Our Elders: Essential to our Community

The dynamic and intricate system of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kinship is rarely understood by non-Indigenous ideas of family.

Our traditional culture’s strengths in family functioning and raising children, and our complex knowledge systems, are vital to the wellbeing of all of our communities – as are our Elders.

Australian Indigenous Elders: Traditional vs Contemporary roles

Australian Indigenous Elders: Traditional vs Contemporary roles
Contemporary society has brought a raft of challenges and pressures that highlight the importance of our Elders and the integral role they play in supporting our communities.

Understanding the contemporary role of our Elders, particularly in regards to unique community issues, is vital if we are to improve the wellbeing of our children, young people and the entire community.

Each community has particular challenges and issues that are only properly understood from within. Elders within each community have a deep understanding of the history, systems and broader context that have lead to these situations, and it is vital that we strengthen their voices and engagement to benefit our communities.

While the roles of our Elders may have shifted from their traditional roles, we need to support their role in addressing issues that deeply affect our People – like the lasting effects of the Stolen Generation, the loss of traditional knowledge and the low life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The Stolen Generations

There is not a single Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community that has not been forever changed by the Stolen Generations.

The class action by Stolen Generation survivors in the Northern Territory is continuing, with the government putting in place a Redress Scheme, which offers a one-off $70,000 payment to survivors and the opportunity to tell their story and receive a personal apology from the Federal Government.

But this Redress Scheme fails to recognise the lasting impact the Stolen Generations has had, not just on survivors, but their descendants and the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Aboriginal old woman and little girl sitting on a bush

And the Stolen Generations is not just an issue from our past. The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people that are removed from their homes continues to rise, and the effect remains the same: a loss of identity, culture, community and the continued infliction of intergenerational trauma.

Elders: Essential to our Community

One of the most pivotal ways we can address the issue of intergenerational trauma is by promoting Eldership within our communities.

Centred around being involved and providing support to the community, teaching and passing down knowledge, being respectful and sharing experiences, Eldership is vital if our communities are to flourish.

The role of Elders is not simply to preserve cultural knowledge. They are integral in addressing issues that plague our communities – like health, education, unemployment and oppression.

Hand of an old woman holding the hand of a young girl

By supporting and empowering our Elders, we can help reduce the lasting impacts of these issues and ensure sacred spiritual knowledge continues to be passed down through generations.

The strengths of our cultural traditions, and the building of healthy families, are reliant on the knowledge and engagement of our Elders.

Narang Bir-rong

At Narang Bir-rong, we are committed to helping end this cycle of trauma by supporting children and families in the foster care system and helping them break the cycle of disadvantage with improved physical, social, emotional and educational wellbeing.

Family preservation is at the core of everything we do because we know that helping build strong, well-functioning families can empower both parents and children.

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foster Care Program is committed to placing children and young people in care situations that support their identity and self-esteem. We promote placements within kinship lines, with people who are culturally sound and who will promote cultural identity.

If you’d like to learn more about our Family Preservation Program, or our Aboriginal Foster Care Program, contact Narang Bir-rong.

Level 4, 331 High St
Penrith NSW 2750
Suite 2, 36 Woodriff St
Penrith NSW 2750

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live and work, and those throughout all of Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to land, sea and culture, and pay our respects to our Elders past, present and emerging. We extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

CONTACT Narang Bir-rong

We love hearing from our community, so if you’re interested in finding out more about our services or how you can get involved, contact Narang Bir-rong.

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