Academic journal article Hecate

Questions of Collaboration: An Interview with Jackie Huggins and Isabel Tarrago

Academic journal article Hecate

Questions of Collaboration: An Interview with Jackie Huggins and Isabel Tarrago

Article excerpt

CF: In talking about the problems with Black women and white women working together in various areas, perhaps the first thing we might talk about is the situation of Aboriginal women in Australia in relation to the circulation of their ideas within the Black Community and within the white community -- probably two rather different things.

JH: Yes. The dominant discourse for Aboriginal people is through our oral traditions. The way in which we communicate to our own people and to white fellas is very much determined by what the oral tradition is dictating to us and is putting across. Of course, there are all sorts of different dynamics associated with how one communicates, and structures their communication with whites as opposed to Blacks, and I guess throughout the course of this interview we'll probably be able to draw some of those parallels or those differences out. I think at the moment there are probably more differences than parallels.

IT: With the oral history it is very important that Aboriginal people do have the base of oral communication and we work upon that. It doesn't matter where we are coming from, basically we have to build on that oral tradition and I think that is where we get our strength.

JH: One of the central things is the way we use Aboriginal English as opposed to how we talk to white fellas. Of course we have to Europeanise our talking and our dealing -- and very much, too, our writing -- when it comes to what's going to be acceptable to white fellas. Aboriginal people will certainly pick up and hone in on things like non-verbal cues and so forth. But we have to keep stating the obvious -- and stating the obvious is quite tiring sometimes; there is so much energy drain associated with it, though I think it is a dialogue that we have to keep up. I myself at times get very frustrated with why am I answering such simplistic questions. Why am I getting angry about something that I have already said, which I thought that I had addressed through half my presentation. Sometimes white fellas will look at you and they think, you know: `You're speaking a real alien tongue here'. Sometimes I'm trying to get a point across and I have to go through a white person to tell another white person what I have just told that other white person.

CF: What Jackie's trying to say is...(Laughter)

JH: Oh right, oh yes, they answer; not to me but to the other white person...

CF: There are two places, then, where you might be looking at trying to get some sort of sense of strength or power to change Australian society? One would be within the Black Community, and there would be particular ways in which that would be done. But within the white community you're saying perhaps you have to operate in different kinds of ways in order to get across at all?

IT: Yes I think that is what we are saying. Myself I will always be a Community operator, and when you're working on a Community level you're speaking an Aboriginal language at the foundation side of it. We go to non-Aboriginal forums because we want to put over that Community based information. We have to communicate on a different level in some areas because people are expecting you to deliver in a academic forum and things like that -- and we can do that, but we don't forget where our base is. I think the other thing that we have to look at also is the difference between the Aboriginal Community base and the non-Aboriginal community base. Although organisations can be striving for almost the same outcomes we do have a working relationship difference and I think this is important. In Aboriginal society we have an oral tradition which is very strong, whereas the white community has written communication. So that is a big difference, and white communities have to understand that when we go through the oral tradition. We don't have a written component, whereas in the white community you refer back to your written communication skills and that is your difference. …

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