Aboriginal societal elements can enrich Australian mindsets – concepts of inter-responsibility for each other and the environment. Just as African societies are still impacted from the European Slave Trade, Aboriginal society is still recovering from colonial onslaughts.
Recovery is impeded I believe, as solutions are sought within a Western framework.
Efforts should be applauded for recovering knowledge of traditional Aboriginal societies, through study of resilient communities and from early European ethnology-cultural reports.
Attention is deserved towards adaptive strategies of communities who successfully negotiated modernity and avoided harms from mainstream society. Let’s inform ourselves about Aboriginal Beliefs/Values:
- Dreaming Origin of the Universe and active creation ancestors.
- Unicity of the Natural World – interconnectedness, interdependence and inter-responsibility of people, ancestors, animals, plants, landforms, and celestial bodies, which are sentient living beings.
- Individuals have an eternal soul/spirit and autonomy. Land is part of a person’s being/identity.
- Obey the Law from the Dreaming, which ensures individuals know their responsibilities and provides justice; practice the traditions/rituals.
- Respect Elders, family/community connections, and obligations of responsibility/assistance.
- Live a moral/ethical path in the present.
Spirituality is the core of Aboriginal being, based in connectedness.
Contrasting to Western individualism, Aboriginal spirituality emphasizes the collective as ideas/rules/morals binding on individuals.
As Western society intrudes into indigenous minds, Aborigines may neglect their own principles (Everett).
The Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health identifies colonialism as root cause for wellbeing loss.
Lack of respect of what constitutes Aboriginal wellbeing and the centrality of Spirituality, deepens the problem Aboriginals have with the ‘settler colonial society’: “without deep respect/knowledge of what constitutes Aboriginal wellbeing, there’s little opportunity for governments, agencies and Western-educated professionals to work meaningfully with Aboriginal groups to engender healing. (Grieves)
I believe it is failure to understand serious impacts from harmful Western lifestyle elements that frustrates efforts to ‘Close the Gap’ and improve Aboriginal Wellbeing.
Of 13 Closing the Gap reports, none met more than three of the seven targets.
Adoption of Western lifeways from an empathetic co-religionist outlook, apparently blind-sighted many Aboriginal leaders to destructive practices impacting on Spirituality, and delayed them taking stronger prevention actions.
Surprisingly, leaders didn’t condemn these as insidious colonial corruptions.
Aboriginal leaders underestimated their destructive powers and generally didn’t call for their abstinence or prohibition.
I refer to addictive behaviours: alcohol consumption, illicit drugs, gambling, and pornography.
Aboriginal words for ‘alcohol’ often mean ‘dangerous’ or ‘poisonous’.
To ensure wellbeing of Muslim societies, God prohibited these practices. “They ask you concerning [intoxicants] and gambling. Say: ‘In them is great sin, and some benefit …; but the sin is greater than the benefit.’” (Qur’an 2:219)
This is not stated for proselytization, but to highlight that condemnation of negative practices is integral to preserving community wellbeing.
WHO estimates alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs cause 12.5% of all deaths worldwide.
Alcohol impacts more seriously on Aboriginal society than non-Aboriginals.
While fewer Aborigines drink than non-Aboriginals, Aboriginals are five times more likely to die from alcohol-related causes, while fetal alcohol syndrome is 60 times more prevalent than among the general population. (Korff)
Western indulgences cause worse impacts to Aboriginals because firstly, many already suffer stress, trauma and mental illness from painful cross-generational life experiences.
Secondly, consequences are most harmful to Aboriginal spirituality/wellbeing. Western indulgences harm connectedness.
“Substance abuse interferes with spiritual relationships that exist between family members; so, may deny people their reason for existence.” (Carroll) Prompt action is long overdue.
As Vicki Grieves counsels, settler colonial societies can only decolonize by decolonizing the mind, by developing new understandings of indigenous culture and society, and new respectful ways of relating to indigenous people and incorporation of their lifeways into the idea of the Nation.