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Jim Poulter Author of Books on Aboriginal Culture and Child Protection
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Understanding Indigenous Cultural Differences

- Handy Hints for Helping Professionals in Engaging Aboriginal Clients

Presented at 10th Biennial Rural and Remote Social Work Conference, Ballarat, July 2011.


The issues of cultural repression and trans-generational trauma within the Aboriginal community that have compounded the problems of cultural difference are explored. Contemporary cultural differences within the Aboriginal community are seen to have their roots in traditional culture, but these differences have also been overlain by the effects of dispossession, dispersal, dislocation and discrimination. The effects of this cumulative trans-generational trauma are likened to that of World War Two Jewish holocaust victims, whose children consequently suffered the transmitted effects of their parents’ trauma. Understanding how this transmitted trauma within the indigenous community affects trust in a professional relationship is an important element of the helping process. I then explore the nature of persevering values from traditional Aboriginal society and how these values clash with the traditional property oriented nature of western society. Drawing on personal experience, I recount a number of anecdotes that highlight the traditional roots of these contemporary cultural differences. I then provide a list of eleven handy hints to helping professionals assist in the engagement process with indigenous clients.


The above paper is only a slight re-editing of the article appearing in the text ‘Readings in Indigenous Cultural Differences’, which was co-authored with Senior Aboriginal Elder Reg Blow. This book of readings is out of print. The other articles on Aboriginal religion and social structure, and on the Aboriginal origins of Australian Football are effectively covered by my text ‘Sharing Heritage in Kulin Country’. Therefore, the above article, plus the powerpoint presentation accompanying it will be made available free of charge and will be forwarded as an email attachment upon request.

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