INT102 Interpersonal Communication Barrier in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People Assessment 3 Answer
Social workers must carry practical interpersonal communication skills because they have to communicate critical information to and fro from their clients and make important decisions that will affect their future. The interpersonal skills include sound listening skills where the social workers should be able to listen carefully, take notes of important details to relay them later to the concerned parties if required; nonverbal behaviour which will make them more approachable for their clients; building trust to make their clients know that they do have their best interests in their minds and will surely take up their schedule into consideration; handling conflict, so they avoid threatening, warning, judging or raising their voice at their clients; and getting information by asking the appropriate questions or switching to an alternate language to make their clients understand them better and provide them with the necessary information. (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2011) For this assessment, I have taken the “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people” as my client group. The main motive for me to choose this client group for the assessment is to learn about all the communication barriers they face at their workplace and all the significant ways that can be used to eliminate those barriers.
Aboriginal and Torres Islander People
The first approach to writing this report understands our client group the "Aboriginals" and the "Torres Strait Islander" people don't refer to the same group of people however they have been categorised under the same group ever since the colonisation in Australia because they are all the original inhabitants of the land. The "Aboriginals" were the actual people of mainland Australia whereas the "Torres Strait Islanders" are the original people from the cluster of the 274 islands at the north of Australia, along the Torres Strait. During the colonial period, these groups of people were looked down upon by the British officers and were subject to cruelty and violence. (Bennett & Zubrzycki, 2003)
Figure 1: Aboriginal People of Australia
(Source: Australian Geographic, 2010)
The whole indigenous population of Australia was reduced drastically, and today they constitute a minor portion of the Australian population. (AIHW, 2019) Cultural diversity is essential as it helps us understand and communicate better with more people, thus bringing about peace and harmony in our surroundings.
Initiatives by the Government
The Australian Government had finally understood the need to preserve the ethnicity of these minority groups and give special attention to them. These minority groups were already too less in number and lacked several necessary facilities. Now that the Australian Government has understood their importance and started paying particular attention to them, their population has increased in number however they are still in need of special care and support as their culture and practices are quite different from the rest of the Australian population. (Hunt, 2013) The national and state governments have been actively putting efforts to reduce the gap between these minority groups and the rest of the Australian community along with the strong support of several Australian social organisations such as the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). They work tirelessly to give these people a reliable stand in society.
There are several communicational barriers that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders face with the rest of the Australian population, a glimpse of which is shared in the following diagram.
Figure 2: Difficulties in Communication
(Source: Shahid et al., 2009)
Whenever there is a barrier in the mode of communication, it leads to a loss of trust, and this case wasn’t any different. The biggest problem that affects proper contact with the minority groups is the lack of faith. They had been subject to cruelty, abuse, violence, mistreatment, racial discrimination and several other wrongful acts due to which they developed an intense fear for not only the Government but the other ordinary people as well. (Herring et al., 2013) Apart from the contextual barriers, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face such as the racial discrimination, lack of support and understanding, they also face fundamental communicational problems because of their differences in the native language, cultural practices such as their exotic rituals, singing and dance patterns, and dressing sense, their body language and some other factors. (Cultural Capabiliy, 2020) These factors mutually contribute as well as are results of lack of trust for these people; which cause more difficulties in communications with them.
Fighting the Barriers
Ever since there has been awareness to sensitise the condition of the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people, the Government has been actively putting efforts to regulate and direct organisations and specific programs to ensure quality services to these minority groups so they can lead better lives. There are several examples of programs specifically designed to help these indigenous groups who are the most economically and socially disadvantaged people in Australia.
The first one is the Community Development Employment Projects Scheme (CDEP) – who works for the welfare of these minority groups at their workplaces. It provides on-the-job training to the indigenous people and helps them attain skills. (Voced, 2009) The second is Aboriginal Medical Services and Aboriginal Legal Services who provide medical and legal services free of cost. The third is The Indigenous Employment Programme which works to create flexible financial assistance for the creation of new job and training opportunities for the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people in the private sector. (Gray et al., 2012)
Figure 3: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation
(Source: Bawinanga, n.d.)
Another example is the Indigenous Education Strategic Initiatives Programme (IESIP) which provides funds to kindergartens, pre-schools, schools and other educational and training institutes to help in providing more educational opportunities and better future outcomes for the young population of the indigenous groups. (Dept. of Finance and Administration, 2006)
One example of an organisation that works actively with the state governments of Australia to care for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is The Australian Association of Social Workers that recognises around 12000 social workers who have dedicated themselves to bringing social justice, inclusion and social welfare in their Australian community (AASW, 2020). AASW works for the protection of human rights, which are equal for all humans regardless of their race and ethnicity, their education, employment and access to various facilities.
Figure 4: Australian Association of Social Workers
Apart from the programs and organisations, the Government had also come up with many laws and policies to protect the rights of the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people, some of which are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act of 1989; the Native Title Amendment Act of 1998; the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act of 2005; the Aboriginal Heritage Act of 2006 and also the establishment of a national advocacy organisation, ANTaR which works towards the provision of legal assistance to the indigenous groups in cases of violation of their legal rights (ANTaR, 2020).
Communicating with the Aboriginal and Torres Islander People
Next, we shall discuss how we can communicate effectively with the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people to overcome the communication barriers. These minority groups had gone through some horrific experiences in their past, which caused them not to trust the Government and the rest of the Australian population.
Figure 5: Working With Some of Australia’s Most Remote Aboriginal Communities
(Source: National Aboriginal Sporting Chance to the Northern Territory, 2018)
In this case, the first step is to demonstrate a sense of understanding to help them trust us. We need to interact without any bias or judgement both before, during and after the interactions with people who come from a different cultural background from ours. There is a need to place the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people before anyone else, for communicating effectively with them to give them a sense of warmth and inclusiveness and help them trust us better. (Markwick et al., 2014) When it comes to personal communication, we need first to make sure to build a good friendly rapport with such people. They need to find us warm approachable to be able to trust us, and after that, we can proceed with talking about common interests and sharing exciting stories about each other to break the ice. The most significant barrier to communicating with the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people is language. Most of them either don’t understand English or speak varied dialects of English. In such cases, it is crucial to avoid usage of tricky words, trying to talk in their native language unless we have a firm command, explaining using diagrams and pictures, and encouraging them to ask questions. Special focus shall be put on the children, who visit the schools and face the linguistic barriers. (Verdon & McLeod, 2015) Non-verbal communication needs to be paid extra attention to as different hand gestures, expressions etc. mean differently in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and they might find it offensive if we don’t use the appropriate body language.
Figure 6: Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Ethics
(Source: UTAS, 2018)
Personal space should be respected for every individual, and one should always seek permission, along with explaining the reason behind initiating physical contact. (Cultural Capability, 2020)
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be treated with care and respect by the Australian social workers. They must be cautious with their actions and must try their best to overcome the communication barriers to make them feel safe and at ease. They should also strictly abide by the Australian legal regulations and government policies to develop close relationships with them and create a better and more inclusive society.