A radical & successful approach to working with Indigenous communities | Denise Hagan | TEDxBrisbane

A radical & successful approach to working with Indigenous communities | Denise Hagan | TEDxBrisbane


you I want to acknowledge the traditional
owners of this country the Turrbal people and also those traditional owners
in lockout River in 2002 I found myself on a very small 10 cedar plane flying to
the remote community of Lockhart River in Cape York I was executive director
leadership and culture in my State Department of Education I was part of a
small government in voi determined to make a contribution to closing a gap of
significant disadvantage in Aboriginal communities and to get better results
from the government investment we’ve done our initial assessment in our
offices in the capital and we were flying in to meet with community leaders
we would then fly out again develop plans get the right people implement
them this is the typical white Australian way of helping remote
indigenous communities in a fly-in fly-out solution model it’s usually
outside experts who decide what needs to be addressed and how it’s going to be
addressed and when it’s going to be implemented and they fly in and out of
the community I thought I was well prepared but when we landed in the
community I was absolutely shocked by the startling poverty and disadvantage
that I witnessed I could not believe that this was Australia my country in
the 21st century how could this have been allowed to happen community leaders weren’t particularly
interested in talking with us we could have seen this as rude or just
ungrateful but clearly we didn’t have the local knowledge or cultural
competence to do what was needed it was very tough going we were out of our
comfort zone but a few things became strikingly clear
the idea that we could sit in our air-conditioned city offices and develop
plans to address the issues in a remote indigenous community were crazy the idea
that local leaders didn’t know or care about the challenges facing their
community was arrogant the idea that they would trust us when we walk in and
say we’re from the government when in their living memory
they have been disenfranchised dislocated forced into servitude they’ve
had their children stolen and their wages stolen they’ve been punished for
practicing their own culture and speaking their own language they other
inhabitants this is their country for 50,000 years and yet today they have no
right to own land in their own community the government has been the perpetrator
or complicit in many of these initiatives and so for us to walk in and
say we’re from the government trust us is absolutely ludicrous and then there’s
the idea that the challenges in remote indigenous communities can be addressed
without long-term sincere authentic engagement and working closely with the
local community is simply wrong so what is the result of this fly-in fly-out
solution model the community ends up more disempowered it’s not their ideas
their issues or their solutions often the wrong projects are implemented and
they fail because they’re not community led often this failure is then blamed on
the communities and used as an excuse not to reinvest the end result of this
is that the issues and the challenges of remote indigenous communities are put in
the too hard basket I was initially a fly-in fly-out worker
after developing relationships with community leaders they asked me to go
and help them do some planning and to stay in the community
I lived there for a couple of months I agreed I ended up staying and living
there for five and a half years at that time I was inspired by the people of
Lockhart River because despite generations of adversity in their
current unbelievable hardship I could see determination strength and pride
determination to secure a better future for their coming generations strength to
carry on despite so many young deaths and and a suicide rate double the
national average and pride in themselves and their culture I was determined to
become part of the community to build on their strengths and to work with them on
their issues and by that I mean the issues that they see as important and
urgent this is not a fly-in fly-out way of working building an authentic
relationship it doesn’t happen in a couple of trips or a couple of hours or
days it takes months or years I quit my job I established the pier foundation
Puuya, means heart or life-force in Kuuku Ya’u language in the foundation we developed a totally new way of working with the
community to get results called the puia approach turning many things on their
head to the normal way of working with Aboriginal communities as a charity we
work alongside the community empowering and working with everyday leaders to
help them shape and determine and create their own bright future two-thirds of
our board members are local community leaders our most recent endeavour, the
establishment of the Kuunchi Kakana families together centre is a great
example of our pure approach in action at a community strategic planning
discussion community leaders are unified that the earliest education was
a mess and that this was critical for the future of their children and
community they asked the pure foundation to work with them to develop a new
solution so together we looked at what they wanted and equally importantly what
they didn’t want what they wanted was parents and carers involved in their
children’s education from birth learning together giving children the best start
to life they did not want a drop-off childcare center they wanted a
curriculum that focused on culture independence and life skills they wanted
local jobs and training not fly-in fly-out workers it was a challenge a
really big challenge to make it happen getting funding for something new
innovative and out of the box is never easy
and then there’s constructing a building in a remote community
we’re not even local traditional owners can own land getting building materials
to site added 30 percent cost and the challenge associated with our roads
being cut for up to six months of the year with monsoonal rains it was a
massive challenge but we did it and we did it with the help of many people who
helped us could see the pure approach working and joined in and shared our
vision now the Kuunchi Kakana Centre opened in June 2016 our manager is an
amazing local woman and young community leader our local men played a vital role
in working with elders to seek permission to visit sacred sites to
gather natural materials to create our beautiful dancing circle and playground
the day of the opening was a huge hall of community celebration just full of
joy and a great tangible demonstration of the the success of the approach in
action since the center has been built my son has been knowing a lot of things
what’s right what’s wrong it’s not as we’re landing care for the child itself
it’s also for the parent first parents I think it’s a good way that we can talk
about what we’re going through and help each other be there for each other I
think it’s a great place because we come together so when I look back at our
go-to beliefs about addressing the issues in remote indigenous communities
I know that our those go-to beliefs are wrong fly-in fly-out solutions simply do
not work the good news is there is a solution
building authentic relationships trusting in the knowledge and wisdom of
the local community and empowering them as everyday leaders to shape and
determine their own bright future the challenge for us is whether we can make
that change you

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 thought on “A radical & successful approach to working with Indigenous communities | Denise Hagan | TEDxBrisbane”