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Understanding the ‘Understanding’ Some reflections on Aboriginal engagement Annie Kennedy PhD Candidate Southern Cross University/Desert Knowledge CRC.

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding the ‘Understanding’ Some reflections on Aboriginal engagement Annie Kennedy PhD Candidate Southern Cross University/Desert Knowledge CRC."— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding the ‘Understanding’ Some reflections on Aboriginal engagement Annie Kennedy PhD Candidate Southern Cross University/Desert Knowledge CRC

2 Significance of the Research “The Inquiry believes there needs to be a radical change in the way government and non-government organizations consult, engage with and support Aboriginal people. A different approach is urgently needed.” (Wild and Anderson, 2007 p.51). “ The most essential element in moving forward is for government to re-engage with the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory.” (Report of the NTER Review Board, 2008, p.11)

3 Q: What do Aboriginal people say about the environment and conditions under which they engage? Ethnographic: In-depth case study of very remote Aboriginal outstations serviced by the Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre prior to and through the Intervention Recording their stories: opportunistic conversations; interviews; observation, and review of Government – Resource Centre documents Relational: 2 years in the field; trust; being useful

4 Understanding the ‘Understanding’ “We just gotta really try to understand it – what they’re saying. Some people don’t understand what you are asking or telling them about. This is like a question to them…gotta come up with an answer to explain…...what meanings…. Some people can understand English, the easy part, but not the one down under. Otherwise you gotta come out with the dictionary. You might have an educated person but they still don’t understand what’s happening. See, it’s just that you gotta understand the ‘understanding’!”

5 Understanding as a Feature of Engagement ABILITY TO SPEAK Avoiding shame LANGUAGE Knowing & Hearing IMPLICATIONS Knowing what might eventuate CONCEPT Prior experience UNDERSTANDING the ‘UNDERSTANDING’ SHARED INTENT Shared purpose RIGHT TO REPRESENT Accepted authority in group

6 Language, Shame and Understanding Language difference Ability to hear Avoiding Shame: Making mistakes Standing out Difficult to speak out, ask Important people questions; get involved Wrong situation Wrong skin Requires recognition of language and cultural differences; time and valuing of trusted relationships at local level

7 Understanding the Right to Speak Right authority: Age, gender, status (family & education) Permission to speak &represent: Conferred within clan/family Permitting viewpoints Vs agreeing with what is said Challenges non-Aboriginal assumptions about: - Individual’s right to speak - Representation: Community Vs clan/family - The meaning of agreement

8 Understanding Purpose Understanding the drivers of behaviour: Aboriginal motivations and aspirations Aboriginal problem solving strategies Everyday lives and responsibilities in remote areas Has implications for: – Valuing local knowledge & experience – Working with Vs ‘doing for’ ­ Outcomes Vs outputs ­ Time horizons

9 Understanding Concepts New ideas or structures assume concept familiarity Understanding is interpreted from prior experience Has implications for: - Extension strategies - Support for networking - Trying out new initiatives

10 Understanding Implications Aboriginal identity at Tjuwanpa outstations is vested in land and family Decisions are based on these priorities, obligations and responsibilities Significant potential to tap into Aboriginal aspirations but requires different time horizons, local involvement, & reframing of service delivery models

11 Understanding & Engagement Genuine dialogue - overcomes language barriers and understands different world views; Working with Aboriginal aspirations; Valuing of the importance of relationships; Balanced representation according to gender, family and skin groups; Recognition of remote conditions and everyday lives; Long term funding arrangements and local/regional planning and delivery mechanisms ; Reframing outcomes and letting go of the numbers game.

12 Understanding Implications “ Sometimes these people in government don’t communicate. People live in a dark corner here lookin’ for the light. Where is the light? Just feeling their way. At the moment it’s like a …I dunno…just like a big whirl of water…..you know if you stir that water round it’s just like it’s goin’ round in circles! You got circles, and you just got bits and pieces comin’ out!”


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