We believe that there is still so much more room for improvement for the technology sector to enhance its understanding and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as consumers, influencers and allies of their respective products and services.
Interestingly, many people may read the opening point above who are critical or “sitting on the fence” in this space will say “Why do I need to enhance my understanding of Indigenous people?” The answer is actually quite simple: because most of you work in organisations and entities that have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and/or are influenced by the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP). And the result is that this benefits your business and all of the people within it, whether it is through revenue and profits or impact marketing. The history of the original people of this country is actually 60,000+ years old, so while we think it is important to teach ourselves and our kids the history of this country, it needs to be done properly. This means the actual history and not selective pieces of it.
With the ever-growing emergence of various types of technology that are increasingly impacting our lives, we are seeing a shift in the jobs of the future to be more centred around growing and servicing the evolution of technology. Combine this with:
There is a perception that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have little experience in the tech space and subsequently this is translated into the way that people are employed in this space. A perfect example is of a story of a young Sydney-based Aboriginal man. This young man is a software developer and has experience working on the tools for several years, as well as being a leader in his team at the large company that he works for. Another global tech company (a household name) approached this young Aboriginal man a few years ago to see if he might be interested in a career opportunity. This young man was elated and jumped at the opportunity. As the conversations between the man and the company proceeded it very quickly became evident that they were wanting to engage him in a sales-based role and not in a more technical capacity. Growing his career in the technical side of things is where he wanted to go. As you can predict, this opportunity did not come to fruition as it was more of an opportunity for the tech corporate giant, than for the young Aboriginal man. This is just one of many stories which exemplifies what is taking place in the tech industry (among other industries) and their engagement with Indigenous people and the Indigenous business sector.
Now, to be clear, there are individuals/champions across the tech sector and working within large corporations and the government that do care about making an impact in the Indigenous space, however, they are repeatedly brought back into the corporate machine that governs their systems, processes and presence in the market. I absolutely get it, I am the cofounder of Ngakkan Nyaagu (NGNY), a tech business, and I am driven by improving the systems and processes that my team uses in order to make their lives easier so that they don’t have to carry as much “weight”. These tools and ways of working make their working days easier and more efficient. But more needs to be done to support these individuals in exploring, experimenting and nurturing opportunities to engage, work with and hire Indigenous people.
Another example is the engagement of my business (NGNY) to bid for tech software and web development project opportunities. We always welcome these opportunities and certainly are not pushing these away. However, we will be invited to bid for a project, then spend time responding to the bid and answering the requirements and then be told that we don’t have enough experience. So, why were we invited to bid in the first place? Oh, that’s right. A lot of the organisations that approach us are in some way governed and influenced by the IPP and are rewarded for demonstrating that they have engaged an Indigenous business in their tender or project response process. To then “rub salt into the wound”, we often see the outputs and results of these projects at their conclusion and are able to define that what was delivered is exactly within our capabilities. Let me be clear here, 99% of the time we lose projects to non-Indigenous entities with the same or similar capabilities and often they are incumbent partners. Again, I get it, there is security and efficiency in going with an organisation that you are already comfortable with, but this is a complete waste of our time and also counterproductive to the existence of the IPP and RAPs.
To further extend on this, we employ a set of processes and systems in NGNY which receive comments from organisations (big and small) engaged with us along the lines of how “amazing” and “easy” our processes and systems are to work with, and that they have “never worked with an organisation like ours that is as organised and transparent in the way we get work done”. My point is that, once given the opportunity, that we have been able to deliver in line and above the expectations of most of our clients and most other Indigenous organisations are the same.
Ultimately, there is a reservation and a deficit mindset when it comes to engaging Indigenous people and businesses for new opportunities and this perception of deficit needs addressing. These are a few ways to address the deficit mindset:
Making a shift in deficit thinking when it comes to Indigenous people in the tech sector is improving, as is evidenced by the growing number of Indigenous people in the sector. However, obvious deficit thinking and related behaviours still exist across the tech sector in Australia and these are still inhibiting the growth of Indigenous people in this space and the first way that we will start to overcome this is by calling it out and taking the appropriate action (yes, “action”, not just words), to reduce deficit thinking and deficit ways of doing.
2020. What a year! I for one am so glad that it is coming to an end! I am counting down the days until the holidays begin and we can slow down and sink into holiday mode and enjoy some salt-water healing on our usual trip north to gorgeous Gumbaynggirr Country.
It has been a big year for Wingaru and I am really proud of what we have achieved and the support we have been able to provide during this unusual year. Some of the wins for Wingaru in 2020 have been:
Supporting Schooling From Home
With many students schooling from home, we saw record numbers of students logging in to use our resources, completing activities that explored First Nations culture while strengthening their comprehension, problem solving and ICT skills.
All Together Now
Our educators worked with Reconciliation NSW to deliver another year of All Together Now, an initiative to support teachers to celebrate Reconciliation Week and we are very pleased to be welcoming another round of finalists from the NSW Schools Reconciliation Challenge to the Wingaru Kids platform.
Our Butabuta team continued to support organisations, adapting quickly from face to face sessions to online training that saw the Aunties become zoom wizzes – well almost ;). This year we supported a number of amazing organisations with cultural awareness training as well as help to develop culturally safe work environments that support both staff and Aboriginal clients. We worked with Home Teacher to support their partnership with the Smith family to deliver home tutoring scholarships to 100 students. Many of these students identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and we love being able to support this amazing group of teachers providing tutoring to do this in a culturally appropriate way.
We also launched digital Professional Development for teachers which is available individually or as part of the Wingaru Kids subscription. The feedback has been really positive with many teachers telling us they now feel more confident including Aboriginal perspectives in their teaching and with working with Aboriginal students and their families. We also provided PD for the Relief Teacher Association and I delivered a session at their annual conference – stepping out of my own comfort zone, as I support teachers to step out of their own. You can check out our courses here.
Supporting Healthy Communities
Our IT team delivered a bespoke platform for the NSW Ministry of Health’s Aboriginal Health Knockout Challenge, supporting the amazing team running the program to expand the reach of this fantastic initiative that delivers life-changing health benefits to communities across NSW. I am in awe of the mobs who took part this year for all their hard work and the amazing results.
Planning with Wingaru and Mr J Challenge
The “Planning with Wingaru and Mr J Challenge” was a big focus for the Wingaru team in term 4 and I could not be happier with how it went. We saw so many deadly teachers sharing how they were including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in their classrooms and supporting each other as they took on the challenge of increasing the amount of First Nations content that they included. I got to know the amazing Mr J who was so generous with his time and self in sharing his journey to refine his personal approaches to Aboriginal education. For so many teachers, getting Aboriginal education right means stepping out of their comfort zone completely which can be overwhelming and I know there are so many teachers who benefited from Mr J’s regular updates, tips and learnings as a non-Aboriginal teacher taking on this important area of education. I want to thank every teacher who has taken part in the Challenge. I’d love to hear how you went and how taking part changed your classroom. While the Challenge is over, the planners are still available to download here if you would like to plan your First Nation inclusions for next year.
2020 has been a crazy year and I cannot wrap up without acknowledging the hard work of teachers who have showed amazing resilience and flexibility in supporting kids in this year of uncertainty. If you are a parent, please take the time to thank your teacher – they earn that thanks every year but this year more than ever that work needs to be acknowledged.
If you are a teacher, I hope that during this busy time you have the opportunity to take a breath and look around at the world before you. As a teacher you have changed lives this year. You have given the gift of knowledge, helped build self-esteem and shape opinions. You have supported children and families to survive schooling from home and shown a flexibility that many didn’t know possible. You have undoubtedly worked into the night and woken worried about a student who struggles with change and needed extra support to cope with the chaos that has been 2020. Your dedication and hard work have not gone unnoticed.
While I am keen for this year to be done, I look forward to next year and all that lies ahead. We have some great things planned and I can’t wait to share them with you. We have new lessons coming about seasons, plant use and my personal favourite, a lesson about the Aboriginal history of Coffs Harbour featuring the stories of Gumbaynggirr Elder, Aunty Sue Hoskins, who generously spent time with us this year sharing her stories. We also have more PD coming and our cultural awareness calendar is filling up.
Stay safe, keep healthy and enjoy the festive season!
People often think that cultural awareness training is only for large organisations but the reality is organisations of any size can benefit from cultural awareness. This year our Butabuta facilitators have delivered our cultural awareness program to organisations with as few as 10 staff and across all sectors – private, public and not for profit. Each of these organisations had a different reason for organising training but each one was seeking to increase the knowledge of staff about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, our history and how we can all move forward and start addressing the outcome gaps our mob experience.
Over the last week I have been contacted by a couple of small businesses who are considering cultural awareness training but are unsure if they will benefit from it so I thought I would share, with their permission, about two of the small organisations that we provided training for this year - Kids Steps Speech Pathology and Tempe OOSH.
Kids Steps Speech Pathology
Kids Steps Speech Pathology is a private practice located on beautiful Gumbaynggirr Country in Coffs Harbour with services also offered at Grafton, Yamba, Macksville and into New England. The team offer a range of services to support kids who need support with speech and language disorders. The incidence of speech and language disorders is higher in Aboriginal populations and the Kids Steps Team, who work with a number of Aboriginal families, want to make sure that they can appropriately engage and support Aboriginal families in therapy to support our jarjums. The NDIS means more families can access the therapies they need and as an NDIS provider, the Kids Steps Team is well placed to support these families and it is encouraging to see non-Aboriginal businesses starting to recognise the need to modify practice in order to be culturally safe for our mob.
The team lead by Nathenya Fall, refer to their clients as friends. As a mum with a kid who has done his fair share of speech therapy, I love this approach. I know first-hand how important building a positive relationship between a child and their “speechie” is, so when Nathenya told me they were looking for opportunities to support their koori friends as best they could, I felt a rush of gratitude and excitement. The support we give kids in early years plays a huge role in shaping future outcomes for them. Having a private service that understands the importance of a culturally inclusive environment for Aboriginal people is amazing and the fact that they are willing to ask for help, acknowledging that Aboriginal people are best placed to provide advice on solutions to support our communities, is worth shouting about.
All of our cultural awareness sessions have been tailored to meet the needs of the participants and our facilitators were able to support the Kids Steps Team with a number of strategies they could introduce into their offerings that would help Aboriginal families to feel comfortable at the service. The Kids Steps Team were very keen to know how they could be more involved in the Aboriginal community so we spoke about opportunities to participate in events, community meetings and inter-agency events to connect with community outside of the Kids Steps offices. This conversation provided the Team with both the knowledge about where to connect with community as well as the confidence to join these events knowing that they were welcome. The respectful approach that Kids Steps has to working with our kids is amazing and the local community are blessed to have such a great service available. If only all small businesses were so welcoming of our mob!
Another session that really stands out for me this year is our visit to the Tempe OOSH. The team, led by Helen Pentecost, is very highly regarded by the community they service. Kids love attending and we all know how important it is knowing that our kids are safe and happy when we can’t be with them. We hadn’t had an OOSH contact us about training before and Helen’s approach is very refreshing and I hope an approach that is adopted by many OOSH providers.
Helen told me that she felt ‘Training staff in cultural competency to understand the unique history of Australia’s First Nations people provides not only enormous benefit in terms of helping them offer sensitive and appropriate care for children from Aboriginal, Torres Strait and other diverse backgrounds, but it helps everyone at our centre by deepening our connection to and understanding of the custodians of our land.’ She said ‘I believe the recognition of the vast and rich cultural heritage of Aboriginal people is a vital underpinning of all education in Australians, and helps us create safe and appropriate learning spaces for all children, of any background. For us, there was no question that this training was vital to our way of working, and how we see ourselves as educators’.
We talk a lot about creating culturally inclusive environments in schools so to have an OOSH embrace this and take steps to ensure their service is inclusive is all kinds of exciting. An approach which recognises that understanding Aboriginal people and our role as custodians of the land is important for all students and staff at the centre, for me really highlights Helen’s approach as best practice and I would love to see other OOSH providers work towards adopting this approach.
The benefits of cultural awareness training for workplaces are often spoken about. We talk about the role that cultural awareness training has in improving workplace culture; in improving both internal and external workplace communications; and in better servicing Aboriginal clients.
But we don’t often talk about the effects that extend beyond the workplace.
Reading social media these days is hard. Everyone has an opinion about everything, and people seem much more comfortable expressing racism from the safety of the impersonal internet. Just in the last few days, I've read comments online saying a young man in a remote Northern Territory community deserved to be shot to death by police, and how it was ‘totally wrong’ to close the Uluru climb because ‘it never hurt the rock’ and ‘the Aboriginals are lying about cultural significance’. Today, I read a post that could have been from 100 years ago: a man advertised that he and his wife ‘would like to help fire victims and have a spare room if you need it … no blacks or immigrants’. This is all on top of the everyday deluge of comments rife with racial hate and myths about Aboriginal people that are perpetuated by print and social media.
Fear of the unknown and a lack of education are the primary reason these types of posts are so prevalent. Often, keyboard warriors make these alarming statements because they've never had an opportunity to learn about Aboriginal culture—they know no alternative to the myths and ignorance they enthusiastically spout. I've been delivering Aboriginal cultural awareness training for many, many years and I've found that most people become much more accepting of Aboriginal people and culture and open to Reconciliation, when they learn the story of the Aboriginal peoples, and how we got to where we are today.
Many participants have never heard about Australia’s history with Aboriginal people from an Aboriginal perspective. Cultural awareness training is the first time they've heard the stories of people from the Stolen Generation, or of families forced to live on missions, with no control over any aspect of their lives. ‘Why weren’t we taught this in school?’ is a common response when we talk about past government policies, about the denial of Aboriginal people’s rights to practice culture and the way they were treated by non-Aboriginal people—about how in the past racism was so systematic, and how in many ways it continues to be.
Cultural awareness training in the workplace can support people to take a stand against the culturally insensitive—or downright racist—posts that are put out into the world every day. It arms people with the knowledge to see through misinformation, so that they don't help spread the myths that fuel hate against our First Nations. By giving people knowledge, training gives people the confidence to challenge the racist rhetoric we all seem to have become so complacent about.
Often employers don’t think they'll benefit from cultural awareness training for their staff because they don’t service Aboriginal people or have any Aboriginal staff. But consider the wider impact: training your staff not only increases their capacity, which strengthens your business, but also, in the case of cultural awareness training, can help protect your reputation. Often, misguided racist comments are made by employees on their workplace social media profile, and I watch as offended readers tag the employers asking them to take action, or demand others boycott them. It's something to consider: if making a positive social contribution is not reason enough to consider cultural awareness training for your workplace, then the potential PR implications if you don't might be.
One of the most common questions we get asked at Wingaru is how to engage the Aboriginal community in projects. Whether it be getting someone to consult on a project or participate in classroom activities, it is clear that people want to have the input of Aboriginal people. Where we can, we support people to make these connections and approach this in the right way - that is meaningful consultation where Aboriginal people have a real voice at all stages of the project and are treated respectfully including payment when appropriate. This is a topic that is written about often - Aunty Tricia talks about this issue in this months Ask Aunty and Wingaru's friend Nathan “Mudyi” Sentance, a Wiradjuri man from the Mowgee clan, has previously shared his view about it on his blog 'Archival Decolonist' (https://archivaldecolonist.com/). With Nathan's permission I have shared his post below and I encourage you to head over and check out the rest of his blog where he very generously shares his knowledge and perspectives about the importance of the inclusion of First Nation voices in the cultural and historical narratives conveyed by cultural and memory institutions and the need to balance the biases and misinterpretations of Aboriginal culture and people that has been previously set by these institutions.
Follow Nathan's work on social media:
Collaboration or Exploitation
“Indigenous folks, be cautious of people who want to “pick your brain” over coffee and lunch. There are people out there stealing ideas and boosting their careers for the price of a double double.” (Monkman, 2017, tweet)
People often seek my feedback, ask me questions or want my opinion on projects they are working on that relate to First Nations culture, history and/or people and I am happy to help if I can, but only if I feel their requests or projects are not exploitative. Here are some of my personal suggestions on how to ensure your projects or requests for input are less exploitative and more collaborative. Note: this mostly directed toward research projects or projects in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector.
These are just a small number of suggestions I have to ensure your projects or requests for input are less exploitative and more collaborative.
By Nathan Sentance
DiAngelo, Robin. “White Fragility” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3, no.3, 2011, pp 54-70
Finch, Sam Dylan. “9 Phrases Allies Can Say When Called Out Instead of Getting Defensive” Everyday Feminism. 29 May. 2017, https://everydayfeminism.com/2017/05/allies-say-this-instead-defensive/
First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNICG). “Pathways to First Nations’ data and information sovereignty” Indigenous Data Sovereignty, Edited by Tahu Kukutai and John Taylor, ANU publishing, 2016, pp. 137-156.
Justice, Daniel Heath. “All mouth and no ears: Settlers with Opinions” The Conversation, 20 Sep. 2017.
Monkman, Lenard (lenardmonkman1). “Indigenous folks,
Be cautious of people who want to “pick your brain” over coffee and lunch. There are people out there stealing ideas and boosting their careers for the price of a double double.” 4 Dec. 2017, 7:53 AM. Tweet.
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. “whiteness epistemology and Indigenous representation” Whitening Race: Essays in social and cultural criticism. Edited by Aileen Moreton-Robinson. Aboriginal Studies Press, 2004.
Sentance, Nathan. “Reframing community consultation” Archival Decolonist. 8 Sep. 2017 https://archivaldecolonist.com/2017/09/08/reframing-community-consultation/
Sentance, Nathan. “Maker unknown and the decentring First Nations People” Archival Decolonist. 21 Jul. 2017 https://archivaldecolonist.com/2017/07/21/maker-unknown-and-the-decentring-first-nations-people/
Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies : Research and Indigenous Peoples. 2nd ed., Zed Books, 2012.
Watson, Irene. Looking at you looking at me — : an aboriginal history of the south-east. Volume 1. I. Watson Nairne, 2002
How is the 2019 school year here already?
This week as families, including my own, get back into the swing of everyday life and remember the routines that come with having school age children, I can’t help but be excited about what the year may hold. How will my children grow and develop this year? What newly found knowledge will they share with me as they burst through the door eager to share the amazing facts they have discovered? How much bigger will their feet get and how many new pairs of shoes will I need to buy to keep up? With each year I see more of the great men they will be and watching them navigate who they will be is without a doubt one of my greatest privileges.
I am also really excited to introduce some new services to Wingaru as we introduce Wingaru Butabuta Cultural Awareness Training and education services for adults. The name Wingaru Butabuta is inspired by the teaming up of two amazing Aboriginal women who have come together to share their knowledge and experience with organisations looking to increase their cultural capacity. Tricia, a Darug woman, and Cynthia, a Dunghutti woman, share the Wingaru mission of creating a shared understanding about Aboriginal Australia.
Wingaru, a Darug word meaning 'to think' and Butabuta, a Dunghutti word, meaning 'together' is the perfect name for the services that Tricia and Cynthia will be overseeing and there are no words to express how excited I am to introduce the program that they have put together. Wingaru Butabuta offers programs for organisations of all types including government and non-government organisations, teachers and educators working across all stages as well as individuals wishing to increase their understanding of Aboriginal people. We are also able to support organisations in developing culturally appropriate education materials, programs and plans such a Reconciliation Action Plans.
We also have some great things planned for the coming year for Wingaru Kids and Bubs. We of course have new content for both platforms, including NAIDOC resources which will support kids of all ages to think about the importance of Aboriginal voices, the truth about Aboriginal history and our people, and of course treaty and the ways that we can best recognise the rights of our first nations. Our educators have been busy over the break working on Aboriginal perspectives for STEM. This includes revisiting many lessons on the Wingaru Kids Platform to highlight relevant Science outcomes and have included engaging new printables. We also have some new language lessons on the way in recognition of 2019 being the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
When I chat to the teachers whose classes use the Wingaru Platform the most, the thing they have in common is planning, whether it be yearly, termly or weekly. The curriculum is busy and it is difficult to find time for all the things we ask teachers to include in the classroom so having lessons where Aboriginal perspectives are combined with outcomes from Key Learning Areas such as HASS, Science, PDHPE or English is a big advantage.
Planning can also support more regular inclusion of Aboriginal content in the classroom so as you are planning for this term I encourage you to consider ways you can deliver Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives each week. I'd love to see your approach to planning - sing out if we can help!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.