A personal story of identity and voice

2017-02-23T23:15:12Z (GMT) by Solomon-Green, Leonie
I am an Aboriginal woman working in a Victorian State Government Department. My current role in the Local Indigenous Network is to facilitate Indigenous voices to be heard in local and state government policy development processes. I live and work in two worlds and I am searching for a space where all voices can have a turn to speak and are respectfully listened to. Using a postcolonial framework I am interested in exploring my own experiences, feelings and intellectual responses to the interactions that I am involved in my two worlds. The thesis explores the dilemmas and complexities associated with this role and I describe the bi-annual Deadly in Gippsland Conferences I initiated in response to my experiences of the silencing of indigenous voices. I examine the historical context that give rise to nature of the interaction between white voices and indigenous voices in the interface between bureaucratic spaces and community spaces. In my conversations with my community members and Elders I am aware of the overwhelming weariness and mistrust that lies behind these interactions. In the thesis I have chosen to use visual representation “to give voice” (Estrella and Forinash, 2013, p.318) to my thinking. As a medium for expression it enables me to communicate often difficult and emotional ideas. Art has been used by all cultures to communicate history and ideas before the written word (Taylor, 1992, p.111) and in our Aboriginal culture oral stories and pictures are used to pass on information from one to another. My pictures are used within the qualitative research method of autoethnography. Daniels (2010) suggests that autoethnography “is a contemporary form of an ancient practice. Indigenous cultures from across the world have used the power of story to transform and construct knowledge from an experience for thousands of years” (p. 14). Each picture in the thesis helps me to explore and unpack my experiences, my reactions, and my emotions. Therefore my pictures and my words can be understood as an invitation to you the reader to “enter and feel” with me some of the experiences I am describing. For me, writing this autoethnography has been more than just telling my own story. It has been about the process of finding my voice, of freeing myself from what hooks (1989) calls “the bonds of secrecy and silence” (p.156). This thesis has help me explore ways in which I have come to understand myself, the culture I identify most strongly with, and my place in my community. The question I now have to reflect on is how can I work differently as an Aboriginal community development broker between a non-Aboriginal Government and Aboriginal communities? I don’t want to merely consult anymore