Today I wanted to dive into a vital aspect of community work: First Nations collaboration and the crucial role of a Cultural Safety Facilitator.
Our communities thrive when we honour and respect the diverse cultures and histories that exist within them. Collaboration with First Nation’s workers and community members provides an opportunity to engage with and learn from First Nations peoples' wisdom, experiences, and values. It is an essential step towards building inclusive and culturally safe spaces and communities.
This was a huge priority in our 2023 Allies in Community Leadership Program, a very special version of Wyndham’s celebrated Building Blocks program. This program was focused on creating strong systems of allyship in our community, where we’re able to learn from each other and local First Nations leaders to be better informed on our journey towards reconciliation in Wyndham. To honour this in our work we worked closely with First Nations consultant, Jacqui Watkins of Jinkigi Consultancy, who took on the role of Cultural Safety Facilitator on-site during the program.
Cultural Safety Facilitators play an integral role in creating culturally safe spaces. They act as bridges, ensuring that cultural protocols, traditions, and sensitivities are respected and incorporated into community conversations, learnings and initiatives. These workers bring their knowledge, experience, and cultural expertise, allowing for meaningful and authentic dialogue. Culturally safe spaces embrace diversity and actively address power imbalances and discourses of oppression. They recognise the historical and ongoing impacts of colonisation and strive to dismantle systemic barriers and biases that hinder inclusion. By working closely with Cultural Safety Facilitators, we promote cultural humility, establish trust, and create spaces where everyone feels seen, heard and valued.
The ‘Allies in Community’ program itself was co-designed through meetings and workshops with an aim to design a program that answered questions people were actually asking about First Nations ways of knowing and the colonial history of Australia. The co-design process was led by Terori Hareko- Avaivilla of Avaivilla Group, and involved actively engaging and collaborating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities and Traditional Owner organisations throughout the design-making process to inform the program approach, sequencing, events, initiatives and any activities taking place on Country. It also informed the facilitation and who we would ‘fold in’ to the process.
The ‘spiral approach’ we adopted created a learning journey where deeper awareness of culture, history and impacts of colonial inheritance (truth-telling), including at the local level, was explored. As Cultural Safety Facilitator, Jacqui held that delicate space of dialogue, reflection, and revelation throughout the program. As Lead Facilitator Terori, held Yarning Circles and Truth-telling Forums with guests, Elder Auntie Diane Kerr OAM, Rowena Price and Chyree Mail, and incorporated ceremony into the program (a Welcome to Country at the beginning and a Healing ceremony at the close). This inclusive and responsive approach fosters mutual understanding, empathy, respect and deep, transformative learning. This is the ‘education’ we missed in our past; this is the learning we must embrace for our future.
Together, let's champion the importance of First Nations collaboration and partnership and the essential role of Cultural Safety Facilitators. By integrating First Nations voices, wisdom, and traditions, we nurture an environment that fosters mutual respect, collaboration, and growth.