Conversations about family, kinship, culture and country help protect 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.
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 SNAICC publication (pp 85-88) for more about cultural continuum.
Getting set … be prepared
- Understand local protocols and procedures for working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community
- Learn who can tell you more about your community through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eyes, knowledge and wisdom.
- Be clear about the questions you have that need answers.
- Draw a map of connections with community and staff, children and families in the service.
- Find ways to document all these things.
- 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. Listen to some yarns the KidsMatter team have had across Australia.
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 the 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.