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Protocols

At Sharing Culture, we are bound by strict Protocols that are derived from Yolngu Lore. There are some things we can do and some we can't. Below we'll outline a couple of these things.

  • We only work in Communities that have invited us and requested our support.
  • We work on the basic principal of RESPECT and integrity in everything we do.
  • We are highly ethical in the work we do and with the knowledge we often have the privilege to be entrusted with.
  • We do not teach other peoples languages and cultures, this is the right and responsibility of the Local Community. We do however support Communities and provide opportunities and a framework to teach their cultures. 
  • Sharing Culture does not try to replace the amazing work already being done by Elders and other dedicated people in their Communities, we are trying to enhance the work already being done and build capacity of our people.
  • The Communities we work with have full control of their knowledge and retain ownership in their Intellectual Property (IP) at all times. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have a legal right to their Cultural Heritage. For more information, please see the information below on Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Material.

Every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community has their own Protocols. If you are seeking information about a specific area, the best thing to do is contact the Local Elders and Community. What may be extremely important in one area may have no relevance in other areas. If you aren't sure who to contact, your local Aboriginal Health or Housing organisations are a good place to start. If you are still unsure, please let us know and we may be able to assist or point you in the right direction.

In the Sharing Culture Teaching & Learning Program, we've developed a standard set of Protocols that students learn in the very first lesson. When we work with Elders and Communities, these Protocols become localised to ensure they are relevant to the Local Area. The Protocols are specifically relevant to students when they engage with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Knowledge and Culture through out the Teaching & Learning Program. These Protocols include:

  • Language
  • Knowledge
  • Yarning Circles
  • Stories
  • Environment
  • Each Other
  • Ceremonies
  • Cultural Heritage 

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People and cultures

At times we make reference to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout our website, during presentations & discussions, and in our learning materials. This is a sign of respect, however these are two very distinct cultures. So too are Aboriginal cultures across Australia. We do not speak on behalf of other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Communities. Where appropriate, at times we may speak of our experiences, however in no way does Sharing Culture represent the views of all Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We do not regard ourselves as experts in Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultures. We do have more understanding and experiences with Aboriginal cultures. While we have a high level of understanding and a lot of connections, there are far too many Aboriginal Cultures to be considered experts. We have a lived experience of both Traditional and urban Aboriginal societies and cultures, and draw on these experiences to assist others. We have lived in remote Aboriginal Communities and Homelands in North East Arnhem Land, as well as living in rural and urban areas in Far north QLD and the Sunshine Coast. We can speak of our experiences and knowledge of Yolngu culture, but do not represent the views of all Yolngu. At the end of the day, the Local Aboriginal Custodians are the experts in their culture and where ever possible, we encourage people to seek out the appropriate people for local advice.

When we talk about Country, we are referring to the areas of land, waterways and seas that are the Traditional Lands of each different Aboriginal Language Group or Community. When we use the word Community, we are usually referring to Aboriginal Communities.

Aboriginal Languages

At Sharing Culture, we do not go into Communities and teach anyone Aboriginal Language or culture. However we do support Language speakers and workers to provide a platform to pass on their languages, and have assisted some Communities to repatriate cultural practices. On request we can support the Communities to find language materials using public databases and other material we have been given permission to share. We can also pass on our knowledge of language, and at times have assisted Elders to read and bring to life dictionaries and other written materials. Where ever possible, we also connect people to others who we feel may be able to assist the Community.

We strongly believe that wherever possible, Aboriginal Languages should be taught by the Aboriginal people who are Custodians of the language. It can be very disrespectful for a non-Indigenous person or an Aboriginal person from another area to teach the Local Language with out getting permission from the Elders and Community. Also from our experiences, naturally most Aboriginal Communities want their own Local languages taught on their Country. It is usually very disrespectful to teach language from another area on someone elses' Country, especially without permission from the Community whose Country it is. There is the rare exception, and there are also ways of overcoming what may be barriers such as when the Tribal boundaries of certain Countries and languages are unclear or may be in dispute.  

We have a very high level of language skill and are happy to share our knowledge when asked. Gadj Maymuru was raised in NE Arnhem and is a product of bi-lingual education, learning to read and write in Yolngu Matha - Dhuwala & Gupapuyngu (Aboriginal Languages) from primary school onwards. His teacher, and later school principal, was the late Doctor Yunupingu who fought tirelessly for bi-lingual education and two way learning. So while Gadj is not a linguist, he is an Aboriginal man whose first languages are Aboriginal Languages. Jodie Maymuru has learned to speak, read and write Dhuwala & Gupapuyngu languages. Jodie has a reasonable level of language skill. This combined knowledge of languages has assisted others who have no speakers available to learn some of their pronunciation and start to bring languages to life. 

Dreaming Stories

We are often asked by schools for Dreaming stories. We are unable to meet these requests as there is a depth to Yolngu Dreaming stories that is not possible to capture in a book. These stories are only passed on to our children and family, they are not for public use.  We would also never retell Dreaming stories from another Country (Aboriginal Community or land/area).

Aboriginal Art

Another request we often get is to do lessons to teach students how do do Aboriginal Art. This is against our Protocols as art is more than just a few dots on a page. Painting styles and meanings vary across the country. Elements of Aboriginal art belong to specific cultures - things like dot paintings belong to specific areas, as does cross hatching. We would prefer that students learn the importance of paintings in passing on history as well as how it's used to identify  peoples connection to Clan and Country. We would rather students use their own techniques and images to portray meaning of their stories, rather than try to replicate Aboriginal Art. Aboriginal art should only be done by Aboriginal people, unless permission has been given by the Community. We are in the process of developing lessons to teach children about the importance of art and paintings. As Communities localise these lessons, it will be up to them if they want to share and/or teach techniques and meanings. 

Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Material (ICIP Material)

Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Material means material which is the subject of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights (ICIP Rights). ICIP Rights refer to the rights of Indigenous peoples to their cultural heritage. Heritage comprises all objects, sites, and knowledge, the nature or use of which has been transmitted or continues to be transmitted from generation to generation, and which is regarded as pertaining to a particular Indigenous group or its territory. The heritage of Indigenous people is a living heritage, and includes:
a)    Literary, performing, musical and artistic works (including songs, music, dances, stories, ceremonies, symbols, languages and designs);
b)    Scientific, agricultural, technical and ecological knowledge (including cultigens, medicines and phenotypes of flora and fauna);
c)    All items of moveable cultural property;
d)    Human tissues and remains;
e)    Immovable cultural property (including sacred and historically significant sites and burial grounds);
f)    Documentation of Indigenous peoples’ heritage in archives, film, photographs, videotape, audiotape of all forms of media.

To learn more about Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property, you might like to visit the website of Terri Janke and Company - http://terrijanke.com.au/index.php/publications/


 
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