In Michael J. Evans’ third article for Reconciliation Week, he discusses disability in an Aboriginal context.
Michael is a proud Indigenous man, with lifelong disabilities, identifies as a Torres Strait Islander, uses a wheelchair for mobility, and is a Service Manager at one of Yooralla’s residential accommodation services.
Aboriginal people are less likely to label a personal difference or even a medically diagnosed condition as a ‘disability’. They generally accept their members with a physical or intellectual medical condition as being ‘special’, ‘a little bit different’ or ‘requiring extra needs’.
The label ‘disability’ can be seen negatively and to some degree exclusionary, when in fact they can become the centre of the Aboriginal family or community.
Aboriginal kinship is interrelated with medical conditions and disabilities in that the family will more than likely take the responsibility of carer.
Although Government and other services may be offered to assist with caring, accepting these services may be seen as being at odds with Aboriginal culture.
Generally, where debilitating medical conditions arise, Aboriginal families tend to take on the responsibility to care for and maintain the affected family member’s cultural connections.
Practitioners should be aware that their perceptions of the circumstances of a particular Aboriginal person and their family might be based on partial information and cannot be viewed with the identical framework for understanding similar situations involving non- Aboriginal people.
Understanding cultural differences is essential to effective understanding of and practice with Aboriginal persons with a disability, their carers and family.
- Service access remains an issue for Aboriginal people and communities. Yooralla recognises that services need to be accessible, flexible and tailored to meet the needs of Aboriginal families and communities
Michael J. Evans
(pride in self)
About the Author
Michael is recognised as an Elder in many Aboriginal communities across western NSW and has over 20 years of experience as a formal mentor to Aboriginal leaders working in identified management positions in the NSW public service. Michael has over 30 years of experience as a wheelchair user and has provided formal advocacy and informal mentoring for persons with disabilities for over 50 years.
Michael has over 40 years of experience in senior and middle management roles including over 17 years employment with the NSW public service where he held senior positions such as Director Disability & Home Care Services in western NSW and over 15 years employment with Telstra where he held management positions such as Manager Corporate Services in regional Victoria.