Working With Aboriginal & TS Islander Communities By Mike Friganiotis (with help from Indigenous and other staff)
Indigenous Australians • Someone who is a descendant of an Indigenous Australian, who identifies as Indigenous, and who is recognised as Indigenous by members of their community.
Australia’s Indigenous Cultures • Aboriginal – from mainland, Tasmania and other islands e.g. Stradbroke, Groote • Torres Strait Islander – between top of Queensland and Papua New Guinea – more than 100 islands, but only about 17 are inhabited. • 2% of the entire Aust. population
The Dreaming • Aboriginal philosophy is known as the Dreaming. • Based on the inter-relation of all people and all things. • The remote pasts of the Spirit Ancestors, which live on in the legends handed down through stories, art, ceremony and songs.
The Dreaming • The Dreaming explains the origin of the universe and workings of nature and humanity. • It shapes and structures life through the regulation of kinship, family life and the relations between the sexes, with a variety of obligations to people, land and spirits
Breaking Stereotypes - Alcohol • More alcohol consumption than non-Indigenous? • Many Indigenous Australians do not drink alcohol at all. • 32% Indigenous are non-drinkers compared to 16% of non-indigenous people.
Breaking Stereotypes - Walkabout • Going ‘Walkabout”? • Indigenous people see themselves as belonging to the land, rather than owning it. T.S. Islanders see themselves more as ‘owners’ of the land. • Before European settlement, Aboriginal Australians were a nomadic people. TS Islanders are a seafaring people and more settled. • As a result no one area became over-hunted or overused.
Breaking Stereotypes - Image • Negative image? • Many Indigenous people are living successful lives & achieving great things. • This is despite a large amount of negative exposure in mainstream media.
Breaking Stereotypes - Image • Positive image? • 1967 Referendum – Indigenous people given citizenship and the right to vote. • Mabo decision (1992) - rejected Terra Nullius - ruled that the land title of Indigenous Peoples is recognised at common law. • Prime Minister Rudd saying ‘sorry’ (Feb, 2008) - apology to all Aborigines and the Stolen Generations for their "profound grief, suffering and loss".
Family Relationships • Traditional relationships are complex. • Relations are decided not only by blood & marriage. • People from the same language groups are also often referred to as family. • Torres Strait people are one large ‘family’ unit. Under their culture they are related from Mer Island in the East to Boigu Island in the West, and Northern Peninsula communities in the South.
Family Relationships - Kinship • Kinship determines an Indigenous person’s extended family & land. • Kinship is central to the Indigenous community • Kinship defines where a person fits in to the community & decides what rights & responsibilities each person has within that community.
Family Relationships • Indigenous families tend to live in larger households. • Indigenous people rarely live alone. • Extended family members view it as a natural responsibility to share food, clothing, money and housing. • Families provide an important support network.
Family Relationships • The family plays an important role in traditional cultural practices and ceremonies.
Family Relationships - Elders • Held in high regard and treated with great respect. • Role models, educators, and advisors for traditional (a) language (interpretation & pronunciation) (b) practice & protocols. • Key decision makers. • Play an important role in upbringing of children, especially grandmothers, who are also a source of love & security. • Elders are keepers of the Culture
Family Relationships – Uncles & Aunties • Used as a term of respect for older people in the community. • Uncles & Aunties do not need to be blood relations. • Uncles & Aunties are the ‘preventative’ advisers and supporters of the children while the father is the ‘judge & jury’ – prevention is better than the cure!
Family Relationships - Children • Children are the responsibility of the entire community. • Children may live or stay with family members other than their parents – sometimes for long periods. • Children are important for the future and continuation of the culture.
Family Relationships - Children • In TS Islander communities, traditional “adoption” is a widespread practice – when a child is permanently transferred to another extended family member. The adoption is rarely legalised in the Western sense. • Arrangements are made as early as the unborn child & it is considered ‘legal’ for the child to have the same entitlements as the other child/children of the family e.g. property, boat.
Family Relationships - Children • The whole family may be involved in making the decision of who raises the child.
Family Relationships - Marriage • May not adhere to the Christian concept of marriage. • May adhere to structures, such as land ownership traditions, to decide relationships such as marriage. • May be ‘degrees’ of marriage e.g. not husband & wife until they have children. • Most marriages are not planned. • In a de-facto relationship the child is entitled to any of his/her father’s property.
Cultural Sensitivity • No single Indigenous culture. • Some stories & ceremonies open to all. • Some are disclosed only to those who have a right to know – sensitive & sacred. • Men’s business & women’s business. • Children introduced to secret business as they reach the appropriate age.
Cultural Sensitivity - Dreaming • Many Dreaming stories have levels of meaning open to all, whereas others require a certain level of knowledge. • There be severe penalties for unauthorised access to, or disclosure of, knowledge.
Cultural Sensitivity – Sorry Business • The period of mourning for the deceased is commonly known as Sorry Business. • In many communities it is prohibited to name someone who is deceased. • Generally, the face of a deceased person should not be shown without warning. • Whenever there’s a death, it is not recommended to visit or have meetings in the community – may be considered insulting/offensive to the bereaved community.
Cultural Sensitivity - Communication • Aboriginal English may be difficult to understand at first. • Listen closely & speak in a clear manner. • Don’t mimic language or speech patterns. • If silent, a person may be listening, thinking, remaining non-committed, or waiting for community support or input. • TS Islanders have difficulty in communication, but will not show it. Most of the time they will agree, just to get away.
Cultural Sensitivity - Communication • A person may not immediately express their own opinion. They may listen to others before offering their own views. • People are more likely to respond to an indirect question than a very blunt or direct one. • They may not respond to a question where the answer is already known.
Cultural Sensitivity - Communication • People may also prefer to defer to a more authoritative person. • In some cultures, it is considered rude or disrespectful to look someone straight in the eye. • Pointing at people when emphasising something should be avoided.
Working Together • Take the time to introduce yourself to the local community. • Perhaps start with the local Medical Service, Land Council or Legal Service. • Explain what you have to offer. • Ask if they require specific assistance or information. • Phone or use written correspondence to seek approval prior to entering/visiting the community.
Working Together • Find out who the traditional owners are. • Note that the meanings of ceremonies and practices differ from place to place. • Before a big event or function, it may be appropriate to consider an Acknowledgement of Country or Official Welcome to show respect.
Working Together • Make an effort to get to know the Indigenous people of your community. • Ask them how they think you can best help them with their issues. When the whole community works together, it can only become stronger.