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Weaving a deeper understanding of Aboriginal Elder knowledge

Working alongside with Elders -Fom left to right, Jelina Haines, Aunty Ellen Trevorrow (centre) and Aunty Alice Abdulla Source: Supplied

For more than 40,000 years, the Aboriginal people of Australia have used cultural activities such as storytelling, ceremonies and traditional crafts to pass knowledge from generation to generation.

The impact of European colonisation over the past 200 years has eroded much of traditional knowledge transfer mechanisms and a heartbreaking amount of Indigenous wisdom has been lost forever.

University of South Australia researcher Jelina Haines is leading efforts to preserve what knowledge remains, developing a system of video ethnography and information-mapping designed to capture the integrity and authenticity of Aboriginal Elders’ knowledge.

Haines was able to develop a unique research model to recognise and capture that complexity thanks to her long running relationship with the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal community from the lower lakes of the Murray River in South Australia.

“Over the years, so many researchers have tried to study these cultures and it has always fallen short because they have never approached it from the perspective of what is good for the people they are studying,” Haines says.

“Instead, I have done this research with the Elders and for the Elders, and they have been generous and supportive as a result.”

Haines believes the model she has developed with the Ngarrindjeri people can be readily applied in other Aboriginal communities, representing a sensitive, respectful way of preserving thousands of years of ancient wisdom.

 

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