Abstracts for Issue 1, 2015
Cultural strength: restoring the place of indigenous knowledge in practice and policy
Indigenous traditions, cultures and identities are not historical artefacts or museum pieces; they are vital and contemporary, and they are critical to indigenous wellbeing and our shared understanding of how to live in the world. Importantly, approaches based on indigenous cultural strength must drive engagement with the environment, lead settlements between indigenous peoples and governments, drive new approaches to education and health care, and shape the direction of academic research and public policy. At a symposium held at AIATSIS in February this year, Professor Taiaiake Alfred spoke about indigenous resurgence in Canada, in particular the experiences of his Kahnawà:ke Mohawk community. This article is an edited version of Professor Alfred’s address.
Policing Aboriginality in Aboriginal community policing: cultural labour and policing policy
This paper examines the institutional, political and cultural conditions in which Aboriginal Community Police Officers work. The paper contends that as a result of these conditions and their interconnections, various kinds of work carried out by Aboriginal Community Police Officers are inadequately recognised locally within the Northern Territory Police Force, as well as more broadly in the policymaking discourse that constitutes the ‘Aboriginal domain’ (Rowse 1992). While policymaking has fashioned the emergence of modern Aboriginal communities, in particular through the deployment of ‘Aboriginal culture’ as a definitional property, the institutional imaginary in which Aboriginal policing is conceived remains remarkably bereft of any specific notion of cultural work. This paper seeks to address the institutional imaginary by connecting the failure to think of the cultural work involved in Aboriginal community policing to the failure to conceive bureaucratic work as culturally specific. Through the analysis of research and data gathered through focus group interviews with Aboriginal Community Police Officers in the Northern Territory, I demonstrate how the policing bureaucracy inhibits the potential of Aboriginal policing. This analysis calls for the development of Aboriginal career pathways, suggesting that this would ameliorate the pressure placed on Aboriginal Community Police Officers to assimilate to non-Aboriginal policing. By simultaneously recognising and acting on the reproduction of the cultural and normative values of whiteness in the administration of policing, the institutional advancement of Aboriginal policing could strengthen existing Aboriginal Community Policing work, as well as catalyse the means to resist institutional racism.
What constitutes benefit from health care interventions for Indigenous Australians?
Michael E Otim, Augustine D Asante, Margaret Kelaher, Chris M Doran and Ian P Anderson
The health of Indigenous Australians is poor compared to that of their counterpart Australians. Further, their health is worse by international standards. The Australian Government recently made a commitment to improving the health status of Indigenous Australians through the ‘closing the health gap’ initiative. Achieving this requires an improvement in the priority setting process through the use of evidence. Central to this is the need for a concept of ‘benefit’ from services that reflects the needs and aspirations of Indigenous Australians. The purpose of this paper is to develop an Indigenous-specific health metric that captures individual and community benefits for improving the priority setting process.
A workshop-based approach identified four dimensions of benefit in Indigenous health: individual health gain, community health gain, equity and cultural security. The individual health gain dimension accounted for 42 per cent of the total perceived benefit from health care interventions, while the remaining three dimensions each weighted between 19 per cent and 21 per cent. The individual health gain had two sub-dimensions: a DALY consistent attribute and a non-DALY attribute. The DALY attributes were by far the most influential, but while the DALY as a measure of health gain in economic evaluation is desirable, alone it grossly underestimates the overall benefit from interventions in Indigenous health.
What does Jukurrpa (‘Dreamtime’, ‘the Dreaming’) mean? A semantic and conceptual journey of discovery
Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka
This study presents and justifies a detailed explication for the Australian Aboriginal Jukurrpa concept (‘Dreamtime’, ‘the Dreaming’), phrased exclusively in simple cross-translatable words. The explication, which is partitioned into multiple sections, depicts a highly ramified and multi-faceted concept, albeit one with great internal coherence. After a short introduction, our paper is organised about successive stages in the evolution of the current explication. We present and discuss four semantic explications, each built on — and, hopefully, improving upon — its predecessor as our understanding of the Jukurrpa concept expanded and came into sharper definition. We focus primarily on Central Australian languages such as Warlpiri, Arrernte and the Western Desert Language (Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra etc.). We do not claim to have necessarily arrived at a full, perfect or correct lexical-semantic analysis, although in principle this is the goal of semantic analysis. Rather our purpose is to share a hermeneutic process and its results. The guiding framework for our process is the Natural Semantic Metalanguage approach to meaning analysis.
Alyawarr women’s song-poetry of Central Australia
Central Australian songs are renowned for their association with tracts of land and for texts that are difficult to decipher. The Alyawarr women’s songs of the Antarrengeny land-holding group are remarkable in that most verses can be parsed into speech equivalents with considerable consensus among the singers. The songs are thus revealing of how traditional Aboriginal verse is constructed. Drawing upon recordings from 1977–2011, this paper identifies 78 different verses, comprising 107 different lines of poetic-musical text. All 107 lines are set to one of 14 rhythmic patterns, which are arrangements of smaller 2-note and 3-note rhythmic patterns. Despite the transparency of the text, one question that arises concerns the role of the ubiquitous bar-initial consonant ‘l’, which appears to be the Alyawarr relativiser =arl (‘where, which’), also common in placenames. Is this its meaning in the songs, or is it just a syllable inserted to achieve the preferred 10-syllable line structure? This paper suggests that =arl is both: it enables the preferred line structure to be met and alludes to a place through its structural resemblance to a proper name. In an area where songs, like places, are owned by family groups, this structural similarity expands the ‘song-land relationship’ (Moyle 1983).
Mobile media: communicating with and by Indigenous youth about alcohol
This paper argues for the use of mobile media technology and youth engagement in creating health promotion messages aimed at young people. It also provides an account of researchers and Indigenous people and organisations working together to build skills beyond the specific research. It does this by drawing on an evaluation of an alcohol awareness campaign carried out by Goolarri Media via television and radio. The author and her collaborator carried out this evaluation with assistance from organisations and individuals in Broome, Western Australia, during the period May to August 2010. The three core objectives were to assess audience awareness of the campaign, to assess audience opinion of the campaign, and to gauge any change in audience behaviours and attitudes towards alcohol consumption. The target audience for the media campaign, and hence the main target population for data collection and analysis, was Indigenous youth in Broome and the wider Kimberley region (the broadcast area of Goolarri TV and Radio). This paper discusses the effectiveness of the television and radio advertisements and reports general findings, including that inclusion of local youth in the advertisements and in the design and production of the campaign was a positive factor, and that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth use telephones and other aspects of mobile media for social networking and entertainment, displacing television viewing and radio listening to a significant extent. The findings indicated that future advertising campaigns aimed at Indigenous youth in cities or regional centres should concentrate on mobile software technology and social media opportunities. The paper explores in detail two of the most interesting findings: disengagement of youth and the rise of mobile media use. Analysis of the synergistic qualitative and quantitative data from the study also leads to the conclusion that youth involvement in creating, accessing and sharing knowledge facilitates health promotion.