THIS CHAPTER DESCRIBES the holistic nature of Aboriginal community development and illustrates the dimensions (elements) that comprise community development for Aboriginal peoples both historically and contemporarily. More specifically, this chapter describes the cultural, social, environmental (country), economic and spiritual dimensions of Aboriginal community. The implications of the holistic nature of community development, and the working relationships among and between the dimensions, are presented through two case studies, which provide the reader with example models of research that have sought to empower Aboriginal community using participatory action research (PAR).
Traditional and contemporary Aboriginal community
A basis of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal community was and is a continuum, which is built on the concept of the Dreaming. The Dreaming is not a religion; it is not a choice – it is a way of seeing the world (Sherwood 1999). The Dreaming provides us with an understanding of creation through a deep connectedness to land and all living creatures. Hence the Dreaming holds communities together to manage food, land and other obligations, such as kinship, which bind individuals and families together to create a community. The Dreaming explains the notion of the secular (worldly) and spiritual (mystical) and the interconnectedness to kinship and its reciprocal cooperative relationship between individuals and family – the community. Furthermore, there are three important elements of Aboriginal culture that can be utilised in research practices: respect, patience and observation (Kelly 2014). Respect is the fundamental value of Aboriginal culture – it is imperative to show respect for everyone and everything. Patience is waiting without complaint and feelings of harassment and sometimes this can be difficult because of deadlines, which the Aboriginal community may not be aware of or concerned with. Observation is attentively waiting, watching and listening. These values and elements deriving from the Dreaming are increasingly being utilised and acknowledged as the source of valid methodologies by the academy, and can become powerful in research when combined with traditional academic research methodologies.
With the invasion and subsequent colonisation of Australia, based on the legal fiction of terra nullius, Aboriginal people became non-people (Cadzow & Maynard 2011; Martin 2005; Moses 2004; Parbury 1986, 2005; Rowley 1971).