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Scholars and alumni engage in Aboriginal cultural sensitivity training

Posted: 7 September 2021

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Scholars Platform, Sri Lanka, Alumni, Experience, Impact, In Australia, Linkages, Scholar,

More than 20 Australia Awards scholars and alumni from South Asia recently attended an Aboriginal cultural awareness and sensitivity training, aimed at safely and sensitively presenting facts and information to assist participants to better understand and communicate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The half-day training, held on 20 August 2021, was facilitated by Haydyn Bromley of Bookabee Australia and organised by Australia Awards – South Asia. In early 2020, the same training had been offered for scholars based in Adelaide to attend in person and was very well received by participants. Due to this success, it was offered again this year—but this time virtually, to make it accessible to all scholars and alumni.

Scholars and alumni during the virtual training

Roni Chandra Mondal, a scholar from Bangladesh, participated in the training and believes that the experience has given him a greater appreciation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia and of their different cultures.

“The training was very informative and engaging, rather than a conventional one-way training program. There were lots of breakout sessions, where I got to know other team members’ perceptions about cultural awareness and sensitivity issues, particularly in Australia,” Roni says. For him, the most important outcome from the training was a deeper understanding of why it is important to embrace cultural sensitivity. “Knowing other cultures and traditions is essential because it stimulates the mind and promotes understanding,” he explains. “As we live in a multicultural world, learning, understanding and respecting different cultures and sensitivities help to master the art of accepting each other. This will allow our future generations to turn the everchanging world  into a place of respect and tolerance.”

Roni is currently pursuing a Master of Marine Biology at James Cook University in Queensland. Although the sensitivity training doesn’t directly relate to his studies, he was very interested to learn about “key concepts concerning the ups and downs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their cultural values, hopes and future dreams”. He found the experience very valuable and says that he would recommend the training to all scholars and alumni.

Drishya Gurung, an alum from Nepal, really liked the training session in terms of “the depth of the content and how information was arranged”. Drishya, who completed a Master of Education at Monash University through an Australia Awards Scholarship, was very engaged and offered many insights during the training. She could connect to the content and believes that a lot of what was covered in the training is relevant to the issues that Nepal’s indigenous people face. Drishya encourages other scholars and alumni to attend this training and says, “If you want to know more about Australia’s history and understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ culture, this is the best session to attend.”

Drishya believes that without accurately understanding a community’s past, it is not possible to get an insight into their present. She shares that the training gave her opportunities to debunk some of her own misconceptions about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia. She says she has a “deep appreciation” of the fact that Australia Awards offered the training and that she was able to take part.

Australia Awards alum Drishya Gurung

The training took place shortly after NAIDOC Week 2021, providing an excellent opportunity to acknowledge and learn about Australia’s past and reflect on and learn about the ongoing history, traditions and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Several participants were Australia Awards alumni from Bangladesh who belong to indigenous communities. Their ability to share their own lived experience further enriched the training.

Australia Awards alumna Elsie Hasdak—who belongs to the Santal tribe, one of the largest indigenous communities in northern Bangladesh—says that understanding the history and challenges of Aboriginal Australians helped her relate these to the challenges that the Santal community also experiences in her home country. Additionally, she appreciated the use of relevant documentaries and historical resources at the training.

Elsie completed a Master of Public Health at Flinders University and is currently working as a Community Health and Development Adviser at the non-governmental organisation World Mission Prayer League (also known as LAMB Hospital). She believes that professionals from any sector would benefit from this training, as it helps individuals understand how a group’s cultural and social structure can affect their health, development and political involvement.

About Haydyn Bromley:

Haydyn Bromley is the Executive Director and Chief Cultural Tour Mentor at Bookabee Australia. He is a trained teacher with over 30 years of experience in education and training. Haydyn has also worked in the areas of social justice and industrial rights. He has held many leadership positions, including national and international roles. In the past few years, Haydyn has been conducting cultural awareness seminars and guest lectures at universities in Adelaide. Haydyn enjoys sharing his extensive cultural knowledge and personal experiences.

Watch a YouTube playlist curated by Haydyn for further research and learning: Cultural Resources.

Image on top: Haydyn Bromley