Underlying causes to Aboriginal Youth Violence

PNG Rascal violence now in NT

Some of us have seen it coming for a long time.

Now, this ball-faced violence is bursting out like an untreated boil across the NT.

Aboriginal Youth Anti-social behaviour predicted

Sadly the lawlessness now experienced in some towns and communities across NT by some Aboriginal youth was seen as coming many years.

In 1994/5, the then Chief Minister Marshall Perron called the Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra to a meeting, which I also attended as DR Gondarra’s consultant and Community Development Officer/interpreter. The meeting was about “how to stop Darwin from turning into a community of high-wire fence compounds around houses and businesses like in Papua New Guinea”.

The then Chief Minister saw the problem and wanted to find solutions. His first question was, “Why were the break and entries and the other social violence happening”? His main concern was in relation to Aboriginal Youth. Many Yolngu and other Aboriginal Youth were coming to Darwin with their parents for various reasons and then were getting into trouble.

Now, as it was back then, there are no simple answers to this question. If they were, then we would have no problems. Everyone would have the solution. However, to find the solution to any problem, you must find the underlying causes.

There are clear causes or seeds underlying this problem that can be identified. And it is my hope that this short paper will be able to do that.

Starting a conversation

The then Chief Minister started working with us through the underlying causes. Trying to get some real clarity and answers. Sadly the process stalled. It seemed that then-cabinet and senior bureaucrats were finding it hard to look beyond the normal cultural lens and find real reasons for the problems. It was easier just to blame Aboriginal people for this tragic situation.

Now blaming a neighbour for a problem when we are an equal part of it will never find a solution. We are just kicking the can down the road rather than picking it up. And sadly, it will still be there for our children to deal with.

A 200-year-old problem

This is a 200-year-old problem that has chewed away at race relations across this new nation since the beginning of colonisation.

From the outset, we can see the same pattern between the original Australians and the then-British settlers. This same problem has repeatedly repeated itself over many generations across the country. Just look at the life of Uncle Jack Charles, who passed away recently in Melbourne.

Look at the early days in New South Wales and Victoria; you will see the same issues. Then places like Western Australia and Queensland have seen this lawlessness for decades. Now it has reached the “last frontiers” in central Australia and North Australia. Yet it seems we have been unable to learn from it.

Finding the real underlying causes

Finding the underlining causes of this condition and then dealing with them will bring closure to this problem over time. Also, discovering these real causes or seeds of the problem can help us rehabilitate current offenders more effectively without the ongoing crisis we seem to be having in youth detention in other places.

Just putting more punitive sentences in place will not disappear the problem. Sadly it will only make the problem worse. This attitude, and the public commentary that goes along with it, just adds petrol to the fire that is already burning.

Young people from any social background who display all sorts of anti-social end-stage behavioural problems; Do not sniff petrol, self-harm, commit acts of vandalism, break & enter, or act violently towards the wider community and sometimes their own family just because they are bad or bored.

Not a genetic disposition

This is also not a genetic disposition. Something within their nurturing environment has created this condition which they now have to live with.

Who is in control here?

After 50 years of working with Yolngu people here in north-east Arnhem Land, it seems to me that many of these young people are the victims here. The seeds of this problem lie well beyond their control. In fact, it seems control over this issue lies squarely in the hands of the English-speaking dominant Australian community. However, that community has trouble seeing or even understanding this issue at play here.

Cross-cultural cross-language big red conflict flag

There are clear human dynamic reasons why this anti-social behaviour occurs. One key underlying factor is that it occurs in a cross-cultural, cross-language environment that exists in every First Nations community where they still speak their original Australian languages. And in those First Nations communities that have been unsuccessfully assimilated into the mainstream English-speaking dominant society, having lost their original Australian languages and traditional law social organisation parameters.

After living in a traditional First Nations community for 11 years, I can tell you these anti-social behaviours are not part of the traditional Aboriginal culture.

The seeds of this conflict are not in traditional Aboriginal culture

To be clear, these anti-social traits have not come from the original Australian (Aboriginal) culture. In fact, I believe they are a result of the failed interface between that original Australian culture and the dominant mainstream English-speaking culture that now thrives across Australia.

That is, maybe the cross-cultural cross-language environment has something to do with the development of these anti-social behaviours we see here.

This fact alone should be enough to wave a big red warning sign at us.

More punitive jail terms will not work

Therefore if that is the case, more punitive jail terms, even locking these children up in solitary confinement torture chambers, will not solve the problem.

As with any real-life problem, like a medical or mechanical problem, the solution can only be found by finding the root cause/s and then implementing the correct effective solutions.

In most cases, these young people are traumatised young people living in families and communities who have already experienced high levels of trauma, confusion and dysfunction over many decades. Most of these young people then go on to experience this same trauma as part of their own personal experience. As a result, their childhood becomes one long traumatic experience.

We need to look at the interface between themselves and the wider mainstream Australian English-speaking community to find the answers.


Born on the wrong side

In many ways, some of these Aboriginal Youth suffer from a crisis of living just by being born on the wrong side of the ‘mainstream divide’. That is the divide that exists between their communities and the Australian English-speaking mainstream culture.

“They tell me we were once self-sufficient, great hunters and warriors … I have been told my people walked our country for 40,000 years or more, and we were masters of our environment. What has happened to us in such a short time? And why do I feel so lifeless and broken?”

Young Yolngu persons lament by Richard Trudgen

Life in a traditional community

During the 1970s and the 1980s, I lived in the newly established community of Ramingining in central Arnhem Land. At that time, relationships with young Yolngu children and teenagers were almost always a great experience. They wanted to get to know every Balanda (English first language person) who came along. They were happy and open, cordial relationships. They wanted to learn from Balanda and befriend them.

However, since the disastrous 2007 intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, the scene on the ground has changed dramatically. Any analysis done on the before and after will show us this. In short, it’s as though we spent billions of dollars to create the mess we now have to live with.

Today if I ask Yolngu Youth why they are doing break and entries and vandalising property, many will say, “It’s because we hate Balanda”. And if you ask why do you hate Balanda? Many have said to me directly, “It’s because Balanda hate us”. Here lies one of the seeds that we need to deal with.

Getting to the bottom of this psychosocial human-dynamic problem will take a bit of deep diving into some subject areas that many people have never been immersed in before.

Parents unable to smile and enjoy life

What is going on for these young people?

Some suffer directly from their parents, who are also no longer coping. Many see their parents unable to smile and enjoy life. Some of their parents just want to drink all the time to forget who they are because they are tide of living confused, powerless lives “in a white man’s world”.

I grew up in a family where my father was an alcoholic because of his Second World War prison experience. So I understand this experience from that point of view. This leaves young people with a crippled view of life and sometimes with nowhere to go.

These young people hear of intercultural conflict and accounts of injustice that has occurred to their people or families since ‘Balanda’ English-speaking outsiders came to their country. This whole experience leaves them in a no man’s in-between land.

They are not back where they were in their traditional tribal cultures that kept them safe and productive for 60,000+ years. Neither are they over in the mainstream English-speaking dominant Australian community where they can live an equally productive yet very different life.

No, they are caught in a no-mans in-between land of neither one nor the other. A land of psychosocial trauma and conflict. They feel angry about the plight of their own parents and grandparents. Yet they are not socially, politically or economically enmeshed in the new worlds that now dominates the world around them. A world that is as strange to them as their truly traditional roots are now estranged to them.

In fact, these young people suffer from our multilayer crisis effect brought on by a number of things.

Three main underlying problems

There are three main underlying causes of the crisis we/they now face.

These three things are;

Intergenerational Transfer of Trauma

Intergenerational Transfer of Confusion and

Inherent Structural Community Violence

Intergenerational transfer of trauma

There has been a lot written about the intergenerational transfer of trauma. So it is fairly well understood. This is where the trauma that their grandparents and parents experienced in their lifetimes is transmitted unknowingly to them. This real-world experience and crippled nature define and shape their life.

The ramifications of intergenerational transfer of trauma have been clearly defined in the Vietnam Soldiers Return Study and in many other places. This study showed that there are consequences for the third-generation children of war veterans. For example, Vietnam veterans whose fathers also served in combat displayed higher levels of PTSD symptoms. The suicide rates among the children of Australian veterans are three times the expected rate, and death by accident is twice the expected rate.

It is the same for many Aboriginal children at present. They suffer from this Intergenerational transfer of trauma passed down from generation to generation.

They are also re-traumatised by their contemporary experiences in their relations with mainstream English-speaking Australians world.

The Intergenerational transfer of trauma has many factors to it. Whatever we think about it, it is real and must be taken seriously. There is no way the effects of it will not magically disappear. It needs real effective interventions. And, of course, if wrong interventions are put in place, the trauma will be intensify.

Now I don’t think anybody in this space wants to be the agent that traumatises young people. But unfortunately, in most cases, that is what is happening due to misdirected interventions, and surprisingly problem gets worse.

Intergenerational transfer of confusion

This intergenerational transfer of trauma is also compounded by another more uncommon intergenerational experience. And that is the intergenerational transfer of confusion.

A subject that is not very well understood

This is an experience that most within the mainstream Australian English-speaking Australian community know very little about from their own experience of growing up in Australia. And it has not been widely written about or studied.

The main reason it hasn’t been studied is because it takes truly bilingual bicultural people to truly experience it and therefore understand it.

Even many mainstream English-speaking Australians who have worked at the coal in Aboriginal Communities usually deny that it exists. They usually see the anti-social problems that occur as parents not taking enough control or some other simpler solution.

Yet many of these people do not speak the language of the people or really understand the worldview of the people that they are working with. Many assumptions about each other are made from both sides of the cultural divide.

This confusion occurs when these young people’s forebears couldn’t understand the English-speaking world and the mainstream culture that had descended on them and their way of life.

These previous generations remain confused about the central underlying knowledge about a whole range of things, including Western economics, law and even new diseases and sickness that were introduced. This includes diseases and sicknesses that became prominent because of introduced Western foods and lifestyle. The forebears remained confused throughout their lifetime and passed the same confusion onto the present generation, who are now kicking back.

Locked out of the English-speaking mainstream information loop

These young people are unintentionally locked out of the English-speaking mainstream information loop. And if you don’t know what you don’t know, the massive confusion experienced implodes across your life. You see yourself as a “dumb, backward black” because you were born into an original Australian community that the mainstream English language culture even names that way.

Adults give up fighting and drop out
Culture of Silence

Their adults have already given up fighting back. Some go off, get drunk, and do drugs, ending their lives very quickly while creating more of a nightmare for their own young people. Others slide into a Culture of Silence.

In this culture of silence, they receive very little mainstream intellectual stimulus, and they even stop participating in their own culture within their own communities. Many just sit down and play cards when not drunk.

At times, they just repeat meaningless English words and phrases with no semantic substance on meaning. Some English speakers think this is great because the people have used the English words in the right word order. No one checks to see if there is real understanding.

Ten years in not closing the gap

I was producing podcasts for Yolngu Radio in 2020. One of my Yolngu coproducers asked can we do a program on the meaning of Closing the Gap. This podcast clearly shows that the reason why the Gap does not close is due to poor communication.

For 10 years, the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem land had dozens of bureaucrats come and speak to them about Closing the Gap. Yet the people still did not understand what “closing the gap” meant after all those meetings.

So the conversations were not only wasted exercises but an exercise in Structural Violence, where the people were continually traumatised and belittled because they had no idea what the English first language public servants and medical people were talking about.

Then many wonder why Yolngu and other traditional Aboriginal people do not turn up to meetings. They then hold barbecues to try and pull the people in instead of just communicating with them in their original Australian language and through the correct original Australian cultural mores.

From this constant lack of information, many of these Aboriginal people give up thinking about the key economic, legal or health issues. Issues that control and determine the outcomes of their living experience. In the end, they give up trying to participate and become lifetime dependents on mainstream society, entering a Culture of Silence.

These communities need information-empowering programs

These communities need programs designed to empower them, so they can start to know that they are not just mindless pawns in a top-down controlling society, but equal active citizens.

The people need real answers to their questions where they can grow in confidence and experience real control over their lives.

They need good dialogue that is constructed around a curriculum set by their needs, not by the mainstream national accreditation colonial processes or any other English mainstream curricula development process in some English-speaking, mainstream culture lab.

They need their knowledge gaps addressed and answers to their questions.

Come to understand the mainstream western world

Through programs like this, and with a new level of English, they will slowly come to realise they can understand the workings of the mainstream Western world for the first time.

This means that they will not be limited to just simple, tangible subject conversations with the mainstream English-speaking community around Family, Fishing and Football. Now they will be able to participate in real discussions around understanding the operations of the modern world; interesting conversations at a deep academic concept level.

More than just circuses for the people

They need more than just “circuses for the people”, to keep them happy while the massive booming Aboriginal Industry gears up to meet their every (mainstream) defined need. Where mainstream companies and organisations make a fortune out of their “culture of silence”.

They need real information in their language, answering their questions and empowering them into an active participating future as equal citizens in this so-called lucky land.

Inherent Structural Community Violence

This structural community violence comes from the unintentional violence committed by the English speaking mainstream Australian community against these young people and their communities. It is inherent in that it is built into the structure that exists the two communities.

This is an unrecognised form of violence due to the fact that these young people and their parents live in a world where they speak and think in an Australian (Aboriginal) language, not the mainstream English language that arrived here 200 years ago. They have grown up speaking their language or the remnants of that language.

It’s all about good communication

Because their mind processes information in this language, not in the mainstream English language, they cannot access or appropriate the mainstream English knowledge and information that other Australians have open access to. This is not rocket science. It is all about good communication.

What they need is good access to fundamental underlying information and education in their own language, their speaking and thinking language. Their heart language.

Without that, they cannot understand how the modern western world operates. Many will struggle to understand why they can’t get a slice of the action. This leads to them becoming extremely radicalised and angry against the mainstream community. Many go on to commit suicide. Others start attacking mainstream businesses that “seem to have the ability to get unlimited money from the government”.

Extended frontier wars situation

Yet very little is done to overcome this massive disadvantage. Circuses for the people, shooting basketball hoops and kicking footballs will not do it. In fact, they could make the problem worse. Extended recreation doesn’t teach disciplined lives or give the young people access to information. In many ways, it just says to them that they are missing out. 

Drop-in centres are worse because they have all the goods of the Western world for the young people to experience and play with. These young people then wonder why they do not have these things at home like other white kids.

The unintentional trauma the Structural Violence creates becomes a part of the extended frontier wars situation between their community and the mainstream English-speaking community.

Break and entries and car theft are also seen as legitimate targets; in the confusing English-speaking community. It becomes what these young people see as a tit-for-tat reality.

In 200 years no English learning programs for First Nations people

For example: In two hundred years, no Australian government has created an open-source English learning program that works from an original Australian language to English. So the Gap of disadvantage never closes.

To clarify, I am not talking about learning to read and write English here. Learning to read and write English should come after people have the opportunity to learn to speak here and understanding mainstream English. These programs should be written in Yolngu Matha another original Australian (Aboriginal) language, so the people can self-learn themselves.

If this self-learning English program was available to all language groups across Australia, then First Nations adults could get access to the real information they needed. And young First Nations youth could go to school and get access to learning and information like other mainstream English-speaking Australians.

But no such program exists, and so the Structural Violence barrier remains. Young Aboriginal children who speak their original Australian language get traumatised daily just trying to go to school. Just ask many of the Yolngu kids who attend mainstream schooling, even within their own Aboriginal community, and they will give you a big list of traumatic experiences they sometimes experience daily.

I remember one young Yolngu teenage girl saying how she just wanted to get some marijuana and smoke it to feel good because after being at school all day, she learnt nothing except it made her feel as though she was useless.

We need to stop the cross-cultural cross-language war

Empowering the people as individuals, whole families and communities with good information programs in language can slowly turn the situation around and help to decrease or stop this anti-social behaviour. This will be much more effective than any increase in punitive regimes that will cost a fortune and inflame the problem. We need to stop the cross-cultural cross-language war that is currently occurring and stop the structural violence.

If this could happen, individuals, families, and communities will create their own interventions that are necessary to stop the decay in their own lives. Whole communities can return to more “normal”, healthy, responsive and responsible behaviour. These communities might even become productive rather than being a continual drain on the government purse.

Increasing the violence rather than eliminating it

Sadly many programs designed to empower communities can have the opposite effect. Many are just more of the same old programs that disempower the people in the first place, such as youth drop-in centres and recreation programs that can divide the young people from their own parents and elders. Many of these programs leave the young people feeling upset with their own parents, that they are not able to provide the same sort of recreation.

These programs are usually counter-productive and will increase the violence, such as in Alice Springs when they opened the drop-in centre in the CBD.

Suppose it was the people’s parents running these programs that would be different. But many of these programs are run by mainstream English-speaking young people, and so they are usually extremely counter-productive. See below for more on this.

Some will say that the families are dysfunctional. Yes, many are, but the slow road back to normality is better than spending tens of millions of dollars making the problem worse.

Some programs that work

For programs to work, they need to address the real needs of the affected communities.

Hope for Health

For example, Hope for Health, one of our sister programs in Arnhem Land, empowers Yolŋu people to overcome chronic diseases, including; diabetes, heart disease and renal failure. The central core of the program is that Yolngu people themselves are able to investigate the relationship between diet and exercise, and chronic disease, down to a deep biomedical level.

This is because the program is delivered in their own language and worldview and works around the people’s own questions they have concerning the subject. Through this process, the people are able to set their own curricula so the learning outcomes meet their real information needs and gaps.

Education programs should not be constructed around what mainstream society believes First Nations people need.

This caution also needs to be taken up by English first language Aboriginal people constructing programs for English fifth and sixth language Aboriginal people who still speak their original Australian languages or an Aboriginal English. Programs driven by well-funded well-intentioned outsiders, despite their genetic background, will start from the wrong place and only add confusion on top of confusion.

COVID 19 education

A recent example of this was COVID-19 information provided to Yolŋu communities by the government-controlled media. Information that did not answer the people’s questions but instead followed the dominant culture mainstream media news around blood clots from AstraZeneca vaccines, when only the Pfizer vaccine was available to all Aboriginal people in the NT.

This created vaccine hesitancy in communities where vaccine hesitancy had not previously been a problem.

Then the government continued the Structural Violence model to try and control the information into many Aboriginal communities. It was called “A single source of information” in bureaucratic terms. But that meant the curriculum was set by English first language people rather than the people getting answers to their own questions.

We produced many in-house podcasts in language throughout this period to answer their questions. But, the English-speaking mainstream powerbrokers worked to ensure they never got airplay. So we had to turn them into videos and tried to get them out through YouTube.

With access to good information, people can run their own communities

In the 1970s and the early 1980s, I worked with Yolŋu people in Ramingining, using their language and cultural constructs to understand mainstream issues. The Yolŋu people managed their whole community, carrying out administration work, essential services, road and house construction, and winning government contracts.

They also successfully defeated petrol sniffing by re-establishing an age-old teaching ceremony to transition young men and women into adulthood. This teaching ceremony still happens every year, all controlled by the people. (Recorded in Why Warriors Lie Down and Die)

I worked with a core team of four Yolngu in a community development office during this time. We designed Discovery Education Programs together. That meant that any question members of their community had in relation to how mainstream English-speaking Australian culture worked could be answered by us working as a team. At times people were just looking for the meaning of a difficult English word or the real meaning of the name of a new government program or government acronyms for those programs. Government program acronyms are way overused and never mean anything to the people. They are worse than the phrase “Closing the Gap”.

We become the people’s Google search engine

We became like a Google search engine for people in that community – a bridge between the mainstream English-speaking ‘Balanda’ world and their own language, Yolŋu Matha.

We worked on medical, economic and legal literacy subjects, but Yolŋu people themselves determined the curriculum through their own questions and or confusion.

I would do an analysis of their knowledge gaps around the subject when it was first raised, mapping the contradictions we discovered between the people’s worldview, their understanding of the particular subject, and the actual information about the subject.

By doing so, we developed a list of cultural knowledge gaps and contradictions that needed addressing so that they would have full access to knowledge about that subject.

This analysis needs to be done by a bilingual, bicultural dominant culture English-speaking person. This is because the information the people are seeking is locked up in the English, dominant culture language/speaking world. Here the people depend upon the bicultural, bilingual colleague who can then participate in the dialogue with them in their language. Without that, the knowledge/language gap cannot be closed.

It is these gaps in their knowledge that many First Nations people in communities across the country need closing. The gaps exist because the answers they need are in the English-speaking mainstream world, which they do not have access to because English is a second, fifth or sixth language for them. Yet without this knowledge, they cannot truly understand how the contemporary world operates and become active citizens in it.

The education material we developed was delivered in their own language so Yolŋu people could fully participate in the discussions and receive real understanding. At the same time, many Yolŋu people also learnt many academic English terms and concepts related to that particular topic.

Using this method, any type of medical, legal or economic subject can be taught effectively and efficiently to the oldest or youngest people in First Nations communities. Their languages are well suited to teach this level of information.

Inter-generational transfer of knowledge rather than trauma

And once it is taught to adults in one generation, it will be taught internally to successive generations by the people themselves.

For example, when all the parents and elders understand mainstream Australian laws and rights, they can then apply them to protect vulnerable people within their families and community groups. That is, they know when they can go to the police for help.

I remember one senior Yolngu man asking me one day what Balanda thought about young teenagers coming and trying to abuse his daughters. I told it clearly in language that this was against the law in Balanda society and that the police would be willing to help them deal with any young person who came and tried to force himself on his daughters.

The old man was surprised because many of the young people told them that what they were doing was Balanda culture. The young people with no access to mainstream knowledge in their own language then take the Hollywood version of reality as what is acceptable in mainstream Balanda society.

The missing link is information — Yolngu and other traditional Aboriginal people need access to information so different situations can be understood and action can be taken in line with guidance from mainstream professionals.

If people don’t know their rights and responsibilities in relation to mainstream Australian law, how can law and order issues be dealt with effectively or in a culturally safe way? How can people even ask for help in a culturally safe, appropriate way?

Community education, not elitist education

the community education method that I use is aimed at educating the whole community, not just a few individuals within it. It looks at the needs of the whole Yolngu society as a socio-economic-political unit to be empowered, not just a few young people.

Mainstream Australian society always seems to want to glorify Youth and concentrate on empowering Youth within Aboriginal communities. And the results of this are clearly seen in the illegal kickback that is now happening in the NT.

Many mainstream programs act as elitist education programs, targeting specific Aboriginal students and often taking them out of their communities in order for them to receive training.

Elitist education programs are very destructive, destroying the very essence of a community. It is colonial in nature and aimed more at assimilation than at empowering. It sets up Yolngu against Yolngu.

When only a few young individuals from within their communities are empowered with mainstream information and knowledge, it sets up an un-level playing field — only now it is within Yolngu families and communities themselves.

The young Western-educated Yolngu students often return home and challenge the authority of the community’s democratically selected traditional leaders. These young people are usually told over and over again in college that have attended that they will go back and lead their communities. Teaching their communities of how to live in a modern world.

This creates many disputes. When the students lose these disputes, as many do, they spend the rest of their lives on the road, living on the fringes of many mainstream communities as itinerants.

Those young people who win the battles usually suppress the community’s democratically selected traditional leadership and end up keeping most of the mainstream culture’s money, resources and information to themselves.

The community feels powerless to control them. This is because the community does not know where their power and authority come from, so they cannot control these self-appointed “leaders”.

Their immediate family becomes wealthy while the wider community suffers. They act like dictators with little community control.

This model of education creates a very undemocratic governance structure within First Nations communities and contributes to many end-stage anti-social problems we are now seeing in Aboriginal communities across Australia.

 Capt Phillip’s Failed colonial model

This is a failed colonial model aimed at ‘helping’ the people. In 1789, Captain Arthur Philip forcibly captured two Aboriginal men named Bennelong and Colby, from Manly Cove, and pioneered a method of Aboriginal “advancement”, and trialled it on these two men. (Read more in Bennelong: a foot in two worlds, but a heart in none)

This failed colonial method did not work then and does not work today. Many young Aboriginal people, who speak English as a second language, become lost between two worlds, completely confused and rejected by both the mainstream and their own communities.

Often they are destined to a life of drug abuse and crime in the mainstream world. Most itinerant Aboriginal people in Darwin, and other capital cities across Australia, have walked in the same tragic shoes of Bennelong and Colby, adding greatly to the incarceration rates of Aboriginal people.

Captain Phillip’s two students were the first victims of this destructive education methodology. Colby died in England from pneumonia, and Bennelong died back in Sydney of alcoholism at the age of 42, rejected and despised by both the British settlers and his own people. His only son, reared by a Methodist minister, died at the young age of 24.

So the disadvantage gap has been around for a long time, and we keep creating it.

Breaking the cycle of violence

Instead of using the colonial model of taking people out of their communities, changing them, and hoping that they will come home and bring about positive change, we need to break the cycle of violence. To do that, we need to employ a new model.

This empowering model acknowledges that some families are dysfunctional. These families need special intervention, consideration and support.

Like the removal of some things that inflame the situation. Things like full access to the white man’s curse, which was brought to this country right from the beginning of the colonial experience, alcohol.

Alcohol in places like Alice Springs has been the final straw to many Aboriginal people since the so call pioneering days. When massacres occurred throughout central Australia, the remnants of these tribal groups moved into Alice Springs, where the life of hell and violence continued. Alcohol was the fuel that made life so unlivable for many Aboriginal families.

Centuries of experience with alcohol

Europeans had already worked through centuries of somehow coming to grips with alcohol, but Aboriginal people in central Australia had never experienced its disaster before.

Many countries around the world, like Arab Muslim countries, completely ban it because of its destructive effect on families and communities.

In north Australia, Yolngu and other Aboriginal nations had already restricted the small amounts of alcohol that came into Australia through the Macassan trade as being holy and could only be used for restricted ceremonial use.

Many of the Yolngu communities in Arnhem land today are still legally dry communities and are having to come to grips with the constant pressure from Balanda culture to open up to alcohol. Balanda staff and others constantly break this law.

That’s not to say there is not our problem with homebrew and illicit alcohol running; there is because it is so freely available in all “Balanda” communities around them.

However, taking this into consideration, breaking the cycle of violence requires working together with the whole community from where they are at – slowly giving them access to the information they need.

This will allow them to become effective, functional social-political groups again. Working together, they can start to respond to daily issues that all normal functioning communities do. The same way they did in the past.

Our company Why Warriors Pty Ltd employs this model via our Yolngu online learning platform, which provides access to information asked for and co-created with bilingual, bicultural production team. Yolŋu people receive this information through their worldview and in their language Yolngu Matha language: djambatjmarram.com.

This makes it easy for them to remember and retain information and receive.

With real information, they can then build the programs needed within their socio-economic legal frameworks to make substantial changes. Without this information, they remain lost, traumatised and confused people who cannot participate in a really productive way. However, they will continue to turn out young people with a grudge against the mainstream English-speaking Balanda community.

Why is this needed?

They say one picture is worth a thousand words. I want to use the diagram above to try and give a clear example of what I am talking about here.

This is a play on what happened in the early colony in Sydney in the late1700 hundreds.

It shows a situation where there are two very different communities: one is developing fast within its own social-economic-political (mainstream British culture/language) structure on one left side, where Captain Arthur Philip had set up the new British colony around the best source of water in that area.

On the other side (Aboriginal people/s) seemly left ‘in a time warp’ of the past, locked out of these new totally foreign social-economic-political systems that had now taken over their lands.

But this is not the true image of many first nation communities today. Communities they live in today are not the functional socio-political, economic communities of the past that existed for over 60,000 years. They are broken and in many places, dysfunctional communities due to the structural violence and the other underlying factors that we spoke about above.

The human dynamic environment

The people on the left were the newcomers. They brought with them a new human dynamic environment that would change the scene. Life for original Australians would never be the same again.

They brought with them different technology to harvest large quantities of fish and other resources, causing starvation among the original estate owners. Guns that were superior, in most cases, against spears. Diseases that the people on the right had no prior contact with, that alone almost wipe them out.

All these strange, overwhelming factors came wrapped up in a new, bewildering culture and language that the people just did not and could not understand.

Within a year or two, the First Nations people’s social-economic-political structure and activity were crippled, allowing the newcomers to establish their social-economic-political systems over what was seen by them as a new country. Soon their strange new culture and language would dominate everything across this ancient land.

Sadly 200 years later, many First Nations people who still speak their own languages remain estranged from this foreign language and culture. They remain locked out of all it without access to its knowledge and influence.

Unmet Basic Human Needs

Despite the above, many still ask why the First Nations people did not and do not develop at the same rate as others within the mainstream. The answer lies in these unmet basic human needs.

I know that many Aboriginals did not and still cannot fully understand this strange, new confusing language and culture.

Working together with the Yolngu people for over four decades, I know that Yolngu have and still struggle to understand the mainstream English language and culture today. Just like other Aboriginal groups across Australia have done so for over 200 years.

To develop, people need access to essential contemporary knowledge and information in their own language – a language they think and dream in, and construct knowledge in.

Sadly it also seems that Yolngu and other First Nations people have never really had an opportunity to learn this strange new language and culture. They have not been taught English as a community, nor have they had real access to understanding this strange contemporary Australian culture.

To correct this situation, we need real human capacity-building programs based on a model that views the whole Aboriginal community/s as an integral living unit/s. Programs that see adults – the traditional elders/educators – as necessary to the ‘education process’ as the young people. Rolling out more mainstream services, as is currently happening, will not work, no matter how much money and effort is spent on it. They will not return the people to the strong democratic vibrant communities that they were in the past.

Also, sadly without capacity being built on the right side of the harbour, within the Aboriginal communities, as a complete socio-political unit, they will not be able to effectively and efficiently use the resources and services pouring in.

So these services will go to waste – as in the picture above. The only people who gain from these services are the mainstream dominant culture people who run them or the companies who are doing very well by them.

This leaves people on both sides of the harbour criticising the government. Many mainstream Australians will say, “Look at all the wasted money!” while the Aboriginal community will feel even more deprived by seeing all the service providers get very rich.

Being born on the wrong side of the harbour

So how does the situation above relate to young Yolngu and other Aboriginal Youth across Australia?

Just imagine being born on the Aboriginal side of the harbour and wondering all your life, how the people — just over there, on the left — became so successful?

They do not die young as our people do. They seem to have so much money and so many assets. They have thriving businesses and suitable employment, they do well at school and university, and the list goes on.

Imagine how that feels? This is the mental torment that is carried by Yolngu people and other Aboriginal people across our country, as well as many First Nations people all over the world. Having worked closely with Yolngu communities for over four decades now, I know the lack of access to good mainstream knowledge is central to the torment and powerlessness that they are experiencing.

The ‘just over there’ experiences are now very real for Yolngu and many other traditional First Nations people and those who speak a form of Aboriginal English in Australia today.

They have access to the Internet and other media sources or find themselves on school or other organised excursions to other cities and places of interest across the country where they can compare what they see as against their own living experience.

Many people who organise excursions think they are helping these young people see opportunities outside their own communities.

Where in fact, through my experience in speaking to many of these young people, who have been on these excursions, they are left confused and hating who they are. Many turn against their own parents and grandparents, seeing them as unintelligent and primitive and not equal to mainstream English-speaking elders.

Intergenerational Transfer of Confusion

Unfortunately, the conversations accompanying these excursion experiences are usually all in English, which is as good as a foreign language to most of these young Aboriginal people. So they usually only get a tiny part of the picture.

Upon returning home, these young First Nations youth often ask their parents questions about mainstream Australian English culture and ways, which their parents cannot answer as they have the same questions.

So now there is an ‘intergenerational transfer of confusion’, along with the transfer of trauma, from being born on the wrong side of the harbour.

In the 1980s, I first witnessed this torment after a school excursion trip to Singapore that senior Yolngu students from Ramingining school had participated in. On their return, they started sniffing petrol.

When I sat down to talk with them, some interesting points were raised. The first was that they felt extremely ashamed of being Yolngu. They were sniffing petrol to get high and forget who they were.

They believed the airfares, accommodation, someone cleaning up their rooms after they messed it up, and all the food and special things like ice creams bought on the trip were all part of Balanda children’s everyday normal experiences, all paid for by the government or someone.

In other words their educational experience of the excursion was negated by exactly the same problems they have in the school room back in their own community. That is, they could not get good answers to their questions about how the world operates around them.

This made them ashamed of their parents, as they saw them as not being able to provide the same things. Or, more correctly, ashamed their parents did not have the ability to access this same government funding as Balanda parents seemed to be able to do every day.

This was made worse because when they asked their parents questions about Balanda wealth and access to money, their parents did not have answers. So now, they also saw their own parents and elders as backward and ignorant. This made them also believe that all black people like them were backward and ignorant.

Sadly many Yolŋu people today still conclude that Balanda people get all their assets, homes and jobs through some form of government grant. Many are shocked to find out that most Balanda have to pay for their own housing.

A similar experience that I’ve witnessed many times, is a Yolngu person flying over Sydney or another capital city for the first time. Some will say to their Balanda colleagues sitting beside them, “Wow, no wonder the government has got no money to build houses in our communities. Just look at all the big houses they are building down here.”

They, and many of their contemporaries, do not know that over 90% of the housing is self-funded and that Balanda spend most of their lives paying for them.

To make it worse, the mainstream media are always pushing for more government funding for Aboriginal housing without an equal amount of conversation about how other Australians provide their own housing.

Working with Yolngu people in their language, they can get a clearer picture of the real housing situation across Australia. When they get this information, many Yolngu people say, “Now I can see why so many Balanda are coming to compete for all the well-paid jobs in our communities”.

These big WHY questions that the people have must be answered. Otherwise, people will continue to miss out.

Knowledge is power

Knowledge is power, and the lack of it is powerlessness.

Trying to work out how the contemporary mainstream Australian community works without any formal community capacity-building program to help them, leads to high levels of depression and creates a paralysing Culture of Silence.

The 2016 Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report spells out that there are three main areas that show a clear regression in Aboriginal communities. These are: mental health, suicide/ self-harm, drugs/ other substance abuse. All clear social indicators of disempowered communities now living in a Culture of Silence.

Capacity building for all Australian citizens

Today Aboriginal people live in many different communities all over Australia. Some still have a lot of traditional knowledge, while others have lost almost all of it. So the capacity needs will be different within each of the major regional language groups.

However, there is some essential underlying concept information and knowledge needed to take control over their families and communities again. This same basic information is needed to be able to use the massive amount of resources they own on their land. And also to be able to make effective use of the resources coming in from the government and others without all ending up in the harbour, as above.

In short, they need and want to be able to understand how mainstream society operates in 2023. They need to become economically, medically and legally literate.

Original Australian Languages are great teaching languages

To do this, we need to dispense with the colonial idea that only First Nations people who are educated through mainstream schools and universities have the ability to understand complex issues. This is after real colonial nonsense.

Original Australian Languages are great teaching languages. That means the oldest Yolngu and other Aboriginal people can understand complex issues without having a knowledge of English.

Having worked with Aboriginal people in many different situations across the country and having lived with Yolngu communities for a long time, I have seen that real capacity-building/ community education works.

We must stop being limited by the mainstream Australian understanding of education nor the cultural naming that suggests that Aboriginal adults will not be able to understand the necessary legal, economic or medical information this education will require.

In fact, Yolngu people with the most traditional knowledge will be able to understand complicated information much quicker than college-trained Yolngu Youth. This is due to highly-developed cognitive language construction that is part of the original Australian languages that they speak.

In fact, I can teach a subject like diabetes down to a deep biomedical level quicker to Yolngu elders than I can to English-speaking people in English. We need to drop the British colonial mindset and know this is possible.

Access to fundamental Information

To overcome the crisis that many Aboriginal Youths are facing, their whole community needs access to fundamental concept knowledge to demystify the mainstream English culture.

They need details of cause and effect around medical, economic, legal or other issues. When there is no access to fundamental questions you might have, then nothing makes any sense anymore, and so the people withdraw from the world or go off and get drunk.

As one Yolngu female adult put it, “It is like traps of strangling weeds”.

If you have even been caught up in strangling weeds or vines in a billabong then you can get a sense of what it is like to try and navigate the mainstream English Australian culture world without special language help.

The strange thing though is when the people have a clear understanding of how the world works, they will then start to demand skills education right across their whole community.

Sadly though, most programs want to teach the people the skills first. This is before they have cleared the strangling weeds of confusion around the cause and effect so the people know why that particular skill is required.

Five capacity-building programs

When people get answers to big WHY questions in their own language, they can find solutions within their own great resources to remedy their situation. Many of these solutions will be cost-negative to the government due to people being equally empowered, like other Australian citizens.

Listed below are five capacity-building programs that could provide the building blocks to close the gap.

These building blocks can allow First Nations peoples to build their half of the bridge above, bringing many of them back from their cultural refugee status, breaking the cycle of trauma, changing the culture of silence, and lessening the end-stage anti-social “problems” seen across many Aboriginal communities and town and cities across Australia today.

  1. Community education

The first and most important of these building blocks is a community education program aimed at the adult population within a particular First Nations people’s language group. Good community education programs cover the major questions and themes necessary to understand how the world works.

These same programs could even make time in detention much more positive, where young people have a chance to receive real answers to many of the big questions their people have in their own language.

This would cover different themes, including economic, medical, legal and political/governance processes and structures. People also need access to good current affairs in their own language to keep them up-to-date with the conversations that are happening across Australia and around the world. These programs would also help develop the use of everyday English and encourage participation in formal education and training already available.

Although many Yolngu people are suffering from high levels of chronic disease and sickness, basic economic literacy is, in my experience, one of the most essential educational needs. The confusion around economics leads to a strong “them and us” negative response that we are seeing in Youth across Arnhem Land and around the country today.

Economic literacy

Some financial literacy programs have been delivered to Yolngu and other Aboriginal people. However, most started at the wrong place. Many sharted where the mainstream is at by teaching them skills around budgets.  In some of these programs they told the people, “If you have a budget you always have money”. Now if people do not know where money came from then they might think, “How can I get two or three budgets?”

While this type of thinking might sound absurd to many people in the mainstream, having spent four decades investigating and mapping the contradictions that Yolngu have around contemporary economics, we know this level of confusion is real. Unless there is a program that deals with the specific economic contradictions, allowing people to investigate the subject on their own terms, the confusion will not disappear. Skill training without clearing the confusion will only add to the confusion.

Yolngu adults are asking for and need a conceptual understanding of economics first.

Things like. Where does money come from? How does it work? Is it just printed? Does the government give it to their friends and themselves? Why can’t they make us all rich like they are?

They need conversations in their own very good economic language to deal with their specific confusion around contemporary economics. How can any group of people get excited about education or training, or develop businesses, if their core basic understanding of how worldwide contemporary economics operates is non-existent or very confusing?

If Yolŋu people believe that Balanda get all their housing, goods, and jobs by some form of government grants/ gifts, they will continue to believe this until they have other evidence that convinces them of the real situation. This same confusion will be handed onto their children who will conclude that it is Balanda who are stopping them from getting access to money and goods, setting up a no-win situation for all. This will lead the young people to say, “We hate Baland because they hate us”.

Good economic literacy programs will help Yolŋu people transition from traumatised people living on welfare to functioning citizens capable of seizing opportunities on their own resource-rich estates. There are endless unrealised business opportunities that currently exist across Arnhem Land, which we are working together with Yolŋu communities to help realise.

Below are some examples of the resources that are needed exist, in Yolŋu Matha language, on our online learning platform. A lot more are still needed.

The History of Money. Where did it come from?
Business. What does it really mean?
Yolŋu and Balanda confusion about each other’s business culture
What is Tax?

Please also see our Q&As about Aboriginal People and their Culture:

Q.79 “How do we break welfare cycles?”
Q.70 “How can remote Aboriginal communities have a sustainable future when they rely so heavily on government funding and do not have any (or very few) business enterprises?”
Q.55 “Aboriginal people are always getting free stuff from the government. Even some jobs are only for Aboriginal people. It’s not fair they get so many handouts.”

Health literacy

Similar arguments can be made about health literacy. As many Aboriginal people across the nation have no real understanding of germ theory, and other underlying fundamental health knowledge, their personal and communal conversations relating to the cause and effects of disease and sickness are non-existent. They are locked into a culture of silence around health issues.

Although Europeans suffered from the black plague in Europe hundreds of years ago, Aboriginal people in Australia had no similar experience until European diseases were introduced over 200 years ago. So there is an enormous gap in health knowledge and a lot of catching up for Yolngu and other Aboriginal people to do.

Investment needs to be made into making sure the whole Aboriginal population across Australia is health literate.

Again, the mainstream idea is still to take a few younger Yolŋu people and turn them into doctors and health workers. This method of cultural empowerment will take many centuries for any real change to occur. For the same money it takes to train a few people, why not educate a whole population on the foundations of health literacy in their own language?

Below again are some exampless of resources we have created to help address health literacy questions from Yolŋu people, in Yolŋu Matha language, on our online learning platform:
Understanding Diabetes
Why are Balanda so frightened of coronavirus?
Marijuana and its effects on the body

Some Q&As around health questions from Balanda to help bridge the gap in understanding:
Q31. Why is substance misuse like petrol sniffing so prevalent in Aboriginal communities?
Q13. What is the Yolŋu concept of illness and disease?
Q14. Why do many remote Aboriginal people eat such poor food that affects their health? How can this be changed?

Legal literacy

Legal and political/ governance systems are like a snare/trap for people who don’t understand them. So legal literacy is essential for Aboriginal language regions across Australia to create legal harmony within the Australian community. Good capacity building/ community education will allow them to investigate the whole legal/governance subject.

Some resources we have created to help address legal questions from Yolŋu people, in Yolŋu Matha language, on our online learning platform:
What is Evidence? Real conversation around Yolŋu Law
Meaning of the word ‘parole’
What is a Tribunal?
The first Makarrata way

Translations for some of the programs we produce have also been made available in English. Please look for the ptf file on some programs.

Some Q&As around legal questions from Balanda to help bridge the gap in understanding:
Q20. Wasn’t Aboriginal society pretty barbaric and controlled by harsh punishments?
Q34. If Aboriginal people were left to their own devices, wouldn’t we have payback happening all the time?
Q22. I’ve seen the term “Law” used about Aboriginal culture but shouldn’t it be “Lore”?
Broken parole or broken communication?

  1. Cultural competency – staff training

Good quality, in-depth cultural competency training (CCT) should be mandatory for all frontline workers working with Yolŋu and other First Nations people. This should include the learning of language and cross-cultural communication skills for all.

CCT can expose the cross-cultural naming scenario and work through issues of trauma and the culture of silence that is now prominent in many Aboriginal communities. CCT can also teach good communication skills and how to keep staff safe and working effectively in the cross-cultural cross-language environment.

Cross-cultural and basic cultural awareness courses are separate from CCT. They are very useful to teach good local information and customs to staff. However, they should not be seen in the same category as CCT.

The cost of government staff recruitment is phenomenal, and the cost to Aboriginal communities because of culturally incompetent mainstream personnel is unmeasurable in human suffering and missed opportunities.

Having delivered CCT training for over four decades, I know from personal stories, how good CCT training can make a difference to massively reduce recruitment costs and trauma experienced by children and adults in Yolngu and many other Aboriginal communities across Australia.

Good cultural competency training must become mandatory as a basic human right to culturally safe service access for Aboriginal people.

An example of some resources we have created around cultural competency:
What is cultural competency?

Understanding avoidance relationships – don’t pick up the baby!

Please also see our new Cross-Cultural Learning site.

  1. Culturally appropriate schooling

The third fundamental building block is culturally appropriate schooling. The education system needs teachers who learn the local language to work more readily with traumatised young people, create safe and effective learning environments, control classrooms, be able to answer the students’ conceptual and linguistic questions, and provide genuinely effective education.

The coming and going of teachers is more like backpacker tourism in Arnhem Land than an education system. While backpackers may be great at picking fruit for short periods of time, the same model is not good for building long term relationships with Yolŋu adults in the community or children and teens in a classroom. Nor are they able to communicate with the students at an intellectual level. Yolŋu students are being traumatised by the high turnover rates of teachers and left out in the social wilderness by a failed education process.

We need to equip teachers with language and cultural competency skills. Some might ask, “Will all teachers learn the language if they were given the resources and time”? The short answer is no – but some will. The teachers who do will stay and develop long-term relationships with the community. Then, as each new group of recruits join the same process, another few will learn, so after a number of years, we will have long-term teachers living in each community that can communicate sensitively and intellectually without further traumatising Yolŋu students. The savings to the government and positive outcomes for Yolŋu students and communities will be massive.

Culturally safe, linguistically constructive and intellectual learning environments will only exist when teachers come halfway and do their share of learning in a very complex cross-cultural, cross-language learning environment.

We are working to provide this training to teachers through mentoring packages, workshops and seminars, or with self-learning modules. Why Warriors has in our ranks over forty years of experience in teaching, language learning, cultural competency, community development/education and cross-cultural communication skilling.

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  1. Constructive English lessons

Dealing with frontline crises every day in north-east Arnhem Land Yolngu communities, I know providing constructive English learning lessons would be much more than just a building block. Daily we receive questions from Yolŋu as to what different English words mean. In medical situations, misunderstandings around English terms are quite literally killing Yolŋu people. In contemporary legal situations, they become entrapped in conflict situations with police and legal systems. Lack of understanding of the economic English language makes most conversations about employment and business development incomprehensible.

Week after week, people travel to Yolŋu communities to talk about all the different things that the government wants to share. Unfortunately, much of it ends up in a confusing mess, with more angry people on both sides blaming each other. It is a big waste of money.

English lessons could be delivered to the whole Yolŋu community through their own media conduit, i.e. Yolŋu Radio, and made available via the Internet on an online learning platform such as djambatjmarram where everyone in the language group can learn together. This is a well-established practice across the world. For example, many adult Fijian people coming to Australia learnt English via Fiji radio. Migrants coming to Australia are taught English through constructive English learning programs, but Yolŋu and other Aboriginal Australians have been left out in the cold.

No government since colonisation has provided a formal English language learning course that starts by working from the people’s language, as the instruction language, across to English. This should be seen as a national shame as it has locked Yolŋu and many other Aboriginal people out of the mainstream conversations, education, training, and access to mainstream services for far too long.

We want to work on this together with Yolŋu people in Arnhem Land, in the hope that the instruction language (Yolŋu Matha) can then be changed to other original Australian Aboriginal languages across Australia. This would include English language courses for Aboriginal people who speak an Aboriginal form of English or Kriol. Lessons could go on to a very high level of English where medical, legal, economic and other concept terms would also be covered.

Our Yolŋu online learning platform, djambatjmarram, provides resources around key topics: community development, economics, health, law, governance, including a dictionary of hard words. These resources (podcasts, videos, transcripts, online learning material) use a language called Gurrangay Matha, an academic form of Yolŋu Matha. Gurrangay Matha is used intentionally, as complex subjects cannot be explained in everyday, simple terms. By using academic language, our resources encourage inter-generational conversations as younger Yolŋu need to go back to their elders to ask questions. This effectively turns them back into educators within their society.

For more information, read our June 2021 newsletter. Click here to sign up for our newsletters!

An example of resources we have created to help address English language questions from Yolŋu people, in Yolŋu Matha language, on our online learning platform:
Meaning of hard words like ‘traditional’, ‘percentage’, ‘development’, ‘autonomy’. We have a living database of questions and hard concept words that Yolŋu people want conversations around to understand their meaning. Working together with Yolŋu researchers and co-producers, we take the time to investigate each subject and the relevant sub-concepts that crop up around them. This is ongoing, extremely time-consuming and difficult work, but absolutely vital to helping bridge the gap.

Q&As around English language learning questions from Balanda to help bridge the gap in understanding:
Q78. Are Aboriginal languages useful to be used in education?”
Q73. Wasn’t there a bilingual education program for Yolngu that was stopped because it didn’t work?
How language can lead to kidney failure
Are dictionaries only for dominant culture?

  1. Community workers

The final building block looks at doing what Captain Philip did not do! That is to train and send mainstream community workers/ educators to work alongside Yolngu and other Aboriginal communities. This will give community members more access to mainstream cultural information and knowledge. Community workers are vital bridges who need language, cultural competency, community development/ education and communication training.

Good community workers can dig down to find out why young people are behaving the way they are and why they act as disenfranchised people within their own communities. If trauma and social-economic dysfunction and confusion are the reasons, then the only way to solve the problem is to have trained community workers working alongside Yolngu people, including working with whole family units around these issues.

However, it will not work with the current government model, where community workers paid for by the government can only refer First Nations people to other mainstream professionals. The key factor that makes community workers efficient is that they have the language and cultural competency to work within that particular community. The mainstream professionals that community workers refer families or individuals to, often have no language or cultural competency skills. We need to break this model of creating trauma across Aboriginal communities by not recognising the need for efficient and effective two-way communication; otherwise, the diagram above will exist in another hundred years.

Captain Philip had two options back in 1789: one was to do what he did, and it didn’t work. The second option was to find one of his officers who had a clear desire to learn the language and culture of the First Nations people. He needed someone who could go and live with them and help them investigate, in their own language, what was happening over on the left side of the harbour—allowing the First Nations people to demystify and understand the British/mainstream culture/language and structure.

He did have one such officer, but as often happens, when that officer became too close to the First Nations people, they are viewed with suspicion by the people in charge. This is what happened between Philip and William Dawes. Dawes was the only Berewalgal (meaning person from a distant place, i.e. European) who effectively started recording the Eora people’s language around Sydney Cove in those first few years. However, Dawes was forced back to England when Philip left, so the capacity building model never got a chance to be used. It’s a pity Philip’s unsuccessful colonial model was not put in a sealed jar and taken back to England rather than William Dawes. Things might have been very different.

Part of the role of community workers would be to identify people’s questions and contradictions around medical, economic, legal and general current affairs.  We are now compiling this information, and storing it in a central database, informing the production of good community/adult education via radio and Internet resources, in their own language, eliminating the confusion and powerlessness that Yolŋu people are currently experiencing. The production of these programs will happen when and if funding becomes available.

Community workers can help Yolngu people and other First Nations groups find ways of being included in developing and maintaining their own communities, rather than the currently popular model of just having things done for and to them.

Why Warriors would be happy to employ and train these community workers if it was funded by someone.

Q&As around English language learning questions from Balanda to help bridge the gap in understanding:
Community building – educate first in the creator space
Q51. What things work well for helping communities strengthen and come together?

These 5 building blocks can allow First Nations peoples to build their half of the bridge, bringing many back from their cultural refugee status, breaking the cycle of trauma, changing the culture of silence, and lessening the end-stage anti-social “problems” seen across many Aboriginal communities today.

This article “Anti-social Behaviour on Aboriginal Communities, is a reworked extract, taken from, Breaking of a People, written in by Richard Trudgen in 2016.

Richard Trudgen 2021

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Over the weekend, detainees lit fires, climbed rooftops and allegedly threatened staff at Western Australia’s Banksia Hill youth detention centre.

The state’s prison inspector will visit the facility to assess the situation following the unrest.

He said the retention of staff is the biggest problem….  70 to 80 thousand staff recruited in the last year only keeking uo with retention????????????


Guest: Eamon Ryan, WA Prison Inspector


Lara Heaton

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/wa-prison-watchdog-to-visit-banksia-hill/101825488         040123

https://www.watoday.com.au/national/western-australia/human-rights-of-detainees-breached-in-wa-youth-prison-as-suicide-attempts-increased-20220419-p5aejr.html 040123

There were 24 suicide attempts in Western Australia’s only youth prison last year, which an independent inspector linked to some of the not-for-purpose facility’s most at-risk children being kept in small cells in conditions similar to solitary confinement.

About Richard Trudgen

Richard was born in Orange NSW and trained as a fitter and turner. He moved to Arnhem Land in the NT in 1973 and became a community worker, learning to speak Djambarrpuyŋu. Has now worked with Yolŋu people for over 45 years. He was the CEO of Aboriginal Resource and Development Services (ARDS) for 10 years during which time he developed discovery education methodology with Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM and also established Yolŋu Radio in 2003. He is the author of Why Warriors Lie Down and Die and facilitated ‘Bridging the Gap’ seminars, and delivered corporate training across Australia. He is currently the CEO of Why Warriors Pty Ltd, a community development social enterprise organisation working with Yolngu people. He spends his day writing, producing podcasts and building online learning platforms, producing videos and working face to face with Yolngu. He is also involved in building online cross-cultural training material to build understanding between Indigenous peoples and the Dominant Culture.

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