Jeremy Ambrum: Good evening, everybody and welcome back to our Deadly Dialogues for 2024. I'm Jeremy Ambrum. I'm an Yidinji man from Far North Queensland. I'm the program manager here in the Indigenous Engagement section here at the National Library of Australia. The National Library of Australia acknowledges Australian's First Nations people, the First Australians as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and gives respects to elders past and present, and through them to all Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

Just an advisory note for this conversation tonight. It may include suicide and mental health topics. If you find this content distressing, please consider seeking support or feel free to skip this part if you're online for the event. And remember that you're not alone. There are resources available to help. If you or someone you know is affected by some of the issues discussed, we have listed some of the services available in our description online, on Facebook and YouTube. And we encourage you to connect with any of these organisations in the way you feel most comfortable.  

I wanted to introduce our facilitator for this evening. Facilitating our dialogue tonight is Kabi Kabi and Wiradjuri storyteller and dreamer, working extensively with indigenous communities across multiple art forms to inspire new works and responding to societal issues, cultural heritage and colonisation. As a First Nations music curator and producer across Brisbane Festival, BIGSOUND, Horizon Festival, Yonder, Festival 2018, Brisbane Street Art Festival, and Jungle Love, she's currently working with Spotify as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program Lead.  

Alethea founded Digi Youth Arts an Indigenous led youth arts organisation sharing the stories of our young people. DYA delivers a range of initiatives including BLAKSOUND; a completely First Nations led music conference held in strategic alignment with BIGSOUND. In 2020, Alethea founded Blak Social, a multi-arts company that holds a residency at the Tivoli Theatre from 2022 to 2023.  

As a writer and director, two of her works premiered at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in 2022, "COOKED", and "Queen's City" at Brisbane Festival Blak Social, Screen Queensland. Her film work includes "Losing It", a short film best described as a Blak teen movie, and a visual album as part of Blak Narrative Music Videos called "Red Desert Dream", Blak Social and Selve. Dr. Alethea Beetson, round of applause.  

Wiradjuri man born in Cowra, raised in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. He has been involved with professional sport for over 15 years, playing in the National Rugby League for South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers, and the Canterbury Bulldogs, switching to professional boxing in 2009. As a boxer two-time World Boxing Federation World Junior Welterweight champion, and also won the World Boxing Council Asia Continental title. Although he forged a successful professional sporting career, has battled the majority of life with suicidal ideation and bipolar disorder. After a suicide attempt in 2012, Joe felt his purpose was to help people struggling with mental health and wellbeing.  

Also an author having contributed to multiple books as well as his own board autobiography titled, "Defying The Enemy Within." Down there and also in the bookshop upstairs. Also named as a finalist for the Courage Award in 2017 National Indigenous Human Rights Awards. And in 2018, he was awarded the Suicide Prevention Australia Life Award for his working communities across the country. In 2019 awarded Australia's highest honour in the mental health field, announced as a co-winner of the National Mental Health Prize presented by the Australian Prime Minister. Since founding the Enemy Within organisation in 2014, delivering wellbeing programs to over 200 communities across Australia and in multiple countries around the globe. His programs aimed to alleviate the mental and traumatic distress of individuals from all pockets of the community. Also, an Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland. Please round applause for our guest, Joe Williams. And now that we've got the deadly, I'm gonna leave it to the dialogue. That's yours now. 

Alethea Beetson: Thank you so much. Can we please make some noise for Jeremy and all the mob who work here? We've been made to feel so welcome today. I am a storyteller and a dreamer. I'm also a music fan and a lover of all live performance, whether it's on a stage or a field 'cause I think both are thrilling and I love combining the two together. I've had such a lovely day connecting with mob here at the National Library and hearing more about what the folks are doing in this place to ensure that history continues to be archived and kept and done in a way that is in line with how we have always done things in this place. And since this is a yarn, I just wanna honour the very important role that storytelling and connecting and sharing, and I think vulnerability as well, has played on these lands for thousands and thousands of years. And I've had such a great day 'cause I got to spend time learning more about Joe.  

When I was asked to do this by the team here, I had this incredibly visceral reaction of “yes” in my gut. And I was like, “I'm gonna listen to that”. And I knew it was vaguely, had this vague recollection 'cause you knew my family, and I knew that was a reason. And then I was like, “I'm gonna figure out when I get there what all the other reasons are”. That's what's gonna happen. And that has been a hundred percent true today. I walked here from where I was staying along the water body there this morning. And then I walked home the exact water body where I'm staying. And after spending time with you and listening to you, there was a transformation. I was walking home possibly feeling less alone and less isolated.  

And I'm saying that not to put super expectation on what you're all gonna get out of this 'cause that's very unfair. But I'm saying that so that people remain open to stories, and when we share stories with each other, how much that beautiful connection can make us feel and transform us. And it was one of the reasons why I sometimes don't say yes is 'cause I think I'm too busy to have moments where I get to sit and connect, and you've reminded me of that so many times today. So thank you so, so much.  

We're gonna start with something you said earlier today. As a fellow music lover, you said where words fail, music speaks. And you've shared quite a few songs today that resonate with you. And I'm wondering if you could start with a song that resonates with part of your journey. 

Joe Williams: As in sing or just? 

Alethea Beetson: I mean you can if you want. 

Joe Williams: No, we'll just tell. Yeah. I guess, like I was one of those kids that, before sport, before everything, wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to be... You know it's funny, like people know the work that I do in the wellbeing space and I always talk about some important conversations or connections that I've had throughout my life. And there's some important conversations that I had with my dad. It was actually the day that he found out about my attempt. And it was actually a couple of weeks after the attempt, like it sort of filtered through to family and stuff, like, you know, it wasn't told straight away. And he said to me, “what are you most comfortable doing? When are you at your most, when do you feel safe and when are you at your most safest and when do you feel comforted?” And I said “one when I'm on the footy field”. And it was a Saturday. I remember it because I had to play footy on the Sunday. And I said, "One when I'm on the footy field, and two when I'm playing music in front of people." And a lot of people don't know that, like, music is probably my first love.  

So it was, you know, by chance, it was a weekend. And I went and played footy that next day and I had a gig that night actually. And he said, "I want you to go out and play like you're playing in front of a hundred thousand at Wembley." And I reckon there was about eight and a half people in the pub at Dubbo, but it didn't matter because I played like I was playing in front of a hundred thousand at Wembley. And, I guess, that quote you said there, it's so true, like, music is the great transporter. Like there's songs that we reflect on in our life where we go, “I remember where I was when I heard that. You know, I remember how I felt when I heard that.” And still, I have music that comes on in my car today when I'm travelling and I go, “ah, that's where I was in 2010. That's what I did,” you know.  

So, you know, there's a song. I was watching a funeral online during the week and talking about, you know, music and transporters, and they referred to this guy and a line from that song. And it's the one that's coming up at me now, so I'll reflect on it. And the guy was a fairly colourful character. And it was somebody who you wouldn't put that song with this type of guy. You know, to me, he was a beautiful man. And he was a very caring, loving man, but he had a colourful past. And the lyric that they shared out of it was “there's so many relationships in this life but only one or two will last. You go through all the pain and strife and you turn your back and it goes so fast.” For those playing at home, you'll know that it's Hanson "MMMBop", right? And who, you got that, right? And when you understand that song or that lyric, it's so true, is that there's only... Like, you think when you're a kid that you got all these friends and you got all these people that wanna stick by you, but like, if you can count your friends on one hand, you've done all right.  

So I'm lucky that, I guess, I digressed a little bit there, but music has been such a beautiful part of my life, and it's because of my youth. You know, like, I guess, you know, parties in the backyard and, you know, we're all musos so we all play guitar and we all pass the guitar around, and all that sort of stuff. So music is a great transporter I think. And for me, there are so many songs that I can reflect on at different parts of my life that mean different things, but also have all formed who I am now. So go out and listen to music. Listen to it. Don't just hear it, listen to it. 

Alethea Beetson: As someone who works with musicians, I couldn't second that harder if I tried. And I think, one of my favourite albums is "Chromatica" by Lady Gaga. And I feel like if the Digi Youth Arts kids heard that, they'd be like, “gosh, I can't believe she's bringing Lady Gaga up again”. But "Chromatica" is like this fascinating dance album, and when you stop and listen to the lyrics, the whole thing's about mental health. So, you know, there's a song that's like called “911” and it's like “my biggest enemy is me popping 911” and it's her referring to her need to take her medication. And then the biggest dance hit of hers with like Ariana Grande, "Rain On Me", it's like, “I'd rather be dry but at least I'm alive”, is her like wanting to be sober but not being quite there yet.  

And there's so many beautiful hidden gems even in pop music, which might not always get the same treatment as alternative music. I was so fascinated when you said “MMMBop”, but then I was like, I suppose that's like why I like "Chromatica" by Lady Gaga. You wouldn't think that at first glance. And I think artists have done such an incredible job at reflecting various experiences that we can all resonate with. And I know we'll touch on that a little bit later on.  

But this is a very gratuitous, selfish question that I'm about to ask. I've been really interested in sports sort of psychology or looking at how people who do high performance work prepare for those moments. In September, I'm attempting to produce, write, direct, and perform in a one person show. And so I kind of was like, “whew, I'm gonna need to figure a lot more out about this”. And I remember when I was a horse rider, if I look back at those times competing, I know all the times that didn't go right was something went, it was all up here. It was never me or the horse. And so having been someone who had this rugby league career where you spoke about just your natural gifts and talents, like really propelling you through that to then transitioning to boxing where there was this work ethic and a different approach. I'm really interested 'cause I think we can all learn from it. As someone working in events mentioned today when you're preparing for an event, there's high pressure. How did you get yourself ready for those moments? 

 Joe Williams: Yeah, I think you're learning by mistakes, right? Everything's lessons. And when I was a rugby league player, like you just alluded to it a little bit, when I was a rugby league player, for anyone who I guess remembers when I was playing black and white days, no, but anyone who remembered me as a player and even any coach that I had would even reflect on it, “Joe was a fairly gifted player, but he didn't work hard.” And that hurt me to even say that out loud for a number of years, but it's the truth. There were times where I shirked responsibility. I shirked the hard work because, going back to another conversation with my dad, there was tough times where I had to search deep within myself. And that little person who was sitting there in those tough times was scared to actually stand up.  

So as a rugby league player, I think I got by a lot on natural ability. For anyone who played with me, they were always having the shits with me because I wasn't working hard. And that's probably the difference between playing 49 games, 49 NRL games and playing 149 or 249 NRL games. Like the guys who last a long time or athletes who last a long time are the ones who have it here. They have it sorted out there and they mix mentally with the- what you need to do physically. As a rugby league player, I probably didn't have that, but as a boxer, I needed to have it. Because boxing didn't teach me how to hold my hands up or punch people in the face or even get punched in the face, boxing taught me how to search deep within myself when times were tough and sit with that little person that goes, “holy smokes, I don't wanna be here”. So boxing taught me how to search deep within that and go, “no, no, no, you can, Joe. It's all right”.  

And I'll relate it to a story that my dad told me. Right, this is back in 2012 when talking about the toughest times of my life, dad said to me, "I wanna talk to you. I wanna tell you the story about the little boy that lives inside you." And I was sitting there, you know, enthused with wanting to know answers, and he said, "There's a little boy that lives inside you, me and everyone else," or a little girl for a little girl. "And, you know, if that little boy is walking down a dark hallway and he doesn't know what's on the other side of that hallway and he's scared to see what's on the other side, what do you do?" And I thought I had to be big and tough to my dad, like for those people- And there are some people here who know my dad. I thought I had to be that. So I said, "I'm gonna kick that door down." And dad said, "No, Joe, that's actually not what you need to do. You need to hold that little boy's hand and let him know that it's okay. We can get through this and we can get through this together."  

And that conversation changed every piece of hard work that I had to get through, because everything that we do that's challenging, we search deep within those moments and we go, “I don't know if I can do this, I don't know if I can get there, I don't know if I can reach that goal”. But it was those times.  

And then transforming that into the boxing gym, someone like Johnny Lewis, who's the most softest, gentle, natured person and his voice is just so warming and comforting that you believe that you can get through anything, right? So boxing taught me how to fight when things weren't well for me. And Johnny Lewis actually started, you know, he got quite upset when he read my book, and he said, "Joe," he was half dirty on himself, that's the guy he is. And he said, "I didn't see it." Like, he was dirty on himself, 'cause he's like, “I didn't pick it up, I pick everything up with my boxers when they walk in the door, I can see when they're not there,” he said, "but I didn't see it, Joe, and I let you down and I'm sorry." And I said, "No, Johnny, it's because I was always strong when I was with you."  

That's what boxing did to me. Boxing didn't teach me how to punch people. Boxing taught me how to fight me. And the most scariest days of my life, I've gone and started to hit a bag, not because I need to punch or need to get it out of me. Like, 'cause that's what a lot of people say, you know, “you've just gotta hit the bag and get it out of you.” It's learning to do things when you don't wanna do them. It's learning to fight back when everything inside you, within every ounce of your cellular DNA tells you to stop. That's what boxing did for me.  

And that's the only way that I can describe what it was that I was going through mentally and emotionally for so many years behind the closed doors that I couldn't tell anyone about. And I've had conversations with so many people around the world around people who have thankfully survived challenging experiences and times of suicidal crisis, where they say, “I didn't wanna die, I just didn't know how to live.” And that hits it on the head. And for me so many times where that's been there, that little voice, that audio track that's just constantly going through my ears, that just constantly talks to me and tells me to not be here anymore, that still happens today. But I'm thankful that I have the tools now, like boxing, to be able to reflect on, to help me out of those tough times. 

Alethea Beetson: I'm gonna divert from the plan, 'cause I think you mentioned something interesting from the book, and thanks for sharing so honestly, someone's reaction to this vulnerability in your life. What was some of the reaction, like perhaps folks that did know or didn't know, to such a big work of vulnerability where if you were, as you say, presenting something else? If you're comfortable. 

Joe Williams: I remember my book launch and my mom blamed herself, as a lot of parents do, you know, because we don't see signs and, you know, it's not written there for everyone to see. But, I guess, rewind a few years from when the book was released, when I first come out and started talking about this in 2014, and it was off the back of a short film called "The Enemy Within". When I first started talking about this, the amount of people that come up to me and said, "Joe, what you just described, I go through the exact same thing." The amount of people, from people in my footy team to people I worked with to parents, grandparents, kids, like the amount of people that come to me and said, “everything you just spoke about, Joe, I go through the exact same thing.” So for me, it was like a conversation starter where I then felt like I had a bigger obligation to go, “I can't just leave people with this. Like, I need to create some foundations for people to be able to lean into who were going through it.”  

And, you know, when I started firstly talking about this sort of stuff, it wasn't anywhere near the conversation of mental health is now. So we're talking back in 2014. And then even rewind from that, from when I was playing footy, there's no way in the world that you have these conversations when you're trying to hold down a spot as it is. So I'm just really grateful that, I guess, where we've come from to where we are going.  

There's a hell of a lot more that we need to do within the mental health space. And I believe that, I guess, diversion here, I believe that we're nowhere near the track or nowhere near the avenue that we need to be as a place in Australia for addressing the mental health crisis because it is gonna get worse. I guarantee you that, because we're not addressing the right things. And people might challenge me on that, but let me tell you something, there's more money in mental health than there ever has been. There's more conversations in mental health than there ever has been. There's more people talking mental health than there ever has been. Yet people are dying more and being diagnosed higher than they ever have.  

So if there's more money, more resources, more programs, more ways to get well, then we should be getting better, right? There's more psychologists, more psychiatrists, more everything, but we're not getting well. So it tells me that we're on the completely wrong path. Like, we're talking billions of dollars that's going into this. So I believe that we're on the completely wrong track of what we're doing, and that's why I moved away from the mental health conversation a number of years ago.  

And it was on the back of- I was one of the speakers at the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference in New Zealand, Aotearoa in 2016. And the buzz there was different. The buzz in the room there. Everything in Australia was, “yeah, we're gonna speak about it, you know, like, it's good to have conversations, you know, and we're talking about mental health, mental illness, medications,” all of that sort of stuff. Native peoples around the world were so far advanced in how we heal this thing that we need to start listening to indigenous peoples around the world in how we heal it. Because they spoke about the traumatic imprint of going from living a certain way for thousands and thousands of years to living a completely different way for thousands and thousands of years.  

Now, as human beings, we evolve from groups of people. The village. Ask yourself now, how much of a village do we live in? We don't have one. That's the biggest challenge that we have. We're away from our kids more than we ever have been. We're putting our kids into places and institutions and, you know, childcares and all of that because of the rising pressure and cost of living and everything that happens within the family home and the family unit. And our kids are being raised by people who aren't their parents. Like, you look at our people. Our people for thousands of years had multiple caregivers, multiple parents that raised our communities. Right now, if we're lucky, we have one mom and one dad in the household, and then we ship our grandparents into old people's homes when they get too old. Like it's nuts. And then we expect anything to be different. 

Alethea Beetson: What would you wanna see that significant amount of funding invested in as a way forward? 

Joe Williams: That's the $500 billion question, isn't it? I'd fund moms and dads to stay home with their kids. Because when you understand trauma, the impact of trauma, you understand that the first 1,000, 2,000 days of life set up everything of how we live our entire life. So everything that you and I respond to now, how our nervous system responds to the world was all set up in the first 1,000, 2,000 days of our life. That's the first three years of our life. So we need to fund moms and dads to stay at home with their kids, because if we are raising kids in secure environments, building secure attachments within our family systems, then we're not having- Check the divorce rates. The divorce rates aren't skyrocketing because people don't like each other anymore. It's because we're raising kids in not secure environments.  

Like, I can speak all night on this sort of stuff, but like the reason I moved away from the mental health field because the mental health field's all about band-aids, millions of dollars in band-aids. Let's start a new program and, you know, give X amount of million dollars to a program to help these kids. And like we're putting hundreds of millions of dollars into programs in high schools when the formative years have already happened. Like, it makes no sense. And this is just me who's footy player and boxer that's coming up with this stuff. There are smarter people than me like that can come up with this sort of stuff, you know.  

So I believe that there's a long way to go. I'm working on a piece of work at the moment that's gonna highlight some stuff, which is, for our mob, we'll go, “oh, well, yeah, we'll do it, we've been trying to say that for 250 years”. But for a lot of people, it'll open their eyes as to, you know, the benefits of what we did and why it worked for thousands of years. 

Alethea Beetson: And that, I think, you spoke about it today and I think you've spoken about it throughout this, there's like, I've heard you speak about connectedness today in a variety of contexts. So when you speak about connectedness, what does that mean for you as an indigenous man, as to what you're comfortable and able to share? 

Joe Williams: I think there's a brilliant book called "Lost Connections" by a guy called Johann Hari. And he talks about how we're so disconnected as people in the world, and the biggest challenges that we have with anxiety and depression in our communities is because we're so disconnected as people and we're disconnected from our family groups, you know, from our moms and dads. We don't sit around the kitchen table anymore and have dinner and actually have conversations about how we're feeling, how we're doing, what was our day like, you know. We're all in different pockets of the room sitting on a screen. So I think connectedness, what it is for people and you can think that connection, particularly as a Wiradjuri/Wolgalu man, like you think connection as a blackfella, but for me, it's connection to people like physically. Like we need to be more connected to people.  

And when we talk about connection to country, more connection to place rather than country. So connection to a place and having connection with that place and everything that encompasses that place. So we're not just talking about dirt, trees, buildings, we're talking about the animals and how they interact with the land and what they do. And we're talking about how fertile our soils are to have healthy vegetation within our country. You know, having connection to that place and understanding that place is where we need to get to.  

I say, the connection to the three Ps, people, purpose and place. You have a connection to people, you got a community. When you have purpose, you have something to look forward to. And when you have a place, you have security in where you are. So connection to our people, purpose and place, I think, are so vital for people who are struggling mentally and emotionally. 

Alethea Beetson: I've really noticed that one of my roles I work from home and in the other, it's making plays, so you can't really do that, so you're in the room with people. And the contrast between the two, and whilst I also support the flexibility working from home can provide various folks, particularly those with different access needs, I have found that loss of human connection in a workplace where we have to go spend most of our time because of the way the colony works. I suppose I'm waiting for another shoe to drop about the impact of that's having on the isolation that that might create for certain folks. 

Joe Williams: Well, it's there. You've only gotta have a look at it. Like the amounts of anxious people that are in our community that can't have conversations with people, that's evident. And, you know, we're talking about skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression is, I believe, a direct result of being locked in our own homes and not being able to go anywhere for, you know, two or three years during the pandemic. I understand what it did, but I think, there is so much play with human connection. Again, I understand the impacts health-wise of what was going on at that time. But the disconnection of people and the lack of human interaction, we won't see the impact of that for many, many, many, many years, I'm talking decades. Because of the impact of social isolation and what it has on people. And then we're talking about unborn babies, you know, in mom's belly and the impact of the stress response during those times, what it directly will have to the baby. And then we're talking about intergenerational impacts of a woman having eggs and then her eggs having eggs. You know, so we're talking about three generations that aren't even born yet that will be impacted by the stress of the pandemic globally. So we're not gonna see the impact of that for decades.  

It's not a scare me moment, but I'm just saying like there are things that we can do and need to do as community, as people to start to bring our village back together, because, again, things that we can learn from the people who are here for a hundred thousand years before the boats turned up. And if we sat there and went, “wow, like what do these people know that we can learn from?” Rather than saying, “these people didn't know anything, they're useless and we need to do what we need to do on site”. There is so much that we can learn from native peoples around the world in what they did and how they did it to benefit what we are doing now.  

I shared with you this afternoon a quote from the book, "What Happened to You?" by Dr Bruce Perry and Oprah. And if anyone's read that book, "What Happened to You?", it is an absolute life changer. Can be a little bit challenging at times to read, but it changes the conversation of what's wrong with people or what's wrong with me. We've all heard that conversation, “What's wrong with that guy or what's wrong? What's he doing? Like, why is he like that?” To not what's wrong with people or what's wrong with me? To what happened to people or what happened to me? And the impact that has on, you know, the way we are raised, again, in utero, in the first three years of our life and how that impacts us right throughout our life. In that quote, Dr Perry, and I'm paraphrasing here, but it was like, "How ironic do the people who have been most marginalised throughout the world will be the very people that we turn to to heal our modern woes." Let that sit for a minute. Like how different our world would be. And these are world renowned trauma experts that are quoting this sort of stuff. And that book actually speaks about many, many native indigenous peoples around the world and the practises that they did and how beneficial it was to the human body and brain. 

Alethea Beetson: I've always noticed that western science constantly tries to and does prove like indigenous thinking right. And I feel like it's happened so many times now that I'm like, “surely, that you can just see that it's all right.” And, you know, when we look at the variety of interconnected issues that we are hurtling towards as a society around caring for country, how the cost of living crisis is gonna impact us I understand, or I don't actually, but I think it's sometimes used “change takes time” and I understand that it does based on what you just said, but I also feel like what I hear when I sit down with folks talking about the climate crisis and all of these things, I feel like we really have to act quite urgently on these matters for the sake of, I suppose, humanity. And so I think, you know, it's always probably preaching to the converted in these kinds of conversations, but I suppose those people making decisions, I just really hope that they understand the urgency of what's happening. 

Joe Williams: Yeah, there is. And, I guess, for the people at home won't know it, but in here, we we're joined by a close brother of mine tonight who actually is involved in the academy that speaks about and researches about how Spilly your... Is it country as teacher? Country as teacher. So we're looking at what country can do as a teacher for us. And we're having those conversations now in universities and, you know, bringing in our mob to be able to teach this sort of stuff. So there is change within systems, you know, slight changes within systems.  

And like, again, all we can do is continue our practise, and reap the benefits of our practise and then share those. Like more than anything, we've got a responsibility and an obligation to be able to share those. And that's how old people, you know, direct teachings, you know, for thousands of years. When we have knowledge, it's not our knowledge to keep, it's our knowledge to share to be able to benefit everyone else. So I honestly believe that, you know, we only look at it, three quarters of the country was on fire a couple of years ago, and now, we're turning to cultural practises around burning that our people lived with for thousands of years now as a mainstream tool. So I think, it's there. It's taking us a little bit, we don't need to turn the wheels too fast, but we need to turn the wheels, because of looking what, you know, the climate, whether people believe it or they don't, looking at the climate crisis throughout the world, throughout the globe. And I genuinely believe that it's our people that can change this.  

And, I guess, you know, for people who wanna come here tonight and have a conversation about mental health, like when country's sick, we're sick. So like it's a direct indicator why the people are so unwell is because of the harsh conditions in what we're doing to country. Like that's stuff that you and I are growing up with and has been passed down, you know, for thousands of generations with our people. But it's about the more we continue to destruct country, the more country and mother will start to kick back against us. And we'll learn eventually we're not real smart us humans. But we'll have learn through natural disaster after natural disaster, “hey, hang on a minute, those darkies knew a little bit about something.” 

Alethea Beetson: Absolutely. We've touched a lot on, I suppose, the bigger picture of how society needs to shift and change across all of those areas holistically, 'cause I think that's like such so clear that at the core of your work is holistic practise around wellbeing in the most significant meaningful sense of that word. Earlier today, I asked, you know, 'cause Deadly Dialogues is about celebrating mob and everything that there is to celebrate. And I think you've mentioned a few times in our little yarns today with everyone like process and like the process is important. And I asked you if you could think of three of the most like transformative moments and you named sobriety, the attempt, and then the recent pandemic as three of the most transformative moments. And I remember the order 'cause I crosscheck. I'm much earlier in my sobriety journey. I think it's one year and 10 months tomorrow, but who's counting? And I remember going just double check that order and I was like, oh, yeah, based on my experience, that checks out. So I'm kinda interested how those moments changed you and what's life like for you now because of those transformative moments? 

Joe Williams: Yeah, I think the days when I was using alcohol and drugs, it was about band-aids, it was about running away, it was about hiding. I got sober, it was 19 years ago now, all the noise went, you know, like sky high. So it was like, “holy smokes, I've realised what's been going on. Is my mental health all of a sudden got bad? No, it hasn't got bad, it's just now I'm starting to deal with what's going on.” So like sobriety was a huge test for me early, but I will say, continuously say, that it's one of the greatest gifts I've ever had, because it taught me how to live with the chaos. Taught me how to manage the chaos without having to run away from it. And then, you know, I went down the path obviously that, you know, we talk about the most challenging day of my life. And I made a promise to myself on the other side of that that every day I open my eyes, I'm gonna make a positive impact on someone else's life. And, you know, that then led me down, you know, the work that I do now. Like I was on the road 310, 15, 20 days a year. So like, I wasn't stopping. And it was like, “if I stop, this is gonna get turn up, so I've gotta keep going and stay busy”.  

And then the pandemic happened, I was like, “what am I gonna do now?” And I took the pandemic to do a hell of a lot of work on myself, hell of a lot of work on myself. And I talk about like two really big realisations during the pandemic. I talk about how I've got five kids from three separate relationships that are three very different parts of my life. And you get three very different versions of me in those times. And out of those five beautiful kids, I've got three boys and two extremely challenging young girls. And my eldest girl, she's almost 18, and my youngest girl is 6 slash 26. She's a little boss, right? And this is like the realisation, you know? I'm a storyteller so I can go on a little rants. But one of the most challenging things that I sat with during that time, I was like, and I say this respectfully that I thought my eldest girl was a lot like her mother. And I was like, you know, “she's this like a mom, she's like a mom and that like a mom”.  

And then I actually apologised to her mom when I realised that she's probably a lot like me because you look at my youngest one. My partner now, Courtney, is the most gentle thing in the entire world. And anyone who knows Courtney, she's never got a bad word to say about anyone. And Frankie, our 6-year-old is just fire, absolute fire. And for anyone who follows me on social media, you'll understand what I'm talking about. And then I was like, “there's only one thing in common with both these girls”. And both girls were like red hot firecrackers. And Courtney's the most gentle thing in the whole entire world. So I was like, “well, I can't blame that.” So, you know, now that I understand behaviours and I understand, you know, the different challenges of the brain and where we're at developmentally as well, I can have these conversations with my daughters.  

And I also know that that how I act and behave and the relationship I have with my daughters is going to impact their relationships in their partners for the rest of their life. So I need to make sure that I'm doing my absolute best in that. I'm not for one minute saying it's been perfect, but I'll say that I make a really conscious decision to pay attention to my behaviours, words, actions, everything that I do around my girls. And that's not to say that I don't do that with the boys, but I just know that with the girls, it'll have a much greater impact as far as their attachment styles and their partners that they have in their life. 

 To the point, you know, like where I'm involved in a documentary at the moment, which would be, I think, released at the end of the year, and it's about parenting, and it'll go into different tools and ways that I've been a parent. Because the other realisation that I had during that pandemic was that I realised that I was a father for 18 years and a dad for two. And I was like, “holy smokes, like I don't know how to do this thing.” Because Courtney, she was a childcare worker, so she had to go to work. And then I actually spoke about it on the Maggie Dent podcast for the "Good Enough Dad", if anyone's heard that. I spoke about Courtney was actually, she got a really bad infection and she was in hospital for a week. And it was like the old people's way of just giving her a rest. And for me to go, “you gotta step up here, Joe.” So I was like, I talk about it and laugh about it on that yarn with Maggie. But, you know, there was scheduling different things with the kids and afternoon naps and lunch and then meetings online and then working with exercise outside or whatever the kids wanna go out and run around and we get to organise all that sort of stuff, and looking at when you're allowed to, not allowed to, to then organising dinner and then cleaning up after dinner and then getting all the showers and getting ready for bed and then getting... And I'm like- And everyone like, I'm gonna go there. A lot of the mothers are going, “yeah, well duh hat's what happens”. And I was like, “holy hell, like Courtney's been doing this on her ear and not complaining about anything, just getting on with the business, and I'm here like getting to bed at like quarter past 12 going, ‘oh, that was like a tough day’, I didn't do anything”.  

So like a lot of those times, I realised that I didn't know how to be a dad as well. So some of the greatest things and greatest moments in my life has been around learning how to do that. And the pandemic really helped me to be that. So I took all that time into reading and learning online and doing different, you know, seminars and, you know, even courses and things like that just to be the best version of me, so I can turn up every day to be the best version to the people that I care about the most under my roof. Because what I didn't know or what I didn't realise for a long time is that when I was horrifically and mentally unwell, I was taking it out on everyone and like they wouldn't know what dad was coming home.  

And, you know, I'm really lucky that throughout those times that I have a relationship where I allow people to call me out on the stuff that I need to be called out on, because sometimes you're in these manic episodes or even depressive episodes and you just can go by weeks and you don't know how bad you are to people. So I've given them... I've also gotta put my ego in the back pocket and go, and “they’re not having a crack at me 'cause they wanna have a crack at me, they're actually just trying to keep everything safe and well”.  

And it's been a real journey to get to where I am now, but it's one that I'm extremely grateful for that I can share with people, you know, in spaces like this or, you know, in lecturing unis or, you know, workshops in schools, and parenting things. I'm really grateful that I get to do that now as part of my job, where I always talk about the two most important days of your life, the day you're born, then the day you find out why you're born. For a long time, I thought my why was about footy. And then I got taken off the footy path and then I thought it was about boxing. And then it took me to my absolute bones of my backside and on my knees asking for help to realise that my life is about helping people and about learning about, I can't help people if I don't learn about myself, and learn how to help people the best that I can. So I'm really grateful.  

And I invite everyone just to start asking why. I'm always about why. Why we do things? I was that annoying kid in class. I'd always question things. I would always question things to the coaches. I'd always question things to, you know, “why do we do that? How can we do that? Why?” But I'm someone that's probably, who would make me a great researcher 'cause I'm always questioning why. But for me, it's about questioning why you do things, why you sit with your right leg over your left. You know, like why you get triggered by certain things. They're real invitations to be able to dive deep within ourselves and learn about ourselves to become a better person. 

Alethea Beetson: Absolutely. You're like a mirror. At the moment, I'm like, “I see why I was asked to do this conversation”. Like I just got back doing acting workshops to get ready for this play. And acting teachers, I think, 'cause they're getting to the truth of so much, they can see straight through a person so quickly. And I did my thing and then he's like, "Oh, I don't think we'd have to work very hard on you to turn the heat up." And I'm kinda like questioning that. And he's like, "You know, like when the medal gets like blue, orange, red, you're probably white hot." And then I was like, "I don't fully understand that." And then the next person did something and he asked them to lash out and then he kept going the lash out. And she was like, “this is me lashing out”. And I was like, “wish that was how I lashed out”. And he's like, “see, red hot?” And I was like, “okay, yeah, I've seen that”. I know what that is like.  

So I very much appreciate that story. Thank you so much. We are going to have- 'Cause I reckon there's quite a few people who wanna ask questions. I've only got like one or two more questions, then we'll open it up to the floor.  

You've already kind of segued us there, which is beautiful, which is that transformation from father to dad. What are some of the key lessons in life that you wanna pass on to your kids? 

Joe Williams: I just want my kids to know that I had a crack. I don't care about sport or any of that stuff. Like, that was a job I did for a time in my life. You know, the stuff, the gifts that we leave to our young people, the tools that we leave them with, the lessons that we can share with them. You know, there's gonna be things that they aren't happy with, with me as a dad. And, you know, I know that particularly my oldest two, they've got a very different version of who I am now compared to the youngest ones, you know. So I can understand that there might be a bit of resentment there as well. But like the different parts of my life was for different reasons.  

You know, I can't regret anything in my life because everything I did in those moments that I regret, I did exactly what I wanted to do. So we can't go back and challenge that regret if we made the exact decision that we were going to make in those moments. It's all led us to exactly who we are and why we are now.  

You know, anything that I wanna leave with my kids is just to let them know that I wasn't perfect, but there was a hell of a lot of stuff that I'm trying to do to help them, to help our relationship be the best it can be. And there'll be stuff that will have this natural dynamic where it is a challenge around, you know, fathers and sons and fathers and daughters. Like, there are challenges with that because for thousands of years, our people didn't do that. Like, for thousands of years, our fathers didn't directly raise our sons. Like it was our job as an authoritarian to say, “oh, you don't do that”. And then the grandparents would come in and go, “well, leave him alone. Oh, let me take care of him”, right? We can all reflect on those moments now, like as an auntie or as an uncle or if you're a grandparent, you understand exactly what I'm talking about.  

Like, my dad gets on better with my oldest boy than I ever have. Does that hurt me? The only thing it hurts is my ego. I know that's the relationship that's always been there for thousands of years. And I understand when kids, you know, move off the path and they listen to more than they than they listen to you as a parent. But as long as they listen to someone, as long as they listen to someone who's positive and you put those positive, this is what the village was all about. You're putting positive people around your kids, if you are having those direct challenges with them.  

I'm really lucky, I guess, with my work that I understand behaviour. And, you know, I coach young people at the moment like with sport playing footy and things like that. So I know when a kid's having a bad day the minute he walks onto the training paddock. So I'm not gonna start going, “you gotta make the line, you gotta push harder. If you're not fit, we're gonna do this”. I'm like, “I gotta have the soft approach and understand that footy ain't the be all end all”. You know, for a long part of my life, I thought it was. And I haven't said it out loud a great deal, but when I was playing sport, it was the most disconnected I ever was as a person. Like, I wasn't authentically who I needed to be as me. And you can understand why I haven't said it out loud a great deal because it's probably a controversial topic that we've got young men and women that are in systems and we're making them be something that they're not truly authentically are. Like, yeah, we love sport, yeah, we enjoy it, all of that. But when we're forced into these systems, we turn into something that we're not. And I don't for one minute speak for anyone else, but I know that for me that was a direct impact on who I was. I was always trying to be something that I wasn't. And even with that, comes ego and vibrato and, you know, entitlement and all those sort of things.  

So, you know, if I can share anything to people and especially to my kids, just be the best that you can be. I don't care how big, how small, where you make it, where you don't make it. Like those expectations are not coming from me. I just want my kids to be the best that they can be with whatever it is. And I'll help them the best that I can. And if I don't and if I can't, I'll find someone who can. 'Cause I'm just all about now helping people to be the best version of themselves that they can be. And what we're going through mentally and emotionally and how we act and behave socially and emotionally, it's all for a reason. We're just gotta find out what the reason is and we're gonna start to dig into that a little bit to start to understand it, so then we can start to manage it a little bit better. 

Alethea Beetson: I remember I think it might've been my mom once that was like, “I don't really care who you become, I just want you to do it with like integrity and love”. And that's always stuck with me and it reminds me of that. Before we open it to the floor. The book was published, was it 2017 or 2018? 

Joe Williams: I think. '18-ish. 

Alethea Beetson: Yeah. 

Joe Williams: I'm due for another one. 

Alethea Beetson: A few years have passed. 

Joe Williams: Yeah. 

Alethea Beetson: "Defying The Enemy Within", its available for sale in the bookstore after this. But if you were to, from say, the learnings in the past six years, add a chapter to this book, what might that chapter be about? 

Joe Williams: If I'm all honest and this is just coming at me now, there was a lot of stuff that I wanted to write in there culturally because, you know, I was going through some big transformations for me culturally, 'cause you understand, like I always knew that I was an Aboriginal man and I was always proud of that. But when you grow up in systems, I won't say that... Like it's applauded a lot more now than it was, right? And it's just the climate of who we were. So a lot of my cultural learnings had to come after my professional sports career, because when I was in those systems, that was my job. I had to do that, you know, morning and night, six days a week, you know. And you had to just live and breathe footy. So culturally, my journey and transformations happened a lot after my sports career.  

And there were things that I wanted to put in there, but I knew that the sensitivity around certain things and experiences that I'd had. And then, I guess, I lent on, I guess, probably my greatest teacher culturally, a guy called Uncle Paul Gordon. And he said, "Geez, you were a bit light on, you probably could have went a little bit more." And I was like, "You tell me that now." But if I was to put another chapter in, I would honestly put in there just how beneficial it has been for me to connect to and learn from and learn about the old ways of living and the old values of how we lived, right? Because I put in there a lot about how I've been in Alcoholics Anonymous for what, 18, 19 years now. AA got me sober. Culture, law and  ceremony has kept me sober without a doubt in the world. 

Alethea Beetson: I was really hoping that would come out because that was one of my favourite things that you shared. And I know as someone who's worked with indigenous young people, I just wish that experience for every blackfella across the country who doesn't have it, myself, to be honest, included sometimes. And then I wish that for the wider community that's living here now, because of you eloquently said with the sharing of that quote, like that's the path, like such a solid pathway forward to everything that we're facing. You mob in the room are very, very lucky, 'cause we now have some space for some questions. We have some roving microphones that the team can hand out. If you have a question, pop your hand up and we will get a mic to you. 

Joe Williams: No one has questions? 

Alethea Beetson: Down the front here, there is a question. If there's not one at the back, down here. Thank you. 

Audience member 1: Thanks very much to the both of you for tonight's dialogue. I'm asking this question as a non-indigenous medical student at the ANU, I'm part of the indigenous health stream. And, I guess, having you both here, I'd like to ask the question 'cause we've discussed mental health and it's somewhat adjacent to that, but Joe, your journey, what experiences, if you did have any of the healthcare system, I suppose, reflecting on that, was there any, I guess, approaches you would've expected from the healthcare system that weren't there? 'Cause we've discussed about some of the failures of the mental health approach, and I think perhaps just interesting to get your thoughts on maybe the healthcare system in general, as someone who's journeying into it. 

Joe Williams: How hard do you want me to hit? 

Audience member 1: As hard as you can. 

Joe Williams: I was admitted into psych wards twice. They did their job. They did what they needed to do to keep me safe in those moments. But in reflection, there wasn't a great deal of benefits to what I did. I've be mindful of what I say as well, but I understand that they just completely zonked me out with medication to make me sleep for three days. And it was actually a friend of mine who was the security guard, like I lived in a small country town and I lived in a friend of mine's, security guard. And I said, "If you don't get them to get me off this stuff, you're gonna be the one who has to stop me." Because it's doing nothing. It's just putting me to sleep. It's not fixing anything. I'm in here because I don't wanna live anymore. I need to find out why I wanna live”. And, you know, it was a challenging time, but it also gave me some time for reflection.  

I think we've seen... Again, choosy with words and don't wanna be... I think we've seen that there are downfalls in our medical systems, particularly around mental health and mental health crisis, in understanding the true depth of people with significant and severe mental illness. You know, crisis stage of things. I know that there has been challenges in communities where people present in the ED, and then they're sent home. And then they're no longer with us within 48 to 72 hours. Like that's a reality that's happening across our country where people are literally going to hospitals for help and they're getting turned away. And the challenges of... There was only a recent court decision around medical negligence of Aboriginal people around racial bias in the care that we were going to those type of places to receive and just not getting it due to medical negligence and racial bias.  

So I think there's a great deal of work that we need to do. There's a great deal of that we need to have as understanding as well, particularly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and who we are and why we are. Like, I reflect on a conversation I had with Uncle Paul Gordon. He said to me once, he goes, "Joe, I don't believe that you're mentally ill. I don't care what those doctors tell you, you're not mentally ill, 'cause it's not your mind that's sick. It's your spirit that's sick and you need to heal your spirit." A lot of the times with our mob, it's our spirit that's yearning for home. It's our spirit that's yearning for country, and it's our spirit that's sick. And no amount of medications gonna fix that. So we need to be educated, particularly when our people present in these type of institutions, in these type of departments. Because as we've seen, it can be a critical danger to the people who are presenting their families and the broader community. So I think there's a larger understanding that we need to know. Like, I get it. Like our health systems are really stretched. I understand that. Like hats off to the people who work in those systems because they do incredible work. But there are shortfalls and downfalls that we are seeing things and people slip through the system that are no longer here to tell their story. So that tells me that there's more work to do. 

Alethea Beetson: Thank you. We have a question over here as well. 

Staff member 1: We've got one online. 

Alethea Beetson: Oh, deadly. Is that a good time to say people online can pop in questions? People online, you can pop in questions. 

Audience member 2: Hello, Uncle Joe. Thank you for today. You've invited us to be a bit vulnerable. So I just wanted to share with you a story and it's about you, it's about my sister as well. And a few years ago, she ran into you, I think it was in Lithgow, and she was having a hard day, and she met you and she just felt the world was better. And so I told her I was coming here tonight and she said, say hello from her to you. And, I guess, to me that is a story of connectedness and, I guess, I wanted you to know that you made a difference on that day and you've made a difference on my journey and my sister's journey to this point as well. And it's with great appreciation that I share with you that story. Thank you. 

Joe Williams: Thank you, brother. I think I'm so grateful, one, to hear that story, but two, also like, it just goes to show that you don't know the impact you have on people who are doing it tough. And like, we're all walking around the community. Like I put these back on 'cause now I can see people. I literally couldn't see even my brother here in the first row. You don't know the impact you have on people and you don't know the impact that that has on people when they're having a bad day just by pulling someone up.  

And I remember many, many years ago, it was when I was playing footy at the Panthers, actually, at Penrith. It was absolutely pouring with rain. And there was a family that were going walking in the pouring rain. They had small kids. And I pulled over and I said, "Mate, is there anywhere I can take you?" And they jumped in and they knew me 'cause I was playing footy at the time and stuff like that. And I took 'em back to where they were staying. And then many, many, many years later, I live in Dubbo now, and that family live in Dubbo. And they said, "Do you remember that time in the pouring rain when you pulled up at Penrith and gave us a lift?" And I was like, you just don't know who it is and the impact that it can have on people.  

And I'm just really grateful that I was... Like, we wasn't raised with a great deal, but one thing I was raised with was a great deal of values in our life and in our family. And I'm really grateful that I have that, again, that I can just share with my kids and with people. Everything that I do is grounded in those values. Every behaviour that I have is grounded in those values. So I'm just really grateful for the upbringing that I've had, you know, in lessons that I can now share with other people. So thanks for sharing that, brother. 

Alethea Beetson: Thank you both so much. Do we wanna pass to the? One of you read the online question, please. 

Staff member 1: I will read it to you, Joe. Joe, you mentioned that despite billions of dollars being poured into mental health that things are not working. What would you include or change to start seeing positive change? 

Joe Williams: Yeah, I think, I mentioned it briefly, I would fund moms and dads to stay home with their kids because the challenges that we're having now as adults... And, again, I'm in that documentary called "Seen" and that documentary talks to us being seen and validated and/or the lack of. So the challenges that we're having in the community now is that we're walking around with broken little people trapped in big people's bodies. And that's because, like, people weren't given the love and the attention or validation that they needed. Not that their parents didn't love them or not that their parents didn't do their best. I'm talking about fundamental needs that we have as human beings. And, again, like we can't go back to 240 years ago, let alone 10,000 years ago. But that's what the Village had, you know. We made sure that that people were there loved and looked after by multiple caregivers.  

So I think what I would do is make sure to... You know, I've been an advocate for, you know, the nine-day fortnight around, you know. But also not just a nine-day fortnight where you get a long weekend every weekend to go out and completely write yourself off. Like, that every second Monday or whatever day of the week, like, use that time to build, form secure relationships with your family, and put the time in your family and into your kids to make sure that you love and look after your kids, because our kids... There's another great book called, "Hold On To Your Kids" by Gabor Mate. And essentially, we've got kids raising kids. Because like, think about it, we're out the door, you know, we're supposed to start work at nine, but we're there a hell of a lot earlier than nine. And then what are we doing with our kids? They're either going to childcare or before school care or going into school early. And then when we get home, we're stressed from a massive day and we've gotta get dinner on, we don't know what to get dinner. And the pressure of the cost of living. So we're running around trying to, you know, force the kids out the door of a morning screaming around and raving, then expecting them to have a good day. And then we're screaming at kids to get 'em into bed over night, expecting 'em to have good sleep. Like it's madness. Like it's not real hard. So like the way that we are living is causing this exponential crisis around mental health throughout the world. So the things that I would change is the way that we parent our kids, and the only way we can do that is by spending more time with them. 

Staff member 2: Any more questions? 

Alethea Beetson: Another one. 

Joe Williams: Maybe you had one already.  

Alethea Beetson: You could have another. 

Joe Williams: Nah, we're good, we're good. Is there any question from the Balu Warrior? Oh, like, I've got a bit of a disclosure here on my bio when they were reading earlier that I was inaugural part of the Balu Warriors. That's the old street we lived in. I just realised it was an old friend from the street we lived in growing up. So it's a bit of a laughing moment. 

Audience member 1: Asking this is on the topic of fatherhood, it's a journey I've just started as well. Did you have moments of self-doubt? I mean, probably did. I certainly have. And how did you, I guess, resolve that yourself? I'm just curious to know what sort of support mechanisms you sought out, or your journey of fatherhood, you mentioned different approaches to different kids. Asking from a new father to an experienced one. 

Joe Williams: I think the way, like the advice I give to fathers and parents now, I look at myself and go, like, if anyone knew me as a father like 18, 19 years ago, like, it was horrendous how I was. But, again, like so we're talking about self-doubt. Yeah, hell of a lot of self-doubt because I'm not sure there'd be a person in the room that wouldn't have had that self-doubt either as a parent. It's a very natural thing that we all go through because we all would've just do our best, right? So I think there's this new, I guess, trend, or trend's probably not the right word, the new age conscious parenting around, you know, how we speak to our kids, how we treat our kids, how we speak to our kids, how we care for our kids. It's just about learning, and nothing's ever gonna be perfect.  

And you know, I guess, in our concept of parenting as far as a First Nations perspective, our responsibility, our job, our role is to leave the place better than we found it. And that is, you know, if there's different things that we can do to improve throughout that we experience throughout our life, if we can share those experiences in a better way to our young people's lives and we're leaving them in a good, better stead. So a hell of a self-doubt.  

Like I had a conversation just with my boy recently. I was like, this is my first time having a crack at this man. Like, I've got a 19-year-old now and it's the first time I've ever had a 19-year-old, so go easy on me. Like, it's your first time being a 19-year-old, having a dad who doesn't know how to look after a 19-year-old. So let's just work with each other here”, right?  

You know, and sometimes those conversations can be challenging to have with your parents or your carers, because, again, that authoritarian mode that we go, “you do it my way and this is how we do it”. You know, like, I think we need to stop telling kids what to do and start showing kids and modelling the right behaviours because everything that you, me, and everyone has done and picked up in our life, we've learned it somewhere, right? So the best we can do is teach and model the best we can to our young people to leave them in a better place. Like, if we're continuously gonna be going to the fridge to get beer every night, we can't, for one second, doubt that it's not gonna have impact on our kids.  

So I think every single behaviour that we have, like the way that we speak, the way that we treat people, the way that we treat, you know, the shop attendant, you know, to the person who's driving our cab, like our kids watch that. They might not be able to like comment on that, what it is, but they're gonna pick up how we treat that person, and they're gonna think it's okay to treat that person like shit too. And then we're gonna go, “don't treat people like that”. “Yeah, but, dad, you did it”. You know, so we have to be conscious of what we do every day because everything that we do, our kids are watching. Kids won't particularly tell us, you know, what to do, but they'll model what we did, if that makes sense.  

Good question though. Hell of a lot of self-doubt always, still now. But, you know, we're doing our best and making sure that we educate ourselves the best that we can with the right people in those right spaces. 

Alethea Beetson: That was a great question. So I'm glad you had two. Thank you so much. Just checking, there are no more questions in the room or online. Is there anything else that you wanna say that you perhaps haven't got a chance to tonight? 

Joe Williams: There will be times, experiences that you get to have where you get to learn, and you will doubt that learning or you'll be too scared to go into that learning. But whatever it is, no matter the experience, if it's gonna be beneficial to you and the people who you interact with, I just invite people to dive into that and help you be a better version of you, help you be the best version of you. Because that ripples down into the little people. And then those little people, you know, they're... I did a workshop recently about kids and their behaviours because behaviours are skyrocketing throughout the country. We know that, we understand that with challenges with teens, but we honestly can't blame anyone but what happens under our roof. Because whilst, you know, under our roof might be, you know, doing better, I'm not them, you know, it's our job to model the best behaviours that we can to our young people, so they can model the best behaviours that they can to their friends. So I just implore people to do the best that they can. And don't run away from the noise. Don't run away from the noises here by hiding it in relationships or alcohol or anything to dissociate from what's really happening here. Sit with that, understand why it's going on, and start to understand it, so you can start to transform the little people in your life and the people that you love the most. 

Alethea Beetson: I said it would be transformative. So I want that on record. Thank you so much. I was a little nervous, which is like the opposite of how you make people feel, and I was like, “oh, no, this guy's like an expert. His expertise in recognising dissociation means your expertise and dissociation could be noticed here. Oh, no.” 

Joe Williams: Experts are very loose term too. 

Alethea Beetson: But, yeah, I was like, “oh, no, you read behaviour, I'm lost. I can't hide”. But I had a very visceral reaction and I definitely, after spending time today, understand, you know, someone who knew my family, someone who has similar experience. I'm at a different stage. I'm like, cool, thanks to my old people for bringing me here. And I think part of my nerves is I'm, to quote some lyrics, to end off on Alice Sky, “So I'm still trying to make friends with my feelings”. And you're at a place that shows me what's possible and perhaps I wasn't ready or didn't think I was ready to see that, but I'm incredibly grateful that I can see what's possible. And like, you know, I have the same reaction and will remember this day for the rest of my life. So thank you so much. 

 Joe Williams: I'm so grateful to be here. Thanks for everyone that came. 

Alethea Beetson: Big round of applause, please. Thank you. 

Joe Williams: There's also, I don't know if we did a plug earlier, but there's also a thousand books in the bookshop out the front. Yeah, so if there's people, I think, I have signed them. I have signed all of them. I'm happy to, if you get it, to personalise it as well. And we've got this question here. 

Audience member 1: I just asked, and I know you've experienced so much in your life, and it can be really hard to answer this, but what has been your most proudest moment in your life so far? 

Joe Williams I'm lucky to have my proudest moment five times over. Boxers are supposed to be tough. I'm the biggest softie ever. I cry all the time. And, I guess, it's because I'm someone who is okay and in touch with my emotions, and they just come up sometimes and it's okay to do that. But I'm lucky that, you know, as I said, it's talked about in bios and all that sort of stuff, things that I've done and experienced. All of those, I was lucky to experience those and I'm super grateful for it. But those were just moments in my life that have been and gone and what's next is the most important thing or what's now is the most important thing.  

To your question, I'm lucky that I've experienced five of the most incredibly different but all similar five kids from three separate relationships that I can honestly say that "The Brady Bunch" wasn't just a movie. Like my kids all love each other, and, you know, they're all very different in how they act and most definitely how they look. But I'm so proud of who they are. And I don't care about anything. They can choose whatever they wanna do in their life and I'll be proud of whatever that is, and I'll help them be the best version of that, whatever it takes to be that. So I'm really lucky that, as I said, those moments in time were just moments in time. And I'm lucky that I'm really proud of who I am, who I'm continuously growing to be. And, you know, I'm lucky to be proud of five incredibly smart and gifted young kids that will go on and choose to do things in their lifetime, whatever it is. I'll be proud of that. So thank you for that question. 

Jeremy Ambrum: Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Can we get a round of applause for a beautiful conversation and nice sharing space? I just want to mention that Joe's mentioned a few books and we've been recording those books and stuff and putting in the comments section, just a bit of a guide for people going forward and moving on from this conversation and taking what you're learning and just providing that support too. And then just for people online as well and for people in the room too, we do have the list of services and support and stuff that we've got online, but if you wanted to see, get it from us too, come see me later as well.  

And moving forward, I wanna mention you as a PhD candidate. Is that's where we're at now? Just a reminder that we have some scholarships, fellowships coming up. They're open now and you're always welcome to come back and go dive through the collection, and for everyone as well too.  

But thank you so much for presenting and sharing that vulnerability. It's something that myself, I appreciate and I'm sure it's gonna have an impact as always as your career does and your life. And we just take this moment to allow space for people to, yeah, share yarns and stuff. And thank you for Dr. Alethea Beetson for facilitating this conversation and bringing the best out of all of us. Thank you very much. Round of applause. And thank you all for coming here tonight and online. Travel safely and have a good night. 

Hear Joe Williams and Dr Alethea Beetson in conversation as part of our Deadly Dialogues series.

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About Deadly Dialogues

Deadly Dialogues celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their journeys through in-conversation style events.

About Joe Williams

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Joe Williams is a Wiradjuri First Nations Aboriginal man born in Cowra, raised in Wagga Wagga, NSW. Joe has been involved with professional sport for over 15 years. He played in the National Rugby League for South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs before switching to professional boxing in 2009. As a boxer, Joe was a two-time World Boxing Federation World Junior Welterweight champion, and also won the World Boxing Council Asia Continental title. Although he forged a successful professional sporting career, Joe has battled the majority of his life with suicidal ideation and bipolar disorder. After a suicide attempt in 2012, Joe felt his purpose was to help people who struggle with mental health and wellbeing.

Joe is also an author, having contributed to multiple books as well as his own autobiography titled Defying The Enemy Within. Joe was also named as finalist for the Courage Award in the 2017 National Indigenous Human Rights Awards, and in 2018 he was awarded the Suicide Prevention Australia Life Award for his work in communities across the country. In 2019 Joe was awarded Australia’s highest honour in the mental health field, announced as a co-winner of the National Mental Health Prize presented by the Australian Prime Minister. Since founding the The Enemy Within organisation in 2014, Joe has delivered wellbeing programs to over 200 communities across Australia and in multiple countries around the globe. His programs aim to alleviate the mental and traumatic distress of individuals from all pockets of the community. Joe is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland.

About Dr Alethea Beetson

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Dr Alethea Beetson is a Kabi Kabi/Gubbi Gubbi and Wiradjuri storyteller and dreamer. She has worked extensively with Indigenous communities across multiple art forms to inspire new works responding to societal issues, cultural heritage and colonisation. Alethea has worked as a First Nations Music Curator and Producer across Brisbane Festival, BIGSOUND, Horizon Festival, Yonder, Festival 2018, Brisbane Street Art Festival and Jungle Love, and she is currently working with Spotify as their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program Lead.

Alethea founded Digi Youth Arts (DYA), an Indigenous led youth arts organisation sharing the stories of our young people. DYA delivers a range of initiatives including BLAKSOUND; a completely First Nations led music conference held in strategic alignment with BIGSOUND. In 2020, Alethea founded Blak Social, a multi-arts company that will hold a residency at The Tivoli from 2022 to 2023.

As a writer and director, two of her works premiered at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in 2022, COOKED (Digi Youth Arts and The Good Room) and Queen’s City (Brisbane Festival, Blak Social and Screen Queensland). Her film work includes Losing It, a short film best described as a Blak teen movie, and a visual album as part of Blak Narrative Music Videos called Red Desert Dream (Blak Social and Selve).

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Joe Williams and Alethea Beetson with Library staff members

This event includes discussions about mental health topics. If you or anyone you know needs support, please contact: