Amy-VaughanAmy: February 6, 2012 So many things to respond to! This is great! Sarah, what did your friend in Ontario mean by ‘acts of acknowledgement’? I picture it as questions that bring out or acknowledge others’ feats and accomplishments. Is that what she meant, or is it more like a ritual? As to the actions involved in ‘just being’, Cate’s post has some of the same examples as me, like sharing a cup of tea with someone. There’s a reception area at the office where I work where people sit in the morning, drink coffee, catch people as they come in, and talk and laugh together. When I am wise enough to put aside a ‘time is money’ mentality for a bit, I sit there, laugh with people, meet new people, and even hear life stories. People will talk in that setting in a way they won’t sometimes in my office. I do the same in the school building, sit on a laptop while students of all ages come in and out. A whole bunch of these small conversations build a relationship. Also, if people know what you do when you aren’t ‘on’ it builds trust. The idea of accountability Cate wrote as “holding culture central and attempting to balance some of the historically charged power imbalances that can occur between cultures” is also something I strive for. If you’re willing to share Cate, what are the repeatable actions you learned that you passed on to others about how to be in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Australians? My model has been that of the Just Therapy community ever since I learned about it several years ago, how those in positions of power as recognized by a society do not make major decisions without the input of others in the agency (ie, Caucasian people accountable to Aboriginal, men to women, etc). I know I would be lost without the ‘cultural consultants’ who help me. Peggy, I think the answer to your question “Is reflection-on-action a highly regarded yet often overlooked specific skill set for the reflective practitioner?” is a resounding YES. I constantly hear therapists say, “You wouldn’t believe what worked” and go on to describe how a personal life example or sharing something that inspired them touched a client, or that their well-executed intervention didn’t have any impact on a client, but that an off-the-cuff remark changed their day. Could you post the new thread where you’re revising your paper?

Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: February 6, 2012 Hi Amy, Thanks for this! In response to your request, I just added the link for anyone who wishes to read brief stories about Joan and  Suzanne, to see where you see places I might further “write my self in, as illustrations in the paper “Communal Practices that Build on Naturally Sustaining Webs” Here it is:;topicseen#msg5182 Peggy

Cate-Ryan 2Cate: February 10, 2012 Hi Amy and others, I’ve been holding on to your post Amy all week and really wanted to put some time into my reflection because it is such a meaningful question, thank you for asking it. I too would be lost without my ‘cultural consultants’ – some of whom overtime have become friends, warm, honest, open and supportive of learning across all of our cultures. My ‘friend’ James is a Yugambah man and has taught me so much. Over time our conversations have covered more than culture in the sense of ethnicity or race, but also sexuality, gender, sports, arts and family. We have become people to each other and that’s so powerful because historically race defined so much. I’m definitely still learning so much when it comes to working in the area of reconciliation though I’ve put some points below about where I’m not now… * Be flexible, just go there and hang out. Have an intention of – RELATIONSHIP – rather then a task needing to be accomplished straight up. * Leave space, because i’ve found when working collaboratively, the perception of my power as a – white, – educated, – professional, – full time worker, can mean my ideas are followed or can dominate. I’ve tried to compliment the skills of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait people i’m working with. Space after asking what they want too because this may be a new experience (especially when working in schools). * Listen to the hurt and the anger. It exists and continues to exist because in Australia the past wrongs have been ignored or forgotten by the majority for too long. I AM the white face sometimes and that just is the reality at times. I do’t have to be guilty, but I am responsible that I don’t repeat racism. * The sense of coming together is different in Aboriginal cultures. The relationships have an ongoing nature and move beyond a role you have or a project you share. * Take the time to learn protocol – though ask permission…it’s not my culture so I need permission to share. It is very common for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait peoples to ask about where you come from, your last name (family connections) etc. If you make the effort to learn about YOURSELF and YOUR culture, it shows learning about what you bring with you. * Ask questions even if they feel silly, it’s less harmful then assumptions. * If you find yourself in a position that means advocating for the voice of the cultural group you are working alongside, (eg in a school meeting or with administration or other workers, community members etc) say what you have to, but ensure it is own as your perspective or ownership is given to their ideas and actions. Ideally, link those asking questions to the people they want to hear the voice of, though this took time in the school I worked. * acknowledge the cultural diversity within cultures, otherwise my practice assumes single stories. * Culture is alive – like every culture, town, family; things evolve. holding Aboriginal and Torres Strait cultures to ancient expectations or stereotypes is again denying them their experience of living culture. Listen to the past and hear where things are at in the present. In Australia, this is especially critical because past authorities tried their hardest to wipe out Aboriginal cultures so how can we expect Aboriginality to be ‘black’ ‘connected’ and ‘traditional’ today? * Acknowledge the work of ancient knowledge. this involves remittence for elders, employment opportunities etc. *  Don’t act just because you sympathise. Think first about what those actions will look like to Aboriginal community members and whether the actions is ‘well meaning but tokenistic’ or intentional and authentic and embedded. On this last point an example comes to mind of a couple of year ago when a anglo-australia co-worker joined me on the project. excitedly she purchased a plaque that says “we acknowledge the traditional owners of this land” and wanted to put it up on our building. When I heard this, I asked, what would this mean to community members that walk past and see this? what expectation does this set up for our service as a whole and do our actions match the message we are giving? how do we demonstrate our acknowledgment of the traditional owners? Our services (CLA) has 3 teams and of the 3 teams, the project I worked on was the only work directly focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures. I asked our team and the co-ordinator, what would it take to be authentic in our whole organisation to make such a public statement and show we acknowledge the history of our local community, including the traditional owners. From here, our organisation formed a reconciliation committee (which I didn’t join because i wanted others to join and contribute), Elders were invited to our events and they officially welcomed us to their country, CLA workers started ‘acknowledging country’ at the beginning of formal meetings and in publications, cultural knowledge workshops were held for staff and the committee developed a booklet of the local history of Nundah (where we work) to start an account of knowledge about the the traditional owners of our local area, and across the teams, more people participated in cultural festivals and events etc. We had ‘cultural consultants’ along the way and continue to reflect on these practices. I want to share as well a sentiment I heard from an amazing Quandamooka woman, Leeanne Enoch about increasing the skills of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people and I suppose being accountable to inviting them into our western structured workplaces. Leeanne said something along the line of – if we don’t come, look for us. if we come and don’t have all the skills, grow us – i really hold on to this when when I’m working collaboratively to look for the opportunity to not take over, but support the growth of the people I’m work in partnership with. Amy, I’m sure that this is not ‘new’ to you as it feels there are many resonance’s in our work. I have found this reflection fantastic so again, thank for starting this topic. Have there been any sparkles for you? any resonances that you could share back? what are you thinking about now? take care Cate

Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: February 12, 2012 Cate, this is a stunning list. Each learning could become a daily contemplation to guide the day’s work. Thank you for this gift. Did you simply sit down and write these out? Or have you been collecting/revising this list for some time? No matter what, PLEASE keep writing. Your contribution is profoundly helpful. If it works, please let your friend James know that you are spreading what he has taught you throughout the world with many ripple effects. Here’s one… This conversation between you, Amy and Sarah – along with the “transcultural conversation between Mohammad and Cindy- is having a powerful impact on how I am structuring our new “Global Gallery.” This weekend, I’m using some new multi-media features to construct a (hopefully enticing)  space where we can honor cultural traditions, wisdom  practices, and history (including  experiences of trans-cultural migration). Looking forward to showing you soon…Peggy

sarahhughes2_profile 2Sarah: February 12, 2012 I love this list too.  I want to say more but I  have to run.  I do feel likei want to print it off and have it up in my office to keep reflecting on…. Thanks Cate! Sarah

Amy-VaughanAmy: February 13, 2012 Hi Cate, and everyone, This list is a treasure trove! All the more so because I’m sure these lessons were learned from trial and error – there are no textbooks that teach this stuff! Some of what you mentioned Cate, is part of my regular experience and some is new to me. The way you talked about relationship really resonates with me, especially “The relationships have an ongoing nature and move beyond a role you have or a project you share”. This is why my work with First Nations peoples is so totally different from other counselling jobs I have, and the reason I love it. The foundation for relationships are built outside of counselling, in meeting someone walking, in joining in with a group of people, in the greetings and teasings of everyday life that add up to the point of someone being willing to sit alone with me. I try not to take this for granted because of the trust it shows after so much historical damage between our two peoples. I learned most of these skills through the Nation members themselves, their warm greetings from day one, the lack of pretention in how they communicate, and their gratitude for my work. I felt at home very early on. Which brings me to a very powerful idea you wrote. I’ve been searching for a way to relate to indigenous peoples in Canada that takes into account our historical interactions and the great difference in status between us now, ever since I started learning the history 10 years ago. My journey has gone something like this: a guilty stance, where I constantly deferred to their opinions and tried to be a ‘blank slate’, not stating my own preference or opinion on anything, to moving more towards treating them as members of the human family first and foremost. This has taken out a lot of the ‘walking on eggshells’ I was experiencing before, and seems to lead to more fruitful conversations. What I’d like to strive for from now on is the synthesis of these ideas that you called ‘not being guilty, but responsible that I don’t repeat racism.” This takes away the burden of carrying 300 years of genocide on my shoulders, which is just paralyzing, while also calling me to account, which I need. There is so much to comment on! I also identify with not assuming what ‘culture’ means across people, and recognizing that it is ever changing. It is going to mean something different to the teenage girl who spends hours playing video games and would like to develop them someday to the teenage girl who dances traditionally for the Nation. They are both the same people, but I need to ask questions and listen to learn about them. I am learning more and more that each person is unique, rather than being homogenous within the same Nation. On your story on ‘thinking before acting”, it’s amazing that all those actions started because you saw a plaque as an opportunity! Makes me wonder what opportunities I may be missing to start conversations. One thing this post has put me in mind of, is an idea for how to solve the backstabbing and gossip that has recently sprung up in our preteen girls’ group. The elder who ran a girls’ group on reserve so many years ago is still there, as is her daughter who then took over. If they’d be willing it would be wonderful to hear their input on how to get the group back on track. Thank you, and thank you to Leanne, for her inspirational words. It goes along with a quote I keep in mind that has been credited to a Cree woman in North America, and an activist group in Queensland in the 70’s! I guess it just fits with a lot of people. It goes, “If you have come to help us, you are wasting your time… but if you have come because your liberation is bound with mine, then let us work together.” I really love the thought that we are interdependent, and that we rise and fall together. Would love to hear any further thoughts from people.

Bonnie Miller Bonnie: February 14, 2012 what a wonderful thread. thank you : ) Cate, I really appreciate the commitment your agency has made- as I read your post I am taken back to my years in community development, and in my experience, what you write about would have taken represents a LOT of work and commitment and perseverance to values – or it doesn’t happen… I am reminded of my first lesson in humility- working with a grandmother who had raised 14 children, and several grandchildren- the disruption of the community had left many of her grandchildren without their parents. I was meeting her about her 7 year old granddaughter and she asked for my advice! It was a pivotal moment- me just 30 years old, and no children, and this experienced care-giver… all I could do was ask her about her own experience. my first ‘de-centered’ moment! we can learn so much, when we are open to it.

Cate-Ryan 2Cate: February 23, 2012 Hi Amy, Peggy, Sarah and Bonnie, i’m so glad there was resonance with this ‘list’ and amy, i really appreciate your comment: “these lessons were learned from trial and error – there are no textbooks that teach this stuff!” because i really feel even if reading or hearing someone else’s experience, it is not until you tread these steps, feel tensions and consolidate what comes from your work with your own intentions will it really be a solid ‘knowing’ for each of us. it’s a little unnerving actually to look at the ‘list’ because it feel a ‘expert’ which was not my intention, though maybe this is a tension of what happens when we build skills and knowledges from experience…oh dear anyway, peggy i also wanted to respond to your question about of the list came about and i have to say, this was the first time i’ve actually written these reflections/learning down and that really strengthened something for me so top marks to this community for encouraging us  to consciously participate in reflective practices. last year at a turning point in the project work, i attempted to write up a project ‘history’ which then was morphed into workers learnings/principles and then into a conference presentation on early intervention strategies with young people – all in all, my capacity to draw anything constructive out of this multi-purpose review was swamped. it was then later in the year at one of the Narrative Practices Adelaide certificate course workshops with rob hall that my processes in the project were uncovered in relation to ‘accountability’ and ‘power’. this really resonated with stuff for me and provided a way for me to begin thinking about the intentionality of my actions that to others, and let’s admit it, even to myself looked at times to be instinctive work of someone that is ‘nice’ and can ‘understand’. i can now see that there is some much in what i’ve done that is intentionally repeatable and hopefully sustaining. i hope you are all smiling Cate

sarahhughes2_profile 2Sarah: February 24, 2012 Hi Cate, I hope you don’t mind that I shared your list with a friend of mine.  She is a Metis woman who is just discovering about her culture as she grew up without knowing her background and at the same time is working as a counsellor in a First Nations program in Northern Alberta< Canada – She said it is a huge learning curve. SHe loved your list and said it was so wonderful to think about – she used many exclamation points!!! She told me a funny story of being invited to a community event and forgetting to ask beforehand about how to greet people she is working with in public.  She said she did not know what to do as in her Master’s program she was taught not to acknowledge clients outside of the counselling room. She said this did nto feel right but she was caught with not knowing and then was just really awkward with everyone the whole time. She said one of the people she is working with, who is an elder in the community, came to talk to her about it afterwards. My friend tried to explain her dilemma and the elder did not really understand how such a rule could make sense but they ended up having a big laugh together over the situation. thanks again! Sarah

Cate-Ryan 2Cate: February 28, 2012 HI Sarah, thanks for sharing this ripple from our conversation. the story makes me smile and connects to a sense of humbleness which i really value about ‘just being’ with people. this story and humbleness connects to the ever strengthening believe i have that the more we learn about other people the more we see what we stand for and then toss it around to see where these ideas we have about ‘helping people’ have come from and if they are useful. to hold a humbleness about our own ideas that may not be absolute or fixed. I’ve recently reflected on the ‘rule’ in our practice ethics that clients and workers cannot associate after the end of a support relationship until a 2 year period. Though I can understand the difficulty at times for ‘closure’ to happen safely for people where there might be concerns for dependence or effects of a problem that limit people’s agency, i really wonder what this standard tells us about the belief in relationships as reciprocal and peoples (both workers and clients) capacity to change the relationship they have from ‘support’ to club of life member. watching the way my Aboriginal and Torres Strait community members keep ties throughout life has provided me with many examples of the value that can come from people staying in touch as life happens. When i shared this with James, he responded passionately about his value of connection and the capacity to have relationships that aren’t about maintaining uneven power dynamics, rather acknowledging the roles of mentoring etc. i’m pretty sure he too would snort at the ‘rule’ of not acknowledging people outside of the ‘counselling’ room.

Nadia-MovshovichNadia: March 1, 2012 Hi Amy, Cate, Peggy, Sarah, Bonnie.. I have just encountered this dialogue and could not stop reading and thinking it over Amy, thank you for the idea of “just being” and Cate for the list! We also have local people here in Siberia – Buryats – they lived here before we came, but we came and “somehow” they turned to be a minority, people we make fun of and not keeping their culture but do not we have to acknowledge their culture, traditions? – what can we do for them? your posts really made me think on this point… Thank you very much!