Get ready, get set … Yarn Up

The blog was originally posted in 2015 and updated in August 2020.

Conversations about family, kinship, culture and Country help support mental health and wellbeing. Yarning is a way of capturing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ story and description of how they see and experience something.

We have seen yarning benefit many individuals, groups and communities in a variety of contexts across Australia. Here are some yarning tips we’ve learnt along the way.

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Getting ready … cultural competence

Everywhere we have gone the message about cultural competence is clear.

We need to get real and honest with ourselves … it’s a forever journey that starts with getting to know ourselves first. Only then, can we truly acknowledge and engage other people’s cultural identities.

Expect that it will be hard to answer questions about identity; especially your own, but make time to yarn with others about your individual identity and then yarn about your group identity. With this process, everyone benefits; clear links exist between your sense of identity and your sense of wellbeing.

It is also important to recognise and acknowledge that when we consider culture and commit to respect, connection, knowledge and action we all slip and slide along a cultural continuum depending on time, space, place and people around us.

Check out this Narragunnawali resources for more about Cultural Competence Continuum.

Getting set … be prepared

  1. Understand local protocols and procedures for working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community
  2. Learn who can tell you more about your community through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eyes, knowledge and wisdom.
  3. Be clear about the questions you have that need answers.
  4. Draw a map of connections with community and staff, children and families in the service.
  5. Find ways to document all these things.
  6. Have all staff members’ personal and professional learning experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, knowledge and learning recorded.

Remember, these strategies for preparing to create connections with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities will also benefit attempts to connect with and understand all communities.

Explore the Always Be You eBook for more ideas on ways to respectfully engage.

Go … have that yarn

Take heed of these wise words from an all-star yarner:

Get in and have a go― the worst thing you can do is to do nothing!

During and after the yarn:

  • Reflect on how good you are, as individuals and a group, at listening and considering other perspectives.
  • Notice and acknowledge feelings as they come and pass and consider how your identity connects with these feelings.

Your conversation might seem to go off track … stay calm, and keep participating. It will find its way back and probably bring with it more insights, knowledge, ideas and perspectives than you can imagine.

Be You provides educators with knowledge, resources and strategies for helping children and young people achieve their best possible mental health. This article was first published by KidsMatter (now known as Be You) in 2015.

Be You

Early Childhood Australia’s Be You team is a highly qualified and experienced multidisciplinary team of professionals committed to promoting and supporting positive mental health and wellbeing in the early years. Together, with Be You partners, Beyond Blue and headspace, the ECA team support educators in implementing the Be You Professional Learning and continuous improvement processes across early learning services and schools.

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