This morning’s article in The Age, Rebuilding trust with indigenous communities the first step, coincides with a conversation I was involved in earlier today. Recently, Reconciliation Australia’s barometer revealed that “trust” is the most significant current obstacle on the roadway to genuine reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia. It is so easy, in our respective communities, to discuss what is the “right” thing to do to improve life quality through health, housing and education – leading either to such heavy-handed initiatives as the infamous “intervention,” or piecemeal guess work.
Good intentions, however, are no substitute for sitting down, talking together and re-assessing presuppositions and mind-sets. What we thought was so might turn out not to be so. Some of our ready made “solutions” may, instead, simply exacerbate the problems that lead to poverty and sickness. The most successful communities have been collaborative ones, where mutual respect is cherished and indigenous and exotic expertise are blended.
Intervention is easy – it can be done with the stroke of a politician’s pen. But it kills trust.
Collaboration takes work, and it begins by sitting down in the community circle and listening with respectful ears.