The Failure of First Peoples Cultural Awareness Training

Organisations including churches, schools and sporting bodies, run cultural awareness programs. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people present cultural awareness programs. The same organisations take people including students on immersion programs to remote communities. Our cultural knowledge bedecks their corporate logos, prospectuses, and advertising. Each year we get two more slogans courtesy of NRW and NAIDOC Weeks.

This interchange has been occurring since the beginning of the reconciliation process. It has resulted in many thousands of dollars spent and many Reconciliation Action Plans, corporate acknowledgements, and inclusionary programs.

But Australia still voted overwhelming No to recognise us in the Constitution and give us a Voice.


The problem is not lack of awareness of our culture, but a total ignorance of their own culture, how it began and what remains embedded in it. This ignorance leads to a blindness of the complex interplay that brought us to this place. What we take as the superior universal way of being is a myth fabricated on the occupation of the world, beginning in Southern and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, and morphing through accepted universals such as race, religion, language, and economic systems and, a succession of empires and world orders, ending where we are today.

The reason why the present form of cultural awareness education has failed is because it does not address the systemic embedded-ness that is incapable of including indigenous people the world over, not only here.

It would be exciting if First Peoples Cultural Awareness presenters began to address the real issues and offered cultural education that never mentioned us until people had worked through who they are, where they are from, what are the givens in their society and what do they need to do. This is the mandatory cultural awareness required in our country.

Making use of the Statement of the Heart circle of conflict resolution – Voice, Treaty, Truth and Makarrata – we could lead the deficit majority to join us in the wonder of community!

As a 13-year old street urchin said to me once, “Unless you know where you came from, how you got here, you can’t know where you are going or why”.

To that end here are 4 books I recommend you read:

  • On Decoloniality- Concepts, Analytics, Praxis – Walter Mingolo, Catherine Walsh
  • To Govern The Globe – World Orders and Catastrophic Change, Alfred W. McCoy
  • Killing for Country – David Marr
  • Healing Haunted Histories: A Settler Discipleship of Decolonization –  Elaine Enns, Ched Meyers