How to avoid the most common mistakes
Before you visit
- Get agreement to your visit.
- Find out who the key players/stakeholders are well before your visit. It’s far easier to engage with people if a familiar face is introducing you, so use regional staff or other contacts where possible.
- Let Council/service providers know you’re visiting well in advance. On the day you leave let someone in the community know your arrival time.
- Make sure your vehicle is appropriate for off road driving. We often see NTG vehicles that aren’t equipped to drive on bush roads with heavy corrugations.
- Make use of qualified interpreters. And sometimes interpreters don’t turn up — be prepared either way.
- Ensure you follow up with the interpreter prior to the trip. This will ensure there are no community and cultural conflicts they may be aware of.
- Supply information (presentation/documents/reports etc.) to the council/service provider/ corporation, so people can be aware of what you’re presenting/informing about.
While you are on the community
- If you need an introduction or a first point of contact, use people with established relationship such as regional council service managers, regional council governance staff, GEC’s, IEO’s, or regional office staff.
- Use appropriate speech when communicating. Avoid speaking in office jargon, or using language that general public wouldn’t understand. Use interpreters if there is a language gap.
- Be prepared for non-events, meeting cancellations. Have patience. Don’t expect to be able to hold a meeting first go without building rapport first.
- Don’t get too close to people; respect their personal space (nobody likes a close talker).
- Be aware that some Aboriginal people don’t like long lasting eye contact.
- When a meeting is around a table, be conscious of who the table is for. If you’re a guest, sit away from the table, unless invited to sit at the table.
- Be conscious of where you sit, women with women, men sit with men, unless you’re well known or asked to sit with either.
- Be conscious of cultural avoidance relationships. Some family members can’t sit next to each other or in view of each other.
- Ask before entering if you have to inspect someone’s dwelling, such as an outstation dwelling, community house, or camp. Don’t just announce yourself and enter, ask for permission first. If it isn’t a good time, reschedule. Be respectful of people’s personal space in their own home or camp.
- Dress appropriately. Avoid tight and revealing clothes.
- Always follow up on any requests or commitments you make. Doing what said you would and spending time on the ground will help you earn the trust of community members.
Last updated: 23 Apr 2020