Early intervention and community focused approach
Why is GUIR is a trusted name when the need arises to spread the message stick in Indigenous communities? ‘Trust and Respect’ GUIR has earned the trust of our mobs right across this great country. We respect and adhere to cultural protocols. This has earned us trust by elders and key stake holders in communities which ultimately underpins GUIR successes in community engagement and the dissemination of information and education across indigenous communities. GUIR offers the following information on working with Indigenous communities courtesy of YAPA and the Department of Families and Community Services
Working with Aboriginal Communities Strategies
The major steps in working with Aboriginal communities are:
- Find out about the community
- Make contact with the community
- Work in partnership with the community.
Step 1: Find out about the community
Find out which Aboriginal Land Council area your service is in, and how many Aboriginal people live in your area.
You can find out how many Aboriginal people live in other areas of NSW by visiting the website of the Department of Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs at www.immi.gov.au.
You can find out which Aboriginal Land Council area you are in by contacting the NSW Aboriginal Land Council at www.alc.org.au.
You can also purchase the Aboriginal Australia Map from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) which shows the Aboriginal nations (www.aiatsis.gov.au).
A Indigenous Nations Map of Australia can also be viewed at www.curriculumsupport.nsw.edu.au/hsie/abstud/abmaps/nations.htm
According to the Blue Mountains Conservation Society...
Before colonisation, the tribal lands of the Dharug (also spelt Darug, Daruk...) people were in the northern and central regions of the Blue Mountains. They occupied the ridgelines above what is now called the Grose Valley. The Grose River winds through the valleys found to the north of the highway that runs from Lapstone to Mt Victoria. The Gundungurra people lived in the southern and western parts of the mountains. They occupied the areas to the south of the highway, where the Cox's River flows, and lived in the Burragorang Valley before it was flooded for the Warragamba Dam. To the west of the mountains the Wiradjuri people had their traditional tribal lands. Their lands stretched over large parts of New South Wales. They were the people of the three rivers - Lachlan (Kalar), Macquarie (Wambool) and Murrumbidgee (Murrumbidgerie).
Your library will have some useful manuals where you can begin to learn more about the Aboriginal people in your area. Your local council's social plan will also have some useful information about the needs of Aboriginal people in your community. It is important to know about this.
Step 2: Make contact with the community
Talk to key people within the Aboriginal community. By making contact with an Aboriginal worker first, you can learn more about the community and the best way to make contact with them, and about local protocols.
The best way to make contact with the local Aboriginal community is to be introduced by someone they know. When meeting someone for the first time you would probably prefer this too!
Each community will have their own protocol. A protocol is the appropriate way of behaving, communicating and showing respect to the Aboriginal community.
It is important to make contact with someone who can help you understand the best way to work with your local Aboriginal community.
There are Aboriginal people who are employed to liaise with the Aboriginal community and they can provide you with guidance and support about local protocols.
Most local councils, including the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Penrith councils, employ an Aboriginal Liaison Officer or Aboriginal Access Officer. Their contact details are at the end of this section.
In other areas of NSW phone your local council and ask if they have a Aboriginal Liaison or Access Officer. This is a good first point of contact.
Other people who you can talk to:
- Aboriginal Health Unit at Sydney West Area Health Service
- Aboriginal Community Project Officer at DoCS MetroWest
- Aboriginal Liaison Officers at local branches of government departments such as Centrelink
- Aboriginal Education Assistants (AEAs) or Aboriginal Community
- Liaison Officers (ACLOs) at your local school
- Aboriginal units within universities and TAFEs
- Aboriginal Land Councils
- Aboriginal corporations
- Aboriginal legal centres
- Aboriginal medical centres
- Your local CDEP - Community Development Employment Program.
- Contact details for Aboriginal organisations in the Nepean region are at the end of this section.
The most effective way of making contact is to talk face to face, rather than sending a letter or a fax.
Step 3: Work in partnership with the Aboriginal community
The first thing to consider in working with Aboriginal communities is your motivation.
Do you want to do things for Aboriginal people or do you want to work with them? Remember self-determination is important.
Best practice involves improving the way your service is accessed by Aboriginal people and supporting Aboriginal organisations in running their own programs for young people.
We should support Aboriginal organisations because they know about the issues facing their young people.
Don't approach the Aboriginal community with your own agenda or beliefs about what programs would help their young people and expect them to rubberstamp your ideas.
The Aboriginal community is probably the most over-consulted group in our society. They are continually being asked to have their say about issues, often with very few results being delivered. Often they have been asking for the same thing from people in authority for twenty or thirty years without anything being delivered. As a result some Aboriginal people may be sceptical about your level of commitment.
You can improve your communication and consultation with the Aboriginal people by remembering the following points.
- Talk to the wider Aboriginal community before you start speaking with young people.
- Consult directly and specifically with Aboriginal young people.
- Face to face consultation is the best way to communicate, rather than emails, letters or faxes.
- Take time to get to know the community and develop trust and rapport.
- Provide food, such as a BBQ, when running groups or consultations.
- Spend time simply talking and getting to know more about their community and their experiences. Remember the saying "we have two ears and one mouth - spend twice as much time listening as you do talking".
- Don't rush the community. Decision making in the Aboriginal community is collective and inclusive, and not as individualistic as the non-Aboriginal community. This means that the consultation could take longer than you expected. Allow the community to set the pace of consultation.
- Understand that the community may talk about a wide range of issues, and not just the issue you are interested in. This is a cultural practice of story telling and is to be respected. Develop a partnership with the community and be willing to listen and share information about a range of issues.
- Silence is often used as a time for reflection. Don't interrupt but show respect for silence and think about what is being discussed.
- Different individuals and communities have different values and beliefs, so consult with a variety of people.
- Ask the broader community and young people about how you can work together to deliver the program or initiative.
- Don't promise more than you can deliver. Be realistic about what you can offer. Always try to deliver what you have promised.
- Regularly report back on how the program is going. Don't just come in and "pick their brains" and leave.
- Establish a working group to work on specific parts of your strategic plan, and encourage the involvement of Aboriginal people.
- Be prepared for a long term commitment to the Aboriginal community.
Other strategies for your service
- Work in partnership with the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal organisations. You may be able to run a joint program together.
- Know about the Aboriginal-specific services in your community. Your council may produce a directory of these services. Not all Aboriginal young people will know about these services and many may prefer to go to an Aboriginal-specific service for particular issues, eg. an Aboriginal medical or legal service.
- Display material in your centre or on your noticeboard that is welcoming and appropriate to the Aboriginal community such as Aboriginal posters or artwork, the Aboriginal flag, brochures about Aboriginal services, and articles written by Aboriginal people.
- Get yourself known by Aboriginal services so they can refer people to you. Many areas have an interagency for Aboriginal workers that you could contact.
- Advertise your service in places like the local newspaper, the library, at the medical centre, Aboriginal-specific agencies and services such as the Koori Mail.
- In promotional material include a photo with contact names for your staff. Use graphics that Aboriginal young people provide or like. Don't use Aboriginal art work without permission. The Aboriginal flag can be displayed at your service but you must gain copyright permission to display the flag in artwork or brochures.
- Instead of applying for funding for Aboriginal youth programs talk to Aboriginal organisations about how you could support them to get funding.
- Ask the Aboriginal community about days of significance and how you can participate in events or support them. ??Aboriginal days of significance include: ?21 March Harmony Day ?26 May National Sorry Day ?26 May - 3 June National Reconciliation Week ?1st full week in July NAIDOC Week - National Aboriginal and Islander Day Of Celebration
- Organise some cultural awareness training for your staff, volunteers and management committee members.
- Understand that not all Aboriginal people and communities are the same. There are factions in some Aboriginal communities. Don't get involved in faction fighting and always consult a wide range of people.
- Challenge racist comments at your service. Reinforce group rules such as "this is a safe place" or "we don't discriminate" or "no put downs or hassling". Provide workers with information that refutes common myths about Aboriginal people.
- Help educate other young people at your service about Aboriginal history and issues. There are many movies you can show, such asRabbit Proof Fence that can provide an opportunity for education and discussion.
- If you have a guest speaker at your service talk to the young people beforehand about the importance of showing respect. A guest speaker may give their presentation in a story-telling format rather than a formal presentation like a speech. Some speakers may not wish to discuss some subjects and it is important that this is respected. A guest speaker should be paid for their expertise and time, just like anyone else.
- If you are reaching a high number of Aboriginal people or if your service is in an area where a high number of Aboriginal people live you may want to designate a particular position for an Aboriginal worker. Develop an Aboriginal employment policy at your service.
- Organise a traditional welcome for your events. A traditional welcome is a speech by an elder of the Aboriginal community at events and meetings. It officially welcomes people to the traditional area and acknowledges the traditional owners of the land where the event is held.
It is appropriate for Aboriginal elders to be paid for their time and expertise in giving a traditional welcome.
After a traditional welcome is given it is appropriate for each following speakers to make an acknowledgement of the traditional owners. For example: "Firstly I would like to pay respect and acknowledge the (eg. Darug people) who are the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today".
If an elder is not available for an event or meeting you can still give an acknowledgement of the traditional owners.
- Some elders are referred to as Aunty or Uncle but ask permission to do this first. If you are not sure how to refer to someone just ask them.
- Include Aboriginal people in decision making about your service such as the management committee or less time-consuming participation strategies like planning days and consultations.
- Recognise that illness and death are very common in the life of an Aboriginal young person because the life expectancy in the Aboriginal population is 20 years less than the general population.
- Community and family responsibility is important to many young Aboriginal people and they may need to take time out to attend funerals.
- You need to respond to these times with understanding and compassion rather than insisting that they attend every session of a program.
- Young people need extra and consistent support and time to be able to share their feelings before they can move on in the grieving process.
- Your staff team may want to read more about the grieving process and how to help during this time.
- Recognise the cultural differences of Aboriginal people in the way that you provide a service to young people. For example, many Aboriginal people do not relate to a formal counselling approach where they sit alone in a room and are questioned by a stranger. Finding a quiet space or having a chat at other times, eg. while giving them a lift home, may be more appropriate.
- Because family is important to many Aboriginal people, young people may feel more comfortable in attending your program with friends, siblings or other family members. You need to be sensitive to this.
- Build trust with Aboriginal people and spend time listening and talking.
- Allow them to share information at their own pace and in their own way.
- This process may take longer than with other young people.
- If an Aboriginal young person needs to move out of home, follow your normal service procedures for referral but also explore other options such as asking if they would like to stay with an aunty or other relative or be referred to an Aboriginal-specific organisation.
- Try and provide practical support to young people. Once you have built trust and rapport they may ask you to help with other issues. Deal with the issues that are important to them.
- Aboriginal young people may not like attention being drawn to them so keep this in mind while running your programs and provide other ways of talking and learning together.
- Working with Aboriginal communities and people is a learning experience. Sometimes you will make mistakes, but it is important to keep trying and learning.
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Check out our Social change project (Gamarada Indigenous Healing and Life Training Ltd) Find out how you can become a key stakeholder in facilitating social through this organization