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Local journalist will visit Australia aiding the poor

Spotlight on Michael J. Christopher

Lisa Fitch OW Contributor | 10/3/2019, midnight

Local photojournalist, cinematographer and humanitarian Michael J. Christopher is planning a trip to Australia in November. But this won’t be a vacation during that continent’s “summertime.” Christopher will be visiting a number of Aboriginal villages down under, bringing toys and supplies to disadvantaged children in the country’s Northern Territory and Queensland.

The city of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory state of Australia, is a popular gateway for exploring the country‘s interior desert “outback” region. This is where the majority of the Aboriginal people, the country’s indigenous population, lives. Many call it their spiritual home.

Christopher, 64, has been working in partnership with the New South Wales Child, Family and Community Peak Aboriginal Corporation (AbSec), which is located in a suburb of Sydney. He first visited that city in March and donated 50 supply-filled backpacks to children there.

“By donating to AbSec, you are supporting us to ensure that First Nations families are strengthened, building a better future for thousands of our children and young people,” wrote AbSec CEO Tim Ireland in his letter to Christopher.

“It all adds up to a fairer, more equal Australia where each and every child can grow up with every opportunity for health, happiness and success,” Ireland continued. “For our First Nations children, this means growing up safe and strong in their culture and community, in the country of their ancestors.”

Aboriginal Australians, also known as First Peoples, are the indigenous peoples of Australia, who have developed across the country for more than 50,000 years. They generally maintain cultural and social identities separate from the country’s mainstream, White culture.

Most anthropologist agree that modern humans evolved in Africa and thereafter spread to the rest of the world. Indigenous Australians took part in the very first human migration out of Africa, according to DNA results.

“Aboriginal Australians descend from the first human explorers,” University of Copenhagen professor Eske Willerslev said in a news release.

“While the ancestors of Europeans and Asians were sitting somewhere in Africa or the Middle East, yet to explore their world further, the ancestors of Aboriginal Australians spread rapidly…traversing unknown territory in Asia and finally crossing the sea into Australia.”

Christopher’s interest in the world’s African Diaspora began nine years ago when he learned that Henri Christophe, a key leader in the Haitian Revolution, was a long-lost relative. He traveled to Haiti to complete a documentary on Christophe, a former slave who, in 1811, became the first and only monarch of the Kingdom of Haiti.

Christopher traveled to various parts of the country visiting museums, plantations and other historical sites to learn the island’s rich history.

“Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere,” Christopher said. “I saw the poverty around me, the suffering of the people.”

Moved into action, Christopher visited Haiti again and again, partnering with local orphanages. He first brought backpacks and school supplies to 72 children, then to 250 and now more than 1700 children have received items courtesy of the Michael J. Christopher Foundation, a 501c3 he established last March to further his efforts.

“Because I’m only passing through this world and I want to make a difference while I’m here,” Christopher said. “It’s not that you owned two or three condos or cars that will count in the end, but have you helped your neighbor?”

For his newest documentary and humanitarian effort, Christopher will be working with several Australian orphanages and nonprofit organizations, including the Cathy Freeman Foundation. 

Freeman won Olympic gold in the Sydney 2000 games and is director of the Foundation. Her mother is of the Kuku Yalanji people of Queensland. Her father was born in Woorabinda and is of the Burri Gubba people there.

“I’m going to be talking to curators about the history of their people,” Christopher said about his upcoming visit to help Aboriginal children and create documentaries about their country. “I’m also going to give kids spinners and backpacks and hygiene things - toothbrushes and toothpaste.”

Tax deductible contributions to the Foundation are welcome and can be made at https://michaeljchristopherfoundation.org.