This journal article explores Wontulp-Bi-Buya College (WBCC) the college was established to run courses and provide facilities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and staff. The college implemented a Community Development course which is culturally sensitive and holistic to the indigenous community. The implementation of this subject had an “objective which was to upskill indigenous community leaders to identify, manage and evaluate community projects “. (Journal Article). WBCC College is proving to empower and engage their students of who are future leaders of indigenous communities. Since 2007 there has been an increase in the number of community development projects which has been implemented from these college graduates. The college has taken traditional western approaches to education and flipped it in on its head to create an approach that incorporates the indigenous culture. The empowerment principle of community development has been the major driver of change, it has inspired graduates to undertake community development initiatives across FNQ. The programs which have been implemented in these communities have brought about a better understanding of their own culture, independence and life skills which have assisted in securing stronger indigenous communities for Far North Queensland.
To build resilient communities there needs to be an understanding of the history of these communities. Phia van der Watt, (2018) investigated the effects of western settlements on indigenous cultures around the world, the settlement of Australia and the systemic oppressive treatment of the indigenous community has left them deeply wounded and has contributed the lost sense of identity that they feel. These factors have contributed significantly to the gaps in society between white Australia and the Indigenous population. Government policies have attempted to assimilate indigenous culture with the Australian culture of which has typically been a top down approach. In 2004 under the Liberal Government, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) was dismantled after failing to bridge the gaps with indigenous communities. In 2005 the regional councils that provided the link for indigenous affairs to a national level was also abolished. In late 2007 the Australian Labour party came to Power and the council of Australian Governments (COAG) committed to overhaul previous policies to assist in bringing about effective change:
“Council of Australian Governments (COAG) pledged to close the gaps, in November 2008 COAG approved the National Indigenous Reform Agreement which identified six closing the gaps targets” To assist in bridging these gaps a progressive plan was implemented after identifying a number of foundational building blocks, these included safe communities, healthy homes and governance and leadership” (Gardiner-Garden, Dr. John, 2012, p ).
These timelines coincide with the increase in the implementation of community development initiatives undertaken from 2007 in this article. Community development is a bottom up approach where it works with individuals, communities and systems to bring about positive change within the community, it encompasses many principles. The main principles implemented by WBCC in this article are Empowerment, Non-Authoritarian and Community Ownership,
Tsey, (2009) states that Empowerment is defined as a process whereby individuals and groups of people become stronger and more confident in controlling or exerting influence over the issues affecting their lives. WBCC college has offered a range of subjects in their community development course which has given students increased control over their lives, the course has relevance to indigenous culture and social issues and it allows students to share common concerns and interests relating to the indigenous community. By doing this it has created engagement which in turn has empowered the students. WBCC uses collective experience to empower students, collective experience refers to a group of people which have some similarity, often times when people are victimised or have been through similar situations or have experienced forms of oppression or marginalisation, it is only then that when these people come together and share their experiences that they realise they are not alone. WBCC has facilitated shared learnings by allowing the indigenous students to come together and learn in an environment where they are amongst people of similar situations and backgrounds. When you get people together of similar backgrounds and experiences it can lead to them becoming empowered and it can take form as collective action, which is being demonstrated in the number of community development projects that have been implemented since 2007.
WBCC College has a Non-Authoritarian approach to their teaching method, this non-authoritarian approach aligns with the community development principle. WBCC has kept the organisation structure is as flat as possible. Western schools are a merit-based learning style with clear
The participatory approach of the course shifts power from the teacher to the student which is the basis of the empowerment.
acquisition of social capital for empowerment and community development. Community Ownership – communites thrive when they develop their own asset
Phia van der Watt; Community development in wounded communities: seductive schemes or un-veiling and healing?, Community Development Journal, Volume 53, Issue 4, 1 October 2018, Pages 714–731, https://doi-org.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/10.1093/cdj/bsx017
Gardiner-Garden, Dr. John. (2012) Social Policy. Retrieved 12 01, 2018, from source.
Tsey, Komla (2009) Community development and empowerment. In: Jirojwong, Sansnee, and Liamputtong, Pranee, (eds.) Population Health, Communities and Health Promotion. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, pp. 215-231.