During the community workshops we were focussed on the major objectives of the project and there were specific expectations. However, the process was more organic and unfolded via the community driven expectations and priorities. We worked in a very holistic manner ensuring that the participants were provided with the opportunity to share their knowledge and understandings, raise any community concerns or issues that wished to share as well as learn about governance and leadership.
Some of the other learning shared and topics discussed included the following:
- Identifying businesses at Wurrumiyanga (private and Tiwi)
- Identifying service providers (government and NGO)
- Identifying the boards, LA and Tiwi Island Shire Council
- Shared the history of Tiwi Island Shire council
- Discussion about issues Tiwi people experience and how to work with them to resolve them
- Tiwi aspirations and hopes for community in the future
At the same time we found that focussing on ‘governance and leadership’ tended to obscure some of the therapeutic development work that was needed to get people to the stage of readiness, where they could begin to work on these issues.
Prior to being able to speak about governance and leadership in ways which did not isolate or alienate people, and which did not simply reinforce feelings of inferiority, we needed to engage with where people were at, beginning a learning and development journey which had the potential to open up new and safe possibilities for Tiwi people to articulate narratives which were different to those which they often offer to Western researchers and facilitators.
It was important to prepare people for the learning and the discussion that was to follow. We invested time in encouraging and building the Tiwi people’s confidence and capacity to actively participate in a meaningful and positive way. The shared learning was very cooperative and collaborative in a caring, safe, fun, open and non-authoritarian learning environment which ensured real engagement and learning.
By being guided by Tiwi people, as well as working through empowerment and confidence building people began to see themselves our confident and capable human beings who are knowledgeable in their traditional governance system and who understand that there is a need for the Tiwi governance and western governance to work in partnership.