Home / World News / Bryan Cousins says it’s not just about whitefellas trying to understand Aboriginal folks, it’s got to be a two-way street

Bryan Cousins says it’s not just about whitefellas trying to understand Aboriginal folks, it’s got to be a two-way street

Bryan Cousins vividly remembers sharing his childhood home in Armadale with his “Didgee” mates, “some of the best footballers and friends you could have”.

He was only a kid, but the memories all those years ago remain strong.

“They used to stay at our place after school on Friday because they lived out of town and mum and dad could make sure we were all at our best for the footy in the morning,” Mr Cousins said.

“But as I grew up, I started to realise that there were noticeable differences between the opportunities I got, and the ones my Aboriginal mates got.”

That sense of injustice stayed with him all his life.

And in a strange way, it also gave him some context to some “pretty dark days” he and his family went through with their much-loved but troubled son, Ben.

Talking to promote next Friday’s Aboriginal Engagement and Diversity Forum at Burswood’s The Camfield, Mr Cousins said he and a group of white Australians went on a cultural awareness program outside of Kalgoorlie five years ago.

For him, it was close to life-changing.

Sitting atop a 40m-high rocky outcrop and hearing Dreamtime stories going back thousands of years, he described it as “one of the most beautiful moments of my life”.

“Both sides need to try to understand the other,” Mr Cousins said. “It’s particularly true in business, which adds another layer of complexity to what can be pretty daunting things to start with.

“And it’s not just about whitefellas trying to understand Aboriginal people, it’s got to be a two-way street … if you keep looking back while you’re trying to walk forward, you’re only going to fall over.”

He urged all West Australians, particularly in businesses and especially those in the mining industry, to reach a better understanding of indigenous issues, which would ultimately be “beneficial to all parties”.

It’s not just about white fellas trying to understand Aboriginal people, it’s got to be a two-way street.

Tony Shaw, a Stolen Generation Wongi man from Laverton, runs Indigenous Services Australia and is the driving force behind next Friday’s forum.

He has facilitated numerous multimillion-dollar native title and royalty deals between miners and Aboriginal people across WA and understands better than most the complexities of indigenous culture. Mr Shaw also describes the much-vaunted process of reconciliation between white and black Australia as a “complete fraud”.

“How can you reconcile with someone who you know nothing about, who you’ve never met, whose culture you don’t understand,” he asks.

“I prefer to call it conciliation . . . it’s about both sides sitting down and listening and learning.”

He said he had proved many times that teams of lawyers facing off against each other did little to bring warring sides together. Only the lawyers won, he said.

“There have been plenty of big royalty deals done in less than a year by simply sitting on the ground with elders and listening,” he said. “Everyone gets so analytical and it all bogs down.”

Friday’s forum will also hear from Wesley Walley from Wyndcorp, Sharon Goddard, the boss of Gold Road Resources, Peter Bradford from the Independence Group, Wadjuk-Ballardong elder Murray Jones, and former Seven West Media WA chief executive Chris Wharton.

For more information, email admin@indigenousservices.com.au

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