bundaberg, QLD, July 2023
When I think about my journey as an Aboriginal and South Sea Islander woman, because I've got dual heritage, in a way, I'm contributing to a lasting legacy.
Do I sacrifice, or do I contribute in a selfless way? If I give up time, my knowledge, my artistic talent, I'm actually sharing that with the view that it's going to be of use to the community, whether it’s family members or whether it's community members. I might sacrifice time, space, energy, knowledge. But I know that sacrifice is absolutely worth it in the end because I'm contributing to the greater good of cultural preservation, of increasing family knowledge. So sacrifice to me is not a negative connotation. It's because I'm actually contributing to something bigger than my time, my knowledge, my skills. There's an absolute thirst out there in the community to secure cultural knowledge. So when we share certain information or knowledge, it's a real big leap of faith for us that we actually trust that person to do the right thing with it. That's a sacrifice right there in itself.
From a cultural point of view, there’s a hierarchy of knowledge sharing. There's information we can share wholeheartedly. There's certain knowledge that I will only share with certain people. There might be knowledge that I can only share with family. There's certain knowledge that I can only share with a certain family member or a selected community member. That is the cultural construct that we work in. Then there is this absolute leap of faith around knowledge that you feel comfortable with sharing with an individual. You've got to have that faith that that individual will not only honour the information that they are given, but they'll be authentic and genuine and not be untruthful with it and use it with genuine intent for the greater good. Now, that person could uphold that trust and absolutely honour it. But we've had experiences, whether it's historical or recent, where that trust was absolutely smashed and the honesty was not upheld. And they use that information that we shared in a very dishonest and disrespectful way. They've repackaged it, sold it, romanticised it, watered it down, passed it as their own knowledge set and then sold it to build their own credibility up. And what happens is that person will never ever be welcomed into the inner sanctum of knowledge sharing. We then become very guarded on who we share information with, and a veil of mistrust goes up.
You've got to understand too, in this nation of ours, there's been that mistrust because we were put under things like the Aboriginal Protection Act, where we were put on missions and reserves and we were told that we couldn't speak our language, we couldn't share our ceremonies, we couldn't do our men's and women's business, we couldn't do our dance, our song, our artwork. We had to assimilate, right? So that level of mistrust, that's the legacy, because we've got living memories in our communities that have lived that, lived and breathed it. They're still our Uncles and Aunties. They share those stories with us. So us younger ones know we need to be very careful around who we trust with information because of what happened to our Uncles and Aunties who are still alive in our community.