Spate of Violence: A tragedy in the making
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Doctors save baby of pregnant mum who died in hospital car park. Paraplegic man pulled over for speeding in wheelchair. Cobby's widower speaks out after killer bashed in prison. Dad snatches 7yo from school. Man killed dad after 'hearing voices'. Cocktail waitress 'spits' on Trump Jr. These workshops have taken place in Adelaide, Port Macquarie and Cairns and have been attended by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health workers working in Indigenous health, mental health, drug and alcohol and youth services.
These workshops have been based on a script for an externalising exercise created by Barbara Wingard. While this sounds a little bit different from the way we normally conduct workshops and training, Barbara Wingard has seen how using this process of externalisation really assists people to speak about confronting difficult problems and can also be a source of humour. Text Box 4. Below is an extract from the interview devised by Barbara Wingard to be run in workshops and community education activities about lateral violence.
Good afternoon Lateral Violence. It is really good to meet you in person. You usually seem to be in the shadows, so we appreciate it that today we can talk to you face to face.
Can I ask you some questions? I do my best work destroying people. I like to divide people and break their spirits. I can create violence and big punch-ups sometimes, hurting people and stabbing people. But often I use words and stories more than physical violence to break spirits that way How long have you been trying to do this? How long have you been around? The thing is, Aboriginal people have to deal with racism, not being able to get housing or jobs. Many Aboriginal people have to deal with poverty, with alcohol. Many families were separated because of the Stolen Generations.
Aboriginal people have faced so many injustices in this country for over two hundred years and all these things have made it much easier for me to do my work. I get into communities when they are facing racism, poverty and injustice. I love this! I tell these lies and people believe me. They now say this is Aboriginal way, our way. And this protects me. Or when I break down families. This creates a bigger divide or division I kept my name secret for a very long time.
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It worked better for me when I was undercover So they started talking about me. They even made a video about me. At first I felt quite proud about this, I quite liked the idea of being a movie star. But then they started to show this DVD in other places. They brought it here to Australia and now Aboriginal people here seem to be noticing me more often. People are starting to talk about how they confront nastiness but in nice ways I think I was more powerful when I was invisible and had no name. Following the interview, participants are invited to share their own stories of lateral violence.
This workshop format shows that there are many different ways for us to start talking about lateral violence. The important thing is that they all take place in a space of cultural safety for participants. Chapter 2 highlighted the pervasive impact of bullying in many areas of life. Here I will focus on promising interventions in cyber bullying and the school context.
Like all approaches to dealing with lateral violence, the first step is naming the bullying and lateral violence in order to make it stop. However, we also learn from these case studies that it is necessary to forge strong partnerships with community and other organisations involved. In the case of the cyber bullying project in Yuendumu we have seen collaboration between the community groups, Police and the Department of Justice. In responding to bullying of young people in schools we have seen a strong alliance between schools, parents and children as part of the Solid Kids, Solid Schools project.
The remote community of Yuendumu, which lies km north-west of Alice Springs on the edge of the Tanami Desert, has faced tough times in recent history. One of the largest remote communities in central Australia, the majority of residents living in Yuendumu are from the Warlpiri clan. Yuendumu is well known for its thriving artistic community and popular football team, the Yuendumu Magpies. However, late last year Yuendumu drew media attention for different reasons when tensions within the Warlpiri people turned to violence after a year-old man was killed in a fight in a town camp in Alice Springs.
This tragic death brought the community to crisis, as members of the west camp sought traditional payback for the death, and the south camp fled to Adelaide to escape the violence that had erupted. This cyber payback spilled over into physical violence, with men acting on the fights that happened online. At its worst, messages with altered images of the deceased were sent through Diva Chat , an action which violated Warlpiri cultural customs and appalled the community.
Determined to take action, community members turned to the local police for help. But with no identifying information, the police struggled to hold perpetrators accountable. Fortunately, with the help of Intelligence Officers in Katherine, Sergeant Mace was able to get in contact with Air-G, the Canadian company who operate Diva Chat and convince them to take action. This contact was able to identify the phone number associated with a user profile and once notified, could shut that profile down within 24 hours.
Equipped with this new power, the police and community were able to develop a reporting system that would help stop the lateral violence which continued to fracture the community. The chosen representatives then began to meet regularly with the police to report the usernames, so that Sergeant Mace could contact Air-G in Canada and shut down the offending user profiles. Although the culture of shared phone usage still made it difficult to identify specific individuals, the new system was successful in noticeably reducing the bullying messages.
The community felt safer and more confident that the situation could be controlled. When the exiled south clan returned to Yuendumu again in April, lateral violence reared its ugly head again, and threats of riots were being made through Diva Chat. Determined not to let the situation get out of hand, Eileen Deemal-Hall from the Northern Territory Department of Justice, Sergeant Mace and other community leaders held a meeting at the local police station with young women from both camps.
This meeting allowed young women to share their experiences of lateral violence and explain how it affected them, and it allowed Elders to deliver clear messages about culturally appropriate behaviour. This behaviour was modelled through role plays, and young women were shown how to stop perpetuating the cycle of lateral violence by ignoring provocative messages.
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Information about local programs and ways to get involved in the community were also provided so that the young women could focus their energies elsewhere. Nicki Davies, Co-ordinator of Mediation Services in Yuendumu, believes that this kind of diversion is the key to stop bored and isolated residents from causing trouble.
Whilst divisions still persist for some of the Warlpiri clan, most of the community are keen to get on with things. Now the community turns to long term solutions to avoid the temptation of lateral violence. Collaboration between the Northern Territory Department of Justice, police and community groups through the reporting system, meetings and workshops have built trust and confidence between the groups.
They continue to work together co-operatively to ensure that young people experiencing and partaking in lateral violence can receive education and assistance in a culturally safe and secure environment. Although it has faced big challenges in the past year, the talented and proactive families of Yuendumu are making progress, and the community continues to build on its strengths and promote the proud Warlpiri culture it is best known for. Yamatji communities, families and schools have been developing innovative ways to prevent bullying amongst young people.
Yamatji country is in the mid-west region of Western Australia and takes in the area from Carnarvon in the north, to Meekatharra in the east and Jurien in the South. This region covers almost one fifth of Western Australia.
The Solid Kids, Solid Schools project began in The project came out of the fact that while there is information on bullying of non-Aboriginal children, virtually nothing was known about the experience of bullying for Aboriginal children. The project was funded by Healthway, an independent statutory body to the Western Australian Government that provides funding grants for health promotion activities. A further two years funding was also sourced from the Australian Research Council to help develop resources after the more formative work and research had been completed.
The Solid Kids, Solid Schools project became much more than just research. Critical in developing this approach was the Aboriginal Steering Group made up of community leaders. The Aboriginal Steering Group was involved in each phase of the project and provided a link between the researchers and community which increased community ownership over the project.
During and around people were involved in the Solid Kids, Solid Schools project through semi-structured interviews. Of these, were primary school students, 21 were high school students, 40 were parents and caregivers, 18 were Elders and 60 were either Aboriginal teachers or Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers AIEOs. The research showed without a doubt that bullying, and primarily intra-racial bullying, was a pervasive problem for Yamatji children, with serious consequences for their education and community life. I applaud the researchers in developing robust evidence, as well as such sensitive ways of hearing the experiences of children, families and AIEOs.
The research phase of the Solid Kids, Solid Schools project was just the starting point. In the Solid Kids, Solid Schools project ran community focus groups to plan for sustainable school and community based bullying prevention programs. By , the Solid Kids, Solid Schools project was able to incorporate all the feedback from the past three years to roll out the programs.
The quality of community engagement and the creation of a culturally secure environment have meant that the voices of Yamatji children, young people, parents and AIEOs are reflected in the programs created through this process. The Solid Kids, Solid Schools website www. It also includes a game and a series of comics designed by a young Aboriginal woman, Fallon Gregory, which deal with issues around bullying.
As well as the comics, the website also provides a place for creative expressions on bullying. In the end the fights will start So how about you stop and think Before you play your part. The information includes quotes from parents involved in the research and is empowering to parents. The review gets schools, including AIEOs and Aboriginal parents to critically and holistically look at whether or not the school is providing an environment where bullying is being addressed appropriately.
The 10 areas of focus are:. The review tools are not just specific to Yamatji children and could be used in any school community that includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, particularly where there is evidence of bullying. Again, the DVD is by and for the Yamatji children, youth and the wider community and reflects some of the main stories that were raised during the research. It is envisaged that the DVD will be widely distributed, making it a complementary education tool to the website. A comprehensive teaching package aimed at middle to upper primary and high school ages up to year ten has also been developed to complement the DVD resource.
It contains a mix of structured and semi-structured activities and workshop ideas for teachers, counsellors and youth workers for example in dealing with these issues. The project has recently secured three years of funding from Healthway to develop social marketing tools for use with the wider community on the issues of bullying. This next phase involves developing some infomercials, print media and radio messages around the issues and implications of bullying.
The project shows us what is possible when we hear what communities think about tough issues like bullying. Juli Coffin describes the impact of the project:. Although our research is still a work in progress, we are beginning to see more clearly the picture of life faced by our [Yamaji] children within schooling and community settings This information is just the beginning and it was only possible with the strength and support of the Yamaji community, [who are] already leaders in making things better for their kids.
In Chapter 2, I discussed how the process of colonisation undermined our traditional ways of resolving conflicts based on our complex customary laws.
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When thinking about lateral violence, it is important to never lose sight of the fact that our people managed to coexist for over 70 years before the Europeans arrived. This fact makes me confident that we can once again enjoy a life where conflict is properly managed and lateral violence does not rule our communities. We live in a world bound by the western legal system. This impacts on how we can resolve our conflicts. In contemporary society, Indigenous people live in two overlapping worlds, the western and traditional, and neither is fully capable of dealing with disputes involving Indigenous people.
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Purely western models of dispute resolution are often incongruent with the culture of Indigenous people and fail to meet many of their needs. At the same time, European colonisation has weakened many traditional ways of resolving disputes between Indigenous people. Similarly, we also now face problems like alcohol abuse and indeed, lateral violence that did not exist before colonisation.
Weakened traditional processes are being confronted by new problems outside past experience. Alternative Dispute Resolution ADR has been identified as a potential for dealing with community conflicts. Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR is usually an umbrella term for processes, other than judicial determination, in which an impartial person an ADR practitioner assists those in a dispute to resolve the issues between them. ADR is commonly used as an abbreviation for alternative dispute resolution, but can also mean assisted or appropriate dispute resolution.
The main types of ADR are mediation, arbitration and conciliation ADR processes may be facilitative, advisory, determinative or , in some cases, a combination of these. The ADR practitioner in a facilitative process, such as mediation, uses a variety of methods to assist parties to identify the issues and reach an agreement about the dispute. Advisory processes, such as conciliation or expert appraisal, employ a practitioner to more actively advise the parties about the issues and range of possible outcomes.
A process can be selected to best suit a particular dispute. There is currently no comprehensive legislative framework for the operation of ADR in Australia. Many different laws govern the operation of ADR in the different Australian jurisdictions. However, it is important to note that disputes or conflicts are never finally resolved, even with the best ADR processes in the world. In successful processes, conflict is transformed to something that both parties can live with, but it never truly goes away because individuals and communities have to live with the impact of the original conflict.
Nonetheless, it is still important to put in place healthier ways of dealing with conflict through dialogue to prevent further impacts into the future. ADR has been an area of research and program development with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since the s. In particular, the Solid Work You Mob Are Doing report by the Federal Court studies a selection of promising ADR methods, including mediations in urban, rural and remote communities in a range of contexts including Community Justice Centres, Community Justice Groups and community controlled organisations.
Dispute resolution has also been a focus of research in the native title system. More information about the dispute resolution developments and their connection to lateral violence can be found in the Native Title Report The case studies that I will highlight here, the Mornington Island Restorative Justice Project and the Victorian Community Mediators, chart new ways forward in this complex intersection between Western law and customary law.
While these projects come from very different places, they both create culturally safe places for conflict to be resolved. If we can start to resolve some of the feuds that have spanned generations, we can break the cycle of lateral violence. Importantly, these sorts of projects also prevent lateral violence through the creation of cultural safety and the reestablishment of our positive cultural norms. The project tells the story of a remote community taking back control of how they handle conflict and progressively creating culturally safe places to address the consequences of lateral violence.
The surrounding waters supports the ongoing hunting tradition and is an important component of family life and household economy. It is an extremely remote community, approximately km north-west of Burketown, km west of Karumba and km north of Mt Isa. Mornington Island is home to around 1 people.
The traditional owners of Mornington Island are the Lardil people. The Lardil people had limited contact with the outside world until the s when a Uniting Church Mission was established on Mornington Island. As we have seen in the case study on Palm Island in Chapter 2, the creation of missions under the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act Qld saw other Aboriginal groups forcibly removed from their land and relocated to these mission and reserves. The MIRJ project was established in Since July the Commonwealth and Queensland governments have funded the project jointly.
It is still a pilot project and is yet to secure long term funding. The MIRJ project is a mediation or peacemaking service that recognises and respects kinship and culture while still meeting the requirements of the criminal justice system. The objectives of the project are to:. The development of the process is an important beginning in the story of the MIRJ project. The project only became operational in September , following lengthy consultation and negotiation processes between Around community members, representing all the major groups on the Mornington Island, actively participated, as well as the other government and criminal justice stakeholders.
The Project Manager, Phil Venables, sees the fact that an appropriate amount of time was allowed as crucial in building the trust and partnership with the community. As result of consultations, 28 Elders signed a document agreeing to the practice and procedures for the MIRJ project. Below is an extract from the process for mediation prepared with the Elders:. It will be run according to the rules of mediation established by the Elders and the cultural protocols of the families who live on Mornington Island.
If a mediator from the Justice Department is running the meeting with Elders it has the protection of a law called the Dispute Resolution Centres Act. This law allows the Justice Department to run mediations in Queensland. Peacemaking is a meeting between two people or two families in conflict. Elders and the right family members help them to talk respectfully to each other to sort it out between themselves. It is not a community court where people are found innocent or guilty or get punished. It is where conflict is put right by agreement, where hurt is healed and relationships are restored.
Peacemaking is for two people or two families who are in conflict and need help to sort it out. Most conflicts can go to peacemaking if both families are willing to sort out their conflict and put it right. However, when people are charged with serious offences or there is domestic violence, the Elders and Police agree that these are best dealt with by the courts and not by peacemaking. However, people who want to make their relationships better may agree to go for peacemaking to sort out other problems but violence in a relationship must be dealt with by the court.
Peacemaking or mediation can help sort out disputes or fights over money, when property has been damaged, when people have been assaulted but not seriously [and excluding most family violence] or when there is jealousy and harmful talk being spread. Step 2. The right Elders go with the mediation coordinator consult with both families. Step 8. Keeping to the agreement. Establishing the rules was seen by the Elders as a way of connecting back with traditional ways of doing things.
Ashley Gavenor, a prominent community member stated:. You need rules [for peacemaking] just like the rules for sharing a turtle. Everyone knows what they are. The way back to those rules for peacemaking is by doing it every day. Then talk about it and get better at it.
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You just do it and do it and people will get used to it. It is also an attempt to reconcile western and tradition laws with one Elder describing the process:. We will get our rules for peacemaking and show you what they are and you tell us your rules Cultural safety has been the consistent theme during the MIRJ project, starting with the formative involvement of Elders and then the recruitment of four male and four female Elders as Mediation Support Officers. They are paid at the same level as all mediators in the Department of Justice.
They are not required to have formal accreditation as mediators, recognising that their skill in mediation comes from their cultural background and ability to provide a culturally safe process for participants. The MIRJ project draws significantly on cultural and kinship traditions. Nearly all mediations involve extended family.
Project staff aim to give participants control over who are the appropriate people to attend. Their attendance at the mediation signals the importance of the meeting. Mediations do not just take place in the MIRJ office. A community member, Delma Loogatha describes some of the different locations:. Some [mediations] are real traditional, where you go to the festival grounds traditional site for square up] or for safety, out front of the police station.
Sometimes it is better for a quiet mediation at home. The MIRJ project has now successfully dealt with 63 major conflicts. Of these, 28 related to family conflict, 20 were court referred victim-offender mediations and 15 dealt with conflict in other ways not necessarily through a formal mediation.
Critical to the community support for the MIRJ project were early successes in resolving large and significant inter-family disputes. These mediation meetings involved 70 participants in one mediation meeting and in another. This sort of crisis intervention helped to defuse the tension before it got further out of hand.
Similarly, the fact that more than half of the referrals are being made by community members tells the story of the community acceptance and cultural safety created by the project. Another measure of the confidence in MIRJ project is the willingness of courts to refer matters, including more serious assaults. Similarly, of the 16 successfully fulfilled court ordered mediations, eight had their charges withdrawn by the prosecutor and eight received a reduced penalty because of their successful participation in mediation.
Although the number of court ordered mediations is currently comparatively low, it is still an important step in creating diversion opportunities from the criminal justice system. Furthermore, it also makes offenders accountable to their victims and community and is focused on resolution of the issues, not just locking people up. The Elders have also expressed their appreciation that they have been able to have input in prosecution decisions to withdraw charges following successful completion of mediated agreements.
This is seen as tangible support for the Elders efforts to strengthen their leadership in the community. The MIRJ project is still only a pilot program and is yet to secure long term funding. The project is working in partnership with the community based Junkuri Laka Justice Association over the coming year to take over the coordination of mediation and provide more community ownership and sustainability.
Work is continuing in relation to ongoing funding. The MIRJ project shows us what communities, with assistance from government, can do to resolve conflicts. It also speaks to the inherent strengths of our people. In April , the Koori Justice Unit hosted a two-day seminar on lateral violence, as discussed earlier in this Chapter.
This was subsequently endorsed at the Aboriginal Justice Forum in May Koori mediation was identified as an important gap in existing services and a potentially effective response to lateral violence when it occurs in the community. The next step was a workshop that was held on 13 August The objectives of the meeting were to conceptualise what a Koori model of mediation might be, and to set a future direction.
On the strength of that work a pilot program was developed and funded for the Loddon-Mallee region. The traditional owners of the Loddon-Mallee area are the Wamba-Wamba people. The Loddon-Mallee area was chosen for the pilot due to the reported problems caused by lateral violence and receptiveness of local community organisations to the concept. The workshops will be facilitated by Richard Frankland, who has had a leading role in running prior workshops, developing relevant resource materials and undertaking research in the area of lateral violence.
When interested community people have been identified as potential Koori mediators, training will be provided in two models of response to lateral violence: i conflict resolution, and ii mediation. The conflict resolution approach is less formal and may enable situations to be defused without being taken further. The mediation approach is more structured, and is suitable for those needing a more formal process, or for situations where conflict resolution has not been sufficient. The Dispute Assessment Officers will coordinate and support the mediators, and match them with the referrals that are received.
A particular strength of this model is that due to the geographic spread of communities from which the mediator pool will be drawn, there should always be an independent mediator available, ie one who is not connected by kin, proximity or circumstance to the lateral violence incidents that will be referred to the service. It is also envisaged that the Dispute Assessment Officers will coordinate opportunities for peer support between the mediators. If funds can be secured for a state-wide roll-out of the Koori Mediation Program, the ideal structure has been identified as follows:.
Several Dispute Assessment Officers in each region, at least one being a dedicated position to support the Koori Mediation Model. This would create a permanent community awareness-raising mechanism and enable new Koori mediators to be continuously identified to replace those who move on. Now that the Dispute Assessment Officer positions have been filled, it is hoped that the Loddon-Mallee Koori Mediation Program pilot will commence in October , and demonstrate how a community-driven response to lateral violence can improve the wellbeing and safety of Koori communities in Victoria.
Chapter 2 has discussed some of the ways the social and emotional wellbeing impacts of lateral violence are felt. At its most tragic extreme is the high level of suicide and suicide attempts in our communities, compared to the non-Indigenous population. The case study below, of the Family Empowerment Project in Yarrabah, was developed as a direct response to this increased risk.
Lateral violence requires healing approaches. The Social Justice Report provides a detailed selection of case studies of community initiatives creating culturally safe healing spaces. Healing approaches also challenge negative stereotypes, making our culture strong and safe enough to prevent lateral violence. The Family Empowerment Program in Yarrabah is a great example of a community generated program that focuses on the healing needs of participants.
Although it was not set up to explicitly address lateral violence, by building conflict resolution skills, dealing with trauma, grief and loss and promoting strong culture, it attacks lateral violence on a number of fronts. The Family Wellbeing Program is a community led initiative implemented in Yarrabah responding to a spate of suicides and suicide attempts in the mids. This can also help address lateral violence. Yarrabah is a coastal community located approximately 50km south of Cairns. The Gunggandji and Yidinji people are the traditional owners of the lands around Yarrabah.
In a mission was established in Yarrabah leading to the forcible removal of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from surrounding areas. Yarrabah has struggled with many of the same issues facing our communities, including family violence, alcohol abuse and unemployment but they have also courageously decided to tackle suicide and family wellbeing, despite the difficult circumstances.
The Family Wellbeing program was first established in Adelaide by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders who wanted to help our people deal with the transgenerational grief, loss and despair being experienced a result of colonisation. The program uses empowerment, capacity building, and conflict resolution to achieve better social and emotional wellbeing. The Family Wellbeing Program in Yarrabah also has a strong focus on leadership skills that can be applied in community and family contexts. The Family Wellbeing program also looks at grief, loss and trauma and ways of dealing with these issues.
spate of violence a tragedy in the making Manual
The program provides participants with a culturally safe environment to discuss their experiences and reflect on their feelings, emotions and relationships. Darren Miller, co-ordinator of the Family Wellbeing Program in Yarrabah, states that participants have drawn on their own life experiences in sharing possible solutions in dealing with some of the issues around lateral violence.
As a result, young people in Yarrabah have become increasingly engaged in traditional and cultural activities such as camps, hunting and fishing. Young people in Yarrabah have also utilised the skills they have learnt in areas such as art and assisting in the design of programs. The Family Wellbeing Program is showing that strong culture is a powerful way of preventing lateral violence. A number of studies have favourably evaluated the effectiveness of Family Wellbeing Program in increasing capacity and empowerment, improving social and emotional wellbeing and reducing violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The reported success of the Family Wellbeing Program in addressing these issues has made it one of the most sought-after and recognised Indigenous empowerment and skill development programs. He reports participants giving up drinking, and smoking, staying out of jail and the criminal justice system and a reduction in family violence as evidence of the positive impact the Family Wellbeing Program is having on those that take part in it.
Research studies have shown that participants in the program have reported an improvement in family relationships, increased connectedness with children and community, healthier lifestyles and being more at peace . The resulting connectedness and empowerment has increased participants respect for self and others, self-reflection and awareness, hope and vision for a better future, self-care and healing, enhanced parenting, and capacity to deal with substance abuse and violence. Identity and spirituality were seen by many to be central in dealing with contemporary issues, such as lateral violence, facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Because all of our culture was taken away from us, there was no way of really keeping a clear picture of our spirituality. There are all different beliefs as well with the stolen generation male participant, Yarrabah, data. The program has helped participants to identify their strengths and in particular, the resourcefulness of the Stolen Generation in overcoming hardships. The skills and healing gained from the Family Wellbeing Program has led some participants to be more active in the community.
Issues around funding and structural disadvantage such as over-crowding and unemployment have to be addressed. Darren Miller adds that the program would reach its full potential with the introduction of complementary activities and programs. Nonetheless, the Family Wellbeing Program shows us how communities can confront complex problems by drawing on holistic healing methods which blends cultural renewal and spirituality with conflict resolution and other problem solving skills.
Most importantly, it empowers participants because it is culturally safe, taking a zero tolerance approach to lateral violence. Having looked at some approaches that are addressing lateral violence at the community level, I will now look at the role of governments, NGOs and industry who work in our communities. This is necessary because nothing occurs in a vacuum. The way our communities operate will always be shaped and informed by external influences.
These influences can either empower and support our communities or undermine them. However, the case studies and analysis, promote good practices that are occurring and identify key challenges to be addressed. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander relationships must be fixed ourselves, from within our communities. However, this does not absolve these external stakeholders of responsibilities to:.
Under this model, cultural competency extends beyond individual awareness to incorporate systems-level change. The definition outlined in Text Box 4. Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professions to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. Cultural competence is much more than awareness of cultural differences, as it focuses on the capacity of the health system to improve health and wellbeing by integrating culture into the delivery of health services.
Creating true cultural competency is an organisation-wide process. In regard to government service delivery, this requires building the capacity of all those involved in policy formation and implementation: from the Minister, through to policy makers right down to the on-the-ground staff who implement the policy. The health services sector has produced a burgeoning body of research on the concept of cultural competency. She argues that awareness and safety mechanisms need to be supported by brokerage and protocols to progress to cultural security.
Brokerage involves two-way communication where both parties are fully informed about the subject matter in discussion — this is consistent with the principle of free, prior and informed consent. Brokerage is about creating community networks between service providers and community members. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff employed by the service provider can play a crucial role as brokers to develop these networks.
The Solid Kids, Solid Schools program outlines how AIEOs play an important role in developing relationships of trust between the Aboriginal members of the school community and the school, which is necessary to addressing bullying within schools. Networks and relationship building must be supported by protocols.
Protocols are the strategies to formalise the fact that service delivery must be developed in consultation with the particular community. It indicates how protocols establish patterns of behaviour that meet the specific communities needs and internal processes for making decisions. After talking with the Aboriginal health worker, midwives discovered that the older ladies were the ones to speak to in relation to the young pregnant women.
Now whenever anything with the young Mums arises there is an established point of contact to the older women first — thus an assurance is created for cultural security. Community leaders are made aware of the situation and involved. Community participation can then be progressed beyond just 'involvement'. Communities become partners in an equitable, culturally secure provision of service, This is the pathway to cultural security. In developing the cultural competency of an agency or organisation VACCA argues it is essential to remember that cultural competency:.
The key lesson that can be drawn from this body of literature is that creating cultural security through cultural competency is not something that an agency or organisation can simply purchase off a shelf. Cultural competency must be built over time through a deliberate process that seeks to build the capacity of the entire organisation, and this must be done in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Next I further explore how cultural competency can create engagements that strengthen and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. In Chapter 2 I have already discussed how poor engagement processes can contribute to conditions that lead to lateral violence.
In this section I will look at how governments, NGOs and industry can undertake their work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in a culturally secure manner to prevent lateral violence. First and foremost, they must ensure that they hear our voices. There is a clear policy commitment across all governments in Australia to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Indigenous Engagement Principle guides COAG in the design and delivery of Indigenous specific and mainstream services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and in the development of national level agreements and reform proposals.
Indigenous engagement principle: Engagement with Indigenous men, women and children and communities should be central to the design and delivery of programs and services. In particular, attention is to be given to:. It is pleasing that the Australian Government has set their intention in this way and I will continue to monitor the performance of this engagement framework. However I am concerned about the implementation of these commitments. Effective engagement is one of the key areas where governments must develop their competency if they are to work with us as enablers to address lateral violence.
This challenge of effective engagement is not a new one.