Our first Professional Development evening in 2015,
Including Indigenous Stories in your Organisation took place on Thursday 5 March at the beautiful heritage pub the Transcontinental Hotel in the City. The night kicked off with a few hiccups due to crowds heading to a Rugby League game at Suncorp Stadium, which gave opportunity for networking amongst the group whilst the some slight alterations to the venue were ironed out.
Rory O’Connor, Director Yugambeh Museum, led from the front with an inspirational and personal account of his experiences in growing up and working in the Yugambeh Language Region – an area which covers the Gold Coast and Logan City Council regions. Rory spoke respectfully about the influences his ancestors have had on the region and his life with a few poignant comments about keeping language alive, including an important point on oral histories;
“If we don’t tell the stories of our people, they die on our watch”.
Rory is a very passionate advocate for cultural institutions to keeping language alive especially through new technologies. Developed by the Yugambeh Museum, Rory talked about the recently launched – Yugambeh Language App, which is Queensland’s First Aboriginal Language App for Apple & Android. It was developed based on a dictionary written by Bullumm, also known as John Allen was from the Wangerriburra people whose lands include Mt Tamborine. The purpose of the App is to re-invigorate use of the traditional language by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community members.
In closing Rory discussed some simple ways to engage young people in language and culture, including sparking their interest in poetry. The Award Winning Write into Art—Gulgun Ngahri Program encourages schools and community to use the App to find suitable words as the inspiration for poetry and art. Rory’s passion, energy and drive for closing the educational gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians through innovating language programming is an inspiration start to the evening.
Next up we had the lovely Amanda Hayman, Digital Exhibitions Program Officer at kuril dhagun, State Library of Queensland. Amanda was very generous in providing some practical insights which include:
A simple acknowledgement
Amanda talked about how she created a simple Acknowledgement poster, designed for the Welcoming Toolkit for the State Library, and was distributed to public libraries across Queensland. This artwork features a general acknowledgement for libraries to hang within their space as a sign of respect. The artwork wasn’t appropriate for all communities but it was one example of integrating art to create a welcoming space.
Another example featured in kuril dhagun is a large installation artwork by Aunty Lilla Watson located on Level 1 of the State Library building, guiding you towards kuril dhagun. Featured with the artwork is the poem:
Beneath the Southern Cross, and the Canopy of the rainforest along the riverbank, the kuril, which still survives here, dug out its nest, and left its tracks. They looked out over the river, the ripples on its surface stirred by the wind and tidal surge, and the fish swimming in the water”
-Lilla Watson, 2006 (Click Here for Lilla Watson Artwork)
Be Visually Welcoming
Amanda talked further about the use of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags as a culturally important tool in engaging Indigenous people. This is an easy way to show people that it is an inclusive space.
Having local community involved in creating an artwork for the space would be ideal as they take ownership and it creates a sense of pride. They are also more likely to bring their family and friends to the space.
Do Traditional Welcomes
A Welcome to Country is a protocol where Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners welcome others to the land of their ancestors. For Queensland Welcome to Country Protocols Click here
Get to know your Community – Go Local
Amanda talked about one of the easiest ways to getting to know the Indigenous Stories is by inviting them in! Inviting Elders and families into your organisation with a morning tea is one of the first steps you can make in communicating how you would like to engage with them. If there are key people in the community, Amanda’s advice is that you have regular meetings or form a consultative group if there is generated interest – this body of experience will most likely turn out to be a wealth of knowledge.
Celebrate Significant Events
A key part in creating Indigenous Content and Stories is also acknowledging significant events and key dates. Amanda describes the variety of Indigenous events, celebrations, and significant dates and occasions for the community that kuril dhagun plays host to, such as NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Week and Christmas. There are also regularly facilitated talks with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander guest speakers. Check Indigenous Voices Webcasts to watch recent kuril dhagun events.
Creative Story Telling and Cultural Presentations
These can include:
- Book Reading, Theatre or Performance art
- Visual Artwork
- Digital stories/Interviews
In closing Amanda spoke about how much of a difference some of these practical and simple measures can make on bringing making your organisation more inclusive. The example by kuril dhagun as a purpose built environment can be emulated in simple measures outlaid by these transmutable, and is able to be applied in any environment.
For more information about kuril dhagun, [www.slq.qld.gov.au] , subscribe to the Indigenous Voices newsletter [ http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/stay-in-touch/subscribe] and follow the Indigenous Voices Blog [http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/indigenous-voices/]
Our final presenter for the night was Tania Thomas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officer at the Queensland Curriculum Assessment Authority. Tania gave us an introduction to her work as not only about curriculum and resource development, but also as one which provides opportunities for all Australians to deepen their knowledge of Australia’s history including the perspectives of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Tania described to us how it is imperative in her role to connect with community members to be able to provide a broad perspective. She tells us that: as an Aboriginal woman;
“I cannot represent all Aboriginal people nor can I speak on behalf of Torres Strait Islander people unless I know their perspectives”.
As an advocate of pedagogy, Tania draws our attention to the importance of building shared resource and skills. In her role Tania actively works to support Aboriginal students by building teacher knowledge and embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into the curriculum. One of the key factors for the importance in “going local” is the diversity of language groups across Australia – each with their own set of protocols and processes.
Tania provided us with an analogy for what embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in a program might look like. She likened it to a tree, a living thing that needs nurturing. Tania asks us to contemplate the first thing you think about when you for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait culture.
Contrary to the stereotype, Tania states that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are more than bush tucker, the referendum, Mabo, the stolen generation, boomerangs, didgeridoos and artworks.
These are just topics that may represent the leaves on a tree, some may die and fall off, and others may stay strong and green while others may wilt. In order for these leaves to be nourished and the tree to grow strong and healthy it needs strong roots. The roots of this tree are the process and protocols, community connections, reciprocal relationships, connection to country, community responsibility, and reciprocity, among others.
To close, we are left with a poem describing Tania’s own reflection, (her personal Indigenous story) on being an Aboriginal woman, this is a personal story Tania only likes to share in person.
MAEdQ would like to acknowledge our three speakers who gave their time and professional insight into Including Indigenous Stories – with both practical tips and personal insights as to the how to’s, as well as examples of how this has been done in their organisations. Our appreciation extends also to Sally Lawrence from the Ration Shed Museum who was very generous in providing an information desk and gift shop. Finally we would like to give special thanks to the Transcontinental Hotel who provided a wonderful setting for the night.