The spiritual journey of Patty Mills

Patty Mills

The spiritual journey of Patty Mills

“We just need to value that which already exists & persists.” Stunning story on Patty Mills in the Good Weekend that explores his Torres Strait & Aboriginal totems – Spanish Mackerel, Green Sea Turtle, Wedge Tailed Eagle & his belonging to “The South Wind”.

Although he spent most of his youth in suburban Canberra, Patty Mills has always had his culture deeply embedded in him from his parents and grandparents.

His father is from the tiny island of Mer in the Torres Strait and his mother is a member of the Stolen generation from the spinifex and salt lakes Kokatha people of South Australia.

An American sportswriter once mused that to imagine a US counterpart for Patty Mills, you’d need to find the son of an African-American father who marched in Selma, and a mother whose Cherokee family walked the Trail of Tears.

In the excellent story by Konrad Marshall, his suite of skills is culturally attributed to his various ancestral animal totems.

From Dabor the Spanish Mackerel he got his speed.

From Waumer the Frigate Bird he got his elegant glide.

From Nam the Green Sea Turtle he gets his culture, the barnacles on their shell representing his family he carries with him – cousins, aunties, uncles.

From the Wedge Tailed Eagle he gets his clear vision.

All of his totems came together to deliver an extraordinary 42 point performance in the Tokyo Olympics Bronze medal game against Slovenia, putting the proud Boomers on the dais for the first time.

Mills shares how his family stories are handed down in song and dance. “You start to see, this thing goes deep.”

“I’m deeply connected to both sides of my family in ways that I’m not sure I can get across, in ways that many people will never understand.”

Growing up in Canberra, Mills learnt traditional dances and went to sleep every night to Torres Strait Lullabies.

He understood from an early age that dance meant more than moving his arms and legs. “I knew that this movement here” – he slaps his hands in a flurry on his chest – “was the sound of a Torres Strait pigeon flapping its wings. And I knew when I was making this action” – arms rolling in a deadly, hypnotic sway – “that it was Beizam, a shark moving through the water. Those movements and songs, they kept the language alive.”

As Mills moves to the next stage of his career with the Brooklyn Nets he offers some wisdom for the ages:

“We don’t need to create anything new. We just need to value that which already exists and persists.”

Go well Patty!

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Patrick Skene

Patrick Skene is a founder and Chief Creative Officer of Cultural Pulse. Patrick works with over 100 communities and creates compelling content for clients to engage with them. He is a storyteller, marketer, writer and author of ‘The Big O, The Life & Times of Olsen Filipaina‘ which has gone into reprint. His stories on the intersection of sport, history and culture have been published by The Guardian Australia, the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and Inside Sport. He is currently the proud coach of the Rockdale Raiders Under 8B1’s football team.