I’m really excited about this project. It’s the beginning of both a Sharing Culture and a personal journey. I’m heading off to Darwin on the 22nd May, and then on to Nauiyu and Katherine. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to raise funding for this project.
‘Sadly, most media coverage of Indigenous life is focused on negative issues. In the last month, for example, we’ve heard about the proposed closure of remote Indigenous communities, attempts to have the Australia’s largest mine built on ancestral land, Indigenous funding cuts, a new Stolen Generation, and the welfare card.
Whilst we need to know about these issues, focusing on the negatives (the ‘problems’) can create an environment that is disempowering and lacking in hope for Indigenous peoples. Constant negativism leads to negative mindsets, which act as a barrier to healing.
Moreover, too much negativism leads to wider society associating Indigenous peoples with problems and even blaming them. A non-supportive social environment is also a barrier to healing.
Sharing Culture aims to challenge the current narrative by creating a powerful voice of Indigenous peoples that focuses on the positives (the ‘solutions’) - the successes, strengths and gifts of Indigenous peoples. We don’t ignore the problems and adversities that Indigenous peoples face - they are alluded to in a different way.
For example, we highlight the fact that Indigenous people have shown great strengths and resilience, as well as the necessary coping mechanisms, skills and knowledge, to rise above the adversity of the past 200 years. We show that Indigenous peoples have a humane and holistic view of ‘health and wellbeing’ that is far richer than the western view of ‘mental health’. We highlight a variety of successful culturally-based healing approaches.
Sharing Culture also emphasises the importance of connecting Indigenous peoples to their culture, land, spirituality, family, community and history to facilitate healing. Our work will help create cultural pride and connectedness, as well as challenge the paternalistic attitudes and actions of governments that have traumatised and disempowered Indigenous peoples.
The education and information we provide helps create a better understanding of Indigenous-related issues in society and more empowering environments in which healing is facilitated.
The present project, Voices of the Rivers, will involve Professor Clark visiting several Indigenous communities to talk to local people about their past, present and future.
He wants to learn about their healing practices, and how they have overcome the adversities they have faced. He wants to see for himself what life is like in their community, hear about their community strengths and assets, and understand the barriers to healing they face.
And he wants to ask the questions: (1) “If you could create the future, what would the future for your community look like?”; (2) How can wider society help you and your community attain that future?, and (3) “How can Sharing Culture help?”
The first invite David received was from Aboriginal Elder Dr Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann from Nauiyu (Daly River) in the Northern Territory. Miriam is an educator, artist and community leader who has been awarded the Order of Australia.
She is a remarkable spirit-filled woman known for her reflections on the Indigenous concept of dadirri (inner deep listening and quiet still awareness). David will talk to Aunty Miriam about dadirri - which she says, “… is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to our fellow Australians” - and a variety of other healing issues, including how to facilitate ‘Belonging’ and ‘Connection’.
Aunty Miriam advocates for experiences that allow Indigenous youth to learn to ‘walk in two worlds’ - the Aboriginal and mainstream Western worlds. David and Aunty Miriam will talk about how to connect the youth of Nauiyu to the ‘outside world’ to facilitate their living in two worlds.
Aunty Miriam has described how Nauiyu was once a thriving community, but has become increasingly dysfunctional as a result of the Federal government’s paternalistic and controlling Intervention in 2007. “There’s nothing here. Everything has been taken off us and given to outside people,” says Miriam. No wonder substance use issues and youth suicides have surfaced in this beautiful community.
Miriam and David will discuss how Nauiyu can thrive again. Miriam and her colleagues have initiated a process which involves a new way of creating change, a process from which we can all learn, whatever our race or culture. Sharing Culture will ‘showcase’ Nauiyu to the world over time.
David will talk with people in the Rivers’ communities, not just on his first visit, but also during further visits over the coming years. He will monitor the changes that occur as these communities travel their healing journeys.
He will also explore the use of the arts (e.g. music, dance, painting) in facilitating healing.
David is currently collaborating with Sharing Culture Advisor Pip Gordon from Katherine, who works intimately with Aunty Miriam. Pip is instrumental in the ongoing production of a film on dadirri and Aunty Miriam.
She is currently planning a number of community visits and interviews for David when he visits the area in late-May. Other connections will be facilitated by Miliwanga Wurrben, who contacted David recently (please see page 11). David’s first trip will begin with a 5-day Cultural Connection tour (with Aunty Miriam and other Elders), followed by nine days of community visits and discussions.
Voices of the Rivers will initially be a web-based resource - comprising film, audio, text and animation - that showcases Indigenous communities and allows a worldwide audience to see how Indigenous peoples overcome the adversities they face. Our positive narrative will challenge the disempowering discourse that is often generated by governments.
Indigenous knowledge and understanding is key to helping create a society where people have an improved wellness, are more environmentally aware, and are more respectful, caring and empathic towards their fellow man, no matter what his or her culture.
You can read more about the project here.