Harnessing culture as a protection and strength
It is vital to understand and harness the unique strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and communities. They can be drawn upon to protect children from family violence.
Ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture can protect children
'We are like the tree standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burnt, but inside the tree the sap is still flowing and under the ground the roots are still strong. Like that tree we have endured the flames and we still have the power to be re-born.'
Writings of Miriam Rose Ungunmerr in Atkinson, 2012.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are rich tapestries of community knowledge, the wisdom of Elders, and the guidance of spiritual and cultural practice and protocol. You can use these strengths to help build protection around a child who may be at risk of family violence and the subsequent consequences of trauma and family breakdown.
The following paragraphs provide a brief look at some of the ways you can tap into culture to help children overcome violence through community support.
A whole community can be drawn on
The concepts of extended family and ‘community as family’ in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities encompass the idea that children are not just the concern of the biological parents, but of the entire community. The raising, care, education and discipline of children are the responsibility of everyone—male, female, young and old. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have strong family values.
Elders provide wisdom and leadership
In many communities, Elders provide support and influence. Ask local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers which community leaders may give insight and leadership about family violence in their community.
Cultural practices, protocols and spirituality support healing and parenting
"A key characteristic of the collective Aboriginal community is to help the spirit of a child emerge as he or she grows and experiences life. This is done by letting the child know who they are in relation to their family, the broader society, the environment and the living spirits of their sacred ancestors and land."
(from ‘Growing up our way’, a SNAICC resource).
'The role of Elders is difficult for outsiders to understand. We rely strongly on them as key decision makers within families. They are the people we hold the greatest respect for because many of them went through so much, so that now we do not have to suffer the injustices they experienced. Their guidance is often illustrated through everyday life and their teachings are often done subconsciously; we follow, we observe and we go on to teach our own families. It is through our Elders that the spirit of Aboriginal people is kept alive.'
Strengths of Australian Aboriginal cultural practices in family life and child rearing (2014), Australian Institute of Family Studies.
For many Aboriginal families and communities, engaging in traditional cultural practices and reclaiming a sense of cultural identity is the key to alleviating Aboriginal disadvantage and regaining their rightful place in broader Australian society.
Read the Strengths of Australian Aboriginal cultural practice in family life and child rearing paper from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (2014).
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