Territorials are dux when it comes to understanding indigenous culture, language and knowledge
Territorials are best in Australia at raising awareness of their local ties to the Aborigines and the Torres Strait.
- Territorials are more likely to say they know their local indigenous country, language group or traditional owners
- Tasmanians least likely to say they know
- But Darwin Elder and Tasmanian educators both agree on the path to greater Indigenous awareness
The Northern Territories’ two federal electorates, Solomon and Lingiari, led the country with 89% and 87% knowledge about the country, language group or indigenous traditional owners, followed by Canberra at 85%.
And 88% of Territorians in the northern capital and Australia typically say they know their Indigenous history, also ahead of state residents, according to the Australia Talks National Survey 2021.
Aunt Bilawara Lee, elder of Darwin-based Larrakia Gulumerrdjen, gave high marks to NT neighborhood culture and indigenous place names.
“We are not as populated as in the south and have a little more time to relax and get to know our neighbors and know where we live,” she said.
The origins of the name of the suburb of Parap are close to the heart of Aunt B.
“Parap is the sound of the black cockatoo, ‘parapparap’,” she said.
And the Parap Water Tower on the Stuart Hwy was built on Bilawara Dreaming, hence its name.
Bilawara is Larrakia Glumerrdjen for the black cockatoo.
“This was the site where it was a billabong with shallow water where the bilawaras always came out, drank and poured in,” she said.
“I wish I could go back in time. But you know, progress happens.
“Indigenous people will always change themselves and their way of life to suit the environment they find themselves in – their country.
How can we do better?
Aunt B said increasing awareness of Indigenous people requires a wide range.
“Start in schools. Learn a bit more about the culture, the country and the nations,” she said.
Some NT place names are already undergoing changes, such as the renaming of Vestey Beach from Fannie Bay to Bundilla Beach, six weeks after the death of a descendant of the namesake, the 3rd Lord Vestey in England.
Some Darwin place names such as Mindil Beach, Myilly Point, Elrundie, and Ilwaddy and Moerk creeks are said to have retained Aboriginal names since the first record in 1869.
NT Placenames Committee chair Dr Sue Wells said the committee is actively looking at Indigenous place names that can be reinstated. Double denomination is a method.
“It gives us another layer of understanding of the place,” she said.
“Place names can be stories for places and they can tell us a lot more about places.
“People want to know how the places got these names and what those names mean.
The other side of the room
The state and electorate at the back of the pack are Tasmania and its largest electorate, Lyon, where 37% and 32% of respondents say they know the name of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander country.
The Native Education Services (AES) of the Tasmanian Department of Education use several methods to facilitate teaching.
“The department recognizes the indigenous communities of Tasmania as custodians of the language,” said a spokesperson.
“Therefore, we do not teach indigenous languages, including Palawa Kani, in schools.
The flagship of the department is a multimedia website called The Orb, with highly visual resources designed to teach a range of learning styles of Tasmanian Aboriginal history and culture.
“It encompasses a number of Indigenous ways of being, knowing, thinking and doing, including story-telling, connecting to country and cultural practice,” said a spokesperson.
The work of AES also includes indigenous educators in family centers and schools, early childhood programs, library arrangements, professional learning, and museum education.
Australia Talks demographics that say they are the least aware are older Australians; Men; Australians of non-European origin; interior and exterior metropolitan residents; and right-wing voters.