Reading Material: Collard, L. and Palmer, D. Kura, yeye, boorda, Nyungar boodier nidja boodjar : community development and indigenous communities. Keynote address at the National Community Development Conference. Sheraton Hotel, Perth. [March 23, 2001], Published by Local Government Community Services Association of Australia

The key point this article makes is that indigenous and non-indigenous people within Community Development initiatives need to work together, drawing on their respective experiences and expertise to create an effective and relevant service for the community. The idea of “going along together” ties in with ideas such as collaboration, co-operation and communication. The exchange of knowledge and ideas between cultures and traditions, with respect and consideration given to preserving the Nyungar language and traditions is seen to be hugely beneficial to communities. There is particular emphasis on language, which is the foundation for effective communication and cross cultural interaction, and the very strong assertion that Nyungar language is NOT a dead language; it still functions in daily life and alongside Nyungar cultural practices and those non indigenous people working within Nyungar communities need to be mindful of this.

Another point made, relating to the Nyungar language is that it is essential when working within Nyungar communities to at least make an effort to learn some of the language. Learning the language is not just the key to effective communication but also demonstrates to the community you are working with that you acknowledge the historical and cultural significance of their community. This language is not just limited to indigenous words but also the turn of phrase, stories and nuances of the way that the community interacts and communicates. This can relate to the traditions, conventions and morals practiced and upheld in the community.

Whilst many of the points raised could potentially be applied to a wide range of indigenous communities it is important to look at the unique needs and cultures of each indigenous community on a case by case basis. Unfortunately not all indigenous languages as a thoroughly documented and preserved as the Nyungar language. Wiradjuri, the indigenous community of the region I live in all but lost much of their language and traditions, there has been a “revival” in recent years with a great deal of effort being made by community leaders to document, teach and preserve the language (Wiradjuri Condoblin Corporation, 2009). There are however less resources readily available to the non-indigenous and indigenous population, but it is possible to get a cursory knowledge of selected words and phrases with a little research.

This potentially limiting geographic element aside, and it probably does need to be pushed to the side as this article does essentially deal with a very specific community with a very specific cultural heritage, the emphasis on a joint approach to community development with both indigenous community workers and non-indigenous community working participating in an ongoing dialogue with an emphasis on language is one that is also advocated in “Indigenous languages in education: what the research actually shows” (Charles E. Grimes, Ph.D. 2009), but Grimes also warns of the damage that poorly administered language and culturally collaborative measures can do to community perceptions. The work being carried out within the community needs to be very mindful of the needs of that community and need to be carried out in ongoing consultation with the community in question.

What questions does this reading raise?

What resources are currently available to those looking to learn the local indigenous language?

In what other ways can non-indigenous people take the initiative in regards to indigenous cultural recognition and understanding?

What government and community programs use the “two-way schooling” approach?

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