Codes 4 Life
Reconnecting Aboriginal men with cultural identity, responsibilities and community.
The Codes 4 Life program focuses on strengthening the understanding and respect for the multiple codes that are a part of men’s lives and identity, using AFL codes as a lens through which respect for rules can be discussed. Developed by Alyawarre/Arrernte man Michael Liddle in 2016, the evolving program has been delivered in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and a number of remote communities.
Codes 4 Life started with the simple observation by Michael that Aboriginal men clearly understand the rules of football, play within them and listen to the umpire. However, after the game is over — what are the rules and who are the umpires they will listen to? The program is built on the guidance of the Elders who play a key role in the ongoing development and delivery of the program.
As Michael states, “For a man on the straight path of Aboriginal law, the journey that takes us from being boys to being men, the answers are clear. That journey teaches us our rules, our responsibilities and obligations. We look at all the issues around our business and the destructive aspects that alcohol is playing and the trouble and despair that it is playing with our ability to continue the knowledge around country. The question is put to the group that somewhere, someway, you are an owner of country; you are a caretaker of country and you can’t be looking after country if you are in jail. When you are in jail you miss a lot of ceremony, you miss a lot of law and you also miss a lot of meetings where you are needed to sit with your Elders and assist them to understand.”
The focus is not solely on the rules of the Aboriginal world. The program recognises that Aboriginal men today have to act responsibly in two worlds and over the two days the participants hear from the police, from an Aboriginal Legal Aid lawyer, as well as from the keepers of Aboriginal traditions – Elders, and leaders from the Strehlow Research Centre.
Men attending the workshops have been referred from alcohol, drug and corrections programs. Feedback from the workshops has been positive: participants appreciate the opportunity to discuss issues with senior Aboriginal men and law officers and with each other. They come away with a better understanding of who they are, their context and strengths, and how to think more clearly about how they might live within the rules of their lives once back in their communities.
The program has been funded through small grant funding from the NT Government and the financial support of DKA, however we are now hopeful that the program will be fully funded for the next three years, creating the opportunity to strengthen and expand the program to women and youth.