Local or Remote?
People may want to connect with and travel to remote Indigenous communities because:
- Media representations of Indigenous people tend to feature remote outback communities, and consequently, some non-Indigenous people regard remote communities as more ‘authentic’
- Remote communities are attractive to people looking for 'outback adventure', and appear to offer an ‘exotic’ cultural and environmental experience
However, whilst Indigenous people living in urban contexts may not fit stereotypical images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, urban Indigenous identity can be just as strong, with powerful territorial affiliations.
Urban Indigenous populations, particularly in cities and large towns, tend to:
- be more diverse than other Indigenous groups
- be less visible, as they are encompassed within the larger non-Indigenous population
- have a longer and more intense history of colonisation
Indigenous people throughout Australia are challenging many of the stereotypes that persist about them. Urban Indigenous people are in a process of reclaiming and strengthening culture, and cultural protocols and processes still persist in many urban contexts.
Ideas on how to start local
Below are our suggestions for non-Indigenous people wanting to start the process of connecting with Indigenous members in their local community.
Evaluate your pre-conceived ideas
Being aware of your current thoughts, opinions and pre-conceptions about Indigenous people in your community is important. Being willing to see life from someone else's perspective is going to help in the process of understanding one another better.
Develop awareness and interest
Develop your awareness of local Indigenous communities through visiting local Indigenous cultural centres or contacting your local council. Exploring your local history and the culture of the local Indigenous community will develop your awareness and help you to engage with Indigenous people in a more knowledgeable and sensitive way. Watching educational programs, visiting your local library and researching online may also help to build your awareness of the history of the local Indigenous community. Start watching SHARING OUR STORY today, a four-episode DVD resource designed to help you discover the shared story of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Attend events and activities
Attending events and activities will help you get to know the local Indigenous community. Set aside time, not only to attend events, but also to build relationships with other people at the event.
It is important to recgnise that Western culture is often very time oriented, while Indigenous culture tends to have a greater emphasis on relationships. With this in mind, approach events with a mindset focused on making the most of each opportunity to connect and start building relationships, rather than ticking your attendance of an "engagement" check list.
Try contacting your local council to find out about events near you, or check out the events listed on our website.
Start a conversation
Starting a conversation can be easy. Try sharing about where you and your family come from, and note whether this personal sharing is reciprocated. Hopefully, your willingness to be vulnerable by opening yourself to the other person and offering a heartfelt connection will demonstrate your desire to enter into a friendship as an equal, rather than in a dominant, paternalistic or thoughtless way.
Think long term
If you are hoping to get to know an Indigenous community and share in their lives, it is important for you to realise that you must also be willing to share your life and family. This is part of having a long-term outlook, rather than approaching this relationship as a passing interest.
Meet other community members
Once you have meaningful friendships with a few people, you will be able to meet other community members and develop a social network.
Find a cultural liaison
You may know someone who is further down the path of understanding Indigenous culture. This person will already have respectful friendships and could show you how to engage in Indigenous cultural events in a respectful way. They may also help you to view the world through an Indigenous cultural lens.