not know anyone hung around.
“Are you Okay, Mate?”
“Yair, Miss, just don’t wanna go home. Dad’s back.”
Innocent me thought that Dad being back would be great. I still missed my Dad. But, the shadows in the eyes of this child, who was as tall as a man and had the voice of a man, told me that Dad being home was not great. I heard the pig dog growling for the first time. I felt the fear in this boy-man and experienced the deep knowledge that things would not be good.
“Do you want to talk Buddy?”
“Nuh Miss… I’ll be okay. Always am.”
He picked up his bag and left.
I spoke to the principal. He sighed and sadly looked at me.
“Did he give you anything I can report?”
“No… I just know.”
He put his pen down and sighed, “Put in in your diary and see how he goes.”
It was a time before email notifications, a time before the Wellbeing Policy and a time before we said ‘Domestic Violence’ but it was the day that I knew that the pig dog sat in my classroom and stalked some of my students every day as they tried; so hard, to learn.