Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cultural Awareness Training

At office today, I participated in a 2 hour training on Aboriginal Cultural Awareness. It was good to listen to something outside of work and other than the controversial Gilly innings. Gilly innings is becoming a major topic all around the world and most are positive that ICC would do something about this, if not the credibility of the game is at stake.

Back to the topic of cultural awareness, which really was a new lesson for me and as found out, to most of the non-indigenous Australians. For most Australians, history is that "Captain Cook came to Australia and then British settlers came here and started colonies". But the trainer enlightened us that a lot happened whilst colonising. Aboriginals have gone through so much trouble due to British settling which brought a huge cultural gap.The trainer herself was indigenous, so she told us the real life experiences of her elders. The owners of the land have been treated in a very cruel way during the colonisation process. We are not talking about an unknown long history here, everything happened within less than 200 years! Elderly people who are alive today can remember the situation or have heard from their parents.

There are many natives who have mixed up well with the rest of the community but the majority hasn't. Their education and life quality is far below the others. Mixing up seems to be the major issue, and as I gathered, its mainly because the difference in cultures and value systems. The training session tried to teach us these values and life style of these people. Its nice to know who they are? what they are? why things happen in certain ways? etc.

Good thing today is, they are treated as equal and their ownership of land is acknowledged and government spends money on uplifting their lifestyle. At the beggining of every public speech (presentations, talks, discussions etc.), the presenter has to mention or have a slide to acknowledge that the land that the meeting is held belongs to the aboriginal people. Soon after I came to Australia, I was surprised to see a statement acknowledging aboriginal land ownership in every slide template! That's fantastic! But that not enough, they need to be helped to live in the way they want.

Today, they are considered as citizens of Australia and get all the rights, which had started in 1967, so you would expect the problem to end, but due to the large differences, that process is slow. As my colleagues told me, educational system has not taught them the aboriginal culture. I am not sure whether that happens now, but I think, awareness is important to minimise the gap and bring those people to the good living standards. If not, they don't have the bush they lived, but they also cant do a job for a living because of the lack of education. So, what would be the result? Those results can be seen on streets, natives just wonder around and frequently hear theft and other injustice incidents on news. Sydney riots a couple of years back is a another occasion where cultural difference and lack of awareness came to the fore.

I am happy that I learnt something new and am sharing it with others.


Anonymous said...

Hi Yasas,

I am also from Australia and found this very interesting.

I went to school here, and fortunately at least since the previous labour government aboriginal history is taught in schools. So the younger generation at least will have a different perspective.

But even after learning the facts, I was only shocked to the core, when I read a book by Sally Morgan called "My Place". You can get it in any book store. I think it is a must read for every australian. It is only after reading it that I understood, why the Aboriginal people find it so difficult to come to terms with their past.

The good thing about Australia is, even though there is racism as in all countries, our laws protect people against being discriminated against and Politicians are held accountable.

You may be aware of the fact that John Howard, thinks that we are concentrating too much on the past regarding atrocities commited against Aboriginal people, and is trying to change this. He calls it the "black arm" view of history. He got rid of some of the laws related to something called the Mabo Treaty which was implemented by the previous labour Prime Minister, Paul Keating.

Even though I am not a white Australian, I still feel ashamed that as migrants we are treated better than the original inhabitants of this country.

Sorry, for making this so long.

The book by Sally Morgan is well worth reading.

Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama said...

Thanks so much for your informative comment. Really apprciete that. It helps me and all the other readers. I will try to findout the book, 'My Place'.

Yes, there is no reason to harp around what happened, people need to move on and make things better for everyone. However, to make that happen, understanding of what happened would be important. Apart from what really happend, insights into each others culture is important, so that you know your boundaries. No need to compare cultures, but awareness helps you work in an understanding way when dealing with people from different backgrounds. There is nothing called 'better' but 'different'.

Thanks again for comments. Pls do visit again :)

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