Aboriginal Culture & Settlement Programs

12 years ago I moved from Italy to Australia. In 2002 I had the opportunity to study Film and Television at the Eora College in Redfern for one year. I participated in 20 short film productions with Aboriginal students and teachers. As soon as I left that college, I realised that Aboriginal culture is not well known or widespread as I thought.
Then I began teaching English in the AMEP (Australian Migrant English Program) and LLNP (Language Literacy & Numeracy Programme) and more recently SEE (Skills for Education and Employment) program. Over the years I met passionate teachers who make an effort to teach Aboriginal culture to new migrants to foster and promote a better understanding of the Aboriginal community. Some invite Aboriginal dancers to perform at special school events. But aim convinced that all of this is not enough.
Currently we use an AMEP Settlement Coursebook of 156 pages, published in 2012. It contains 10 settlement topics: A New Life, Learning English, Health, Money, Housing, Community, Transport, Education, Work and Law. Nothing about Aboriginal culture! Then I reread the book thinking I might have missed references to the Aboriginal culture. The only references that I found are: on page 6 a small picture of the Aboriginal flag, and on page 7 the following paragraph: “The first communities in Australia were the indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people who settled here at least 40,000 years ago. Indigenous cultures are an important part of Australia’s national identity and represent 2.5% of the population”.
That’s it! Nothing else! The book contains 156 pages to help migrants understand Australia and it’s culture and it also contains hundreds of web sites relevant to get specialised information about RTA, NRMA, Centrelink, Department of Immigration, etc.
But only 3 lines about Aboriginal culture and not one web site. Then I checked the web site of the Department of Immigration, http://www.immi.gov.au, which contains a downloadable book, Life in Australia, in many languages. This book has 46 pages. At least it has one page dedicated to Aboriginal history. On page 16 the book describes Aboriginal history in this way: “The initial contact between the Europeans and Indigenous Australians disrupted traditional lifestyles and practices and the Indigenous population declined dramatically during the 19th and early 20th centuries”. No mention is made about why they declined dramatically.
It seems that to a certain extent there are many initiatives to promote Aboriginal languages and culture in the public schools around Australia. But what about promoting a better understanding of the Aboriginal languages and cults among the new communities of migrants?
I’m wondering, is it possible for the Aboriginal communities and organisations around Australia to provide a list of recommended web sites promoting Aboriginal languages and culture to be included as reference material for publications specifically designed for new migrants? Is it possible to prepare articles about how Aboriginal people wish to be represented in those publications?
I believe that a series of initiatives promoting Aboriginal culture among the growing number of migrants would help a lot. Is it possible to have introductions written by Aboriginal representatives in books designed to help new migrants? Is it possible to have recommended web sites to better understand Aboriginal culture? What I am suggesting is the introduction of Aboriginal Culture in the Settlement Programs. When there is a will there is a way.
Enrico Scano.

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One Response to Aboriginal Culture & Settlement Programs

  1. Vaso Elefsiniotis says:

    Enrico hello, I think you’ve raised a very important and critical issue and am personally glad you’ve alerted us to the paucity of information about Aboriginal history and cultures in the settlement booklets. I will raise these issues here in Melbourne and see what we can do as an organisation to influence the content in settlement booklets and similar publications.
    Thanks again,
    Vaso Elefsiniotis – Linguist and Research & Policy Officer – Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc (VAEAI)

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