I woke up in Sydney for the first time this morning. I walked out the door, and I am greeted by the most incredible view. Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge, two of Sydney’s most famous landmarks simultaneously with the sun barely peeking out from the clouds behind them. I walk a few steps onto the patio and I sit down to work on the Law Journal write on competition. I am the only one on the patio. After about 5 minutes, someone comes walking onto the patio. He stands there taking in the view for a few moments and then he approaches me. He asks me where I am from and what I am doing here. I tell him. He asks me if I have studied the Aborigines, the indigenous people of Australia. I tell him we have, and that they were treated very similarly to the Native Americans in my country. He identifies himself as an Aboriginal Australian. His name is Joel Bailey.
We talk for the remaining hour before I have to leave for breakfast. We began talking about his job and the general routine of life for him in Australia. Instead of a monthly rent like we have in USA, they pay by the week. He says many people in Australia live week to week, and he is one of them. I asked him about minimum wage laws in Australia. He told me they didn’t have a minimum wage. Your wage is determined by your age group and your occupation. Age groups he mentioned were “youth” and “adult.” Occupations would vary tremendously I imagine. He told me when he was a youth he made $6.25 an hour. Interestingly enough, this is exactly what my first wage was at Burger King in the US. He currently makes $25 an hour. The important thing I took away was that there was a lot of varying wages all over Australia, and no set minimum, but the minimum possible wage would be reserved for a youth under age 18.
He then started talking about his family and how they lived. He is the only member of his family living week to week, and working for his wage. The other members of his family live off of the government. He says the government pays them $200-250 per week, and their quality of life is not very good. He tries to push his sister and his mother to get jobs and make around $400 a week like him so that they can afford to spend money on things like alcohol and entertainment, but they just do not want to work. He is happy working hard during the week and having fun on weekends. He also takes pride in earning things for himself instead of having everything handed to him. He wonders why his family doesn’t at least try it.
He also talked about the apology. When he was in high school the government issued an apology to aborigines for the “lost generation,” a time when aboriginal children were taken by the government in an effort to assimilate them into the culture (or perhaps other more nefarious reasons). He was the only aboriginal at his high school. They brought him up on stage in front of the entire school to apologize to him. They let him say a few words. He tells them that they have nothing to apologize for. No one in that room had anything to do with the lost generation. They had no reason to apologize, and he could not accept their apology.
Finally, we talked about video games. He played a lot of the same video games as I did. Including World of Warcraft (“WoW”). WoW is the reason I am so interested in visiting Australia, and why I have so many friends in this country to visit. We exchanged information, and when I get back to the states I can add him as a friend in WoW so that we can play video games together.