One of the favourite parts of my job is working with our team on cultural familiarisation (or cultural awareness training). We have a small but mighty team at QTIC but there are things that you just don’t know until they are pointed out to you. This time round, we enlisted the help of Mundanara Bayles from BlackCard Cultural Tours in Brisbane to provide a different look at the area in which we have been living and working for quite some time.
BlackCard Cultural Tours explore Brisbane with local Aboriginal tour guides walking together in the footsteps of ancestors through the heart of Meeanjin (Brisbane City). We caught up with Mundanara at kuril dhagun at the talking circle where we sat around the only open firepit in the city. As we sat around the (un-lit) fire we gave our introductions. In line with cultural protocol we introduced ourselves and offered a little insight about our person – just so you all know my name is Rhonda and I hate the outdoors and I have two grandchildren (one of whom loves to sleep in nanny’s bed). By sitting in a circle in this manner, we have our back to no-one and our introductions place us all on an equal footing. There is no mention of work positions, ego or hierarchy – this is about who we are beyond all that.
Once we got to know one another, we went into the State Library. Mundanara expertly guided us through a number of the displays. One of the stories that stuck with our colleagues is an often unknown time in history when Aboriginal people were paid for their work in opium ash (not even the good stuff). This meant these people were hooked on the drug, loosing their health and their wages were also taken in payment. The addiction would force these workers to continue in this cycle. Removing their freedom and independence. A stunning infinity symbol of suspended poppy heads, designed my Fiona Foley, represents the different ambiances and cultures, exploring themes of history, memory and politics.
Our eyes were certainly opened on this journey and we got to see Brisbane in a new light. Conversations were started and discussions had around some of the challenging truth’s that were revealed through this experience. It is always heart-warming to know the team is building their insight and even better that we can do it together in an engaging environment.
From an organisational perspective, the big boss identifies that “all working partnerships start with mutual respect and understanding. The cultural gaps can still be bigger than we think and we need to work towards bridging those gaps”. So that’s what we will continue doing. We will continue learning from one another, listening to the stories that need sharing and building the relationship one step at a time.
I urge you to consider the opportunity for cultural familiarisation with your teams, families and friends. Engage with a local First Nations tourism provider and who knows what you’ll learn!