Robert Andrew was inspired by the strong interconnections created by Inala Wangarra’s programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Brisbane suburb of Inala and surrounding areas in creating his work, Continuing depths of connection.
The impact of these programs; positive social change, developing the strength of the local community and culture and the layers of connection created are often not immediately evident to observers but build over a passage of time.
Using earth materials and man-made highly refined programmable technology Robert Andrew’s installation takes its full form over a period of time, similar to the gradual and complex processes of bringing people together in order to build knowledge and share culture.
Take a look at the 5-minute video about the collaboration between Robert Andrew and Inala Wangarra.
The strength of the continuing depths of connection created by the Inala Wangarra community controlled organisation is clearly evident in their evolution of services during the COVID-19 crisis. A great example of how community organisations that are ‘of, for and by the community’ are able to provide what a community truly needs. Karla Brady CEO of Inala Wangarra (IW) has worked with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Inala for the last 10 years. They have recently approached researchers at UQ to look at the impact of the current siloing of Indigenous organisations and what a sustainable governance model would look like for a community development organisation like Inala Wangarra.
Inala is home to the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Brisbane. Inala Wangarra’s website states, ‘places like Inala are viewed as places that people don’t ‘choose’ to live, but are forced to reside in due to economic hardship. However within our community, while affordable public housing may have initially drawn many people to the suburb, the strong family and community cultural ties have ensured that generations of Indigenous families have continued to call Inala home.’
“I speak often about the deficit rule and ‘close the gap’ and that media are only going to report on how we haven’t reached the right mortality or school attendance rate. When you only look at a situation from a perspective of deficit you miss opportunities because you’ve already under-estimated the people at the heart of the situation and you are always going to look at Indigenous people as being deficient rather than looking at their strengths,” Karla Brady said.
The strong connections and relationships fostered by the IW community development group are also intrinsic within Indigenous culture in family and community cultural ties. These relationships and connections have resulted in a rapid transition to continuing engagement of community and establishment of new programs to support community, where needs have arisen due to pandemic restrictions.
Karla Brady said, ”It has been really quite evident during this crisis that because we are already delivering our service on the ground we were able to respond immediately. We were doing activities online in the first week the Federal Government restrictions began. A lot of other services a month down the track were still in the planning stages to take programs online.”
One of the other strengths Karla identified was in the organisation’s size, “We are not a big organisation or heavily hierarchical and our funding structures, through supportive funding bodies, mean we have autonomy to make decisions. Also, because we are the largest employer of Indigenous people we are really accountable to our community, the people we employ are also part of that community. If we are not doing something, its known really quickly and because we interact with people all the time, we know what is needed.
“Our initial major concern was for the over 700 casual employees (many artists) and many from within the community, who we engage at different times to deliver or be involved in program delivery in addition to project staff. Our concern was how to keep those 700 people connected to IW during that time when they weren’t able to deliver face to face programs and to help them from an income point of view as being artists their other work income was also affected during this time. We really quickly looked at our work plans and our employees strengths and how we could put that into delivering some of the services online,” Karla said.
Inala Wangarra have been able to transition many of their programs for online delivery supplemented by delivery of program materials to households and have modified and added other services to meet community needs. Another concern was for the Elders who, particularly vulnerable to the virus and needing to be isolated, may need greater support from Inala Wangarra.
“We absolutely can see the impact these services have overall on people’s social and emotional wellbeing. We are always very conscious of social and emotional wellbeing, for me one of the challenges has been around pastoral care of staff. They are all community members and they are having to deliver a service that from government perspective is not an essential service but I think is a really essential service during this time.
“A lot of them are single mums trying to home-school kids and I think we always practise staff care and are always on to employees about work/ life balance and have been very conscious of our productivity and putting staff wellbeing first so they can then in turn look after the community.
“Inala Wangarra is now looking at how we return in a better way after this crisis. I think everyone has a responsibility to look strategically about what we take with us after this experience,” Karla Brady said.
Note: On advice from Inala Wangarra, within this story, there is frequent use of the term ‘Indigenous’ to describe both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as a broad category of identity. It is acknowledged that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprise of two culturally distinctive groups and the use of the term ‘Indigenous’ is primarily to avoid repeating the more accurate but longer title.