Reconciliation is a complex equation. On one side is recognition of the past and on the other is the construction of a strong future. A shared understanding of the strengths of both cultures is the basis of that future. Before we can build we need to understand what we have.
“Culture is central to the lives of Indigenous Australians and is a key factor in improving and maintaining wellbeing. It shapes Indigenous identity, linking people to their community and country.” (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 2017)
Many Australians are aware that the history of 'terra nullius' we were taught is wrong and that our indigenous people remain largely unacknowledged - but what to do about it in our day to day lives? Education is the place to start. In order to build relationships we need to understand. To understand we must first learn. Only then can we combine our strengths and build a stronger future.
My work for twenty years as a communication facilitator, focused on persuasive communication, has taught me that recognition and common understanding are the keys to issue resolution. I focus on the desired outcome, not on the problem. Earlier this year I was running 'Influence without Authority' workshops for the VET Development Centre in Melbourne and later that week for CSIRO in Canberra and an acknowledgement of the elders of the nations on whose land we gathered was given at each. We could relate to this so much more if we understood more about the peoples of those nations. Then we could align our objectives, giving the welcome more tangible value.
Bruce Pascoe in his book Dark Emu shows clear evidence to dispel the myth of indigenous Australians as hunter gatherers. He shines a light on the sophistication of Aboriginal culture when early explorers arrived, particularly in relation to agriculture. He stresses the need for ‘encouraging full participation’ to build a stronger future which ‘requires a conversation with Aboriginal people about the future of the country.' To have those conversations we need to learn more about the strengths of Aboriginal culture. (Pascoe B., Dark Emu 2014)
Art helps us understand ourselves. Art can lead conversations about the future and in this case the areas of positive action. We must succeed in our work to reconcile Australia’s Indigenous heritage with Australia’s future. Success is not defined by talent or skill but by hope. I hope to support the efforts of those who are helping the broader community learn and connect with Aboriginal Australian culture.
“…the difference between success or failure is determined by nothing more than our sense of what is possible…
(de Botton A., Armstrong J. Art as Therapy 2014)