Welcome! I love to write, and I love sharing what I write with my readers. I vary my style as much as I can-posting events, creative non-fiction, prose and poetry and the occasional video. Enjoy!



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflection Week 4

Christine McFarlane
Reflective Journal Week 4

Issues in Indigenous Health and Communities are very important when learning about the Indigenous people of Australia. I find that understanding overall health and wellness for Indigenous people is integral to understanding the very backbone of who they are as a people and how they see themselves in a worldview that is not very well understood by the non Indigenous society. I feel that though Lecturer Katrina Thorpe covered as much as she could in the three days allotted, I am eager to learn a lot more, especially in the area of social justice because no one should have more rights than another in society.
It is interesting to note that Lecturer Katrina Thorpe mentioned from the Community Aid Abroad/Oxfam homepage that included in every person’s basic rights is to have:
1.     enough to eat
2.     equality of opportunity
3.     an education
4.     freedom from violence
5.     a livelihood
6.     clean water
7.     a safer environment
8.     health care
9.     a home
10.  and a say in the future.

This seems to differ when it comes to Indigenous Australians because it is well known that prior to colonization Indigenous people had control over all aspects of their lives and that their standard of health declined shortly after colonization due to the impact of disease, poor living conditions and their fall in socioeconomic status due to the implementations of policies and governmental prejudices. This is something I feel has played a huge role in how Aboriginal health is today, because in so many ways, the ways of the colonizers has stayed with Indigenous people. Indigenous people continue to fight with what they have always believed in, that their identity is connected to everything and that the “social and emotional wellbeing concept is broader” (Social Health Reference Group, 2004) than the biomedical definition that Western society puts on health.
The differences in how health is perceived in the non-Indigenous worldview versus the Indigenous worldview are very intriguing. In particular I liked the first reading for Module 4- ‘Aboriginal Peoples’ Concept and Perception of Health because it states “Health” to Aboriginal peoples is a matter of determining all aspects of their life, including control over their physical environment, of dignity, of community self esteem, and of justice,” (National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party, 1989)) and that it is not merely “a matter of the provision of doctors, hospitals, medicines or the absence of disease and incapacity.”(National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party, 1989)
As a First Nations woman I have often felt a division between the Western viewpoint of health and the Indigenous viewpoint of health.  I feel this divide because I have grown up using the Western model of health and have only in the last few years come to understand the Indigenous model of health and how it encompasses the emotional, physical, social and spiritual aspects of being and does not just focus on ‘finding the quickest fix’ like the Western model.
I found it disheartening to read “governmental healthcare policies and programs implemented in Australia over the past two decades have not resulted in significant improvements in most aspects of Aboriginal health outcomes,” and that
when compared to the general population Aboriginal people still continue to have shorter life expectancies, “suffer from higher rates of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, cancer, renal failure, and respiratory ailments and have higher mortality rates among all age/sex cohorts.” (Ivanitz, M. 2000)
            There are many reasons why the health status of Indigenous people remains much worse than the non- Indigenous population, but as stated in the Summary of Australian Indigenous Health, 2009, substantial improvements in Indigenous health will “depend on long-term collaborative approaches involving Indigenous leaders and communities, the health and non-health sectors, and all levels of governments.” (52) 
However it is enlightening to know that there are such initiatives as Close the Gap, Shake a Leg, Spring into Shape and ASCHE have been implemented in some schools and communities.

Works Cited:
Ivanitz, M. (2000) Achieving Improved Health Outcomes for Urban Aboriginal People: Biomedical and Ethnomedical Models of Health, Australian Journal of Public Administration, September, 59, (3), pp.49-57

National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party, A National Aboriginal Health Strategy Canberra: AGPS, 1989,p. 1

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council (2003) National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health: framework for action by governments. Canberra: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council

Social Health Reference Group (SHRG) (2004). p. 1 National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s Mental Health and Social and Emotional Well Being 2004-2009 Australian Department of Health and Ageing Canberra,

Week 3 Reflection

Christine McFarlane
Reflective Journal- Week 3

First, I would like to note that I admire how our lecturers at the beginning of each lecture acknowledge the land of the Eora people in which we currently stand upon. I find it admirable especially because of how it ties into this past week’s topics of land and culture. In recognizing the original inhabitants, it is showing a respect for those who stood before us and lets them know that they are not forgotten.
Understanding Indigenous Land, Culture and how Indigenous people view it, as integral to cultural continuity is important when you are learning about a people other than your own. It not only explains who they are, but also teaches you their worldview and how they see themselves in relation to the world around them. As a First Nations woman from Canada, I can relate with the Indigenous people of Australia and how they see land and culture as being inextricably tied together, because land and culture to me personally is the backbone to your very own identity and who you are.
Our introduction to Module 3: Indigenous Land and Culture reads that “through colonization many Indigenous Australians were removed from their place of origins and the colonists assumed that these ties were broken.” (Course Reader, 2010) However through this week’s lectures and films, it is easy to see that Indigenous Australians are anything but removed from their country, languages and traditions, and their heritage is very much alive and thriving. This was evident not only through the films we saw but also when lecturer Michelle Blanchard spoke about how land can play a huge role in your sense of belonging. Blanchard stated that there can be many things that give you a sense of belonging, but four key areas include “family, language, religion, and health”. (Blanchard, 2010) It is also important to note that the above four areas I have mentioned also can include ‘having a shared history’ with a group of people that can help you experience that sense of belonging that everyone and everything yearns to have.
 In the article ‘Country’ it states, “Each country has its sacred origins, its sacred and dangerous places, its sources of life and its sites of death. Each has its own people, its own Law, its own way of life.” (Rose D.B, 1996) This is particularly evident in the movie “Ten Canoes” and in the film “Shadow Sister’ in which we are introduced to the Grandmother of Aboriginal Literature, Kath Walker.
 It is through literature that we are witness to the connection of land and culture, and how some authors have been able to address the issues of culture and politics, whereas giving them a voice on paper, where they could not express it in other venues. According to the reading Aboriginal Literature, “Aboriginal literature as we know it today had its origins in the late 1960s as the intensification of Aboriginal political activity posed an increasing range of aesthetic questions and possibilities for Aboriginal authors.” 
 According to the film “Shadow Sister’ and to some further research Kath Walker, who resumed her traditional name in 1988 to acknowledge her Noonuccal ancestors, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, was a poet, activist and public speaker and was “largely responsible for a change in attitude towards her people.” (
Through her writing, and political activism, Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal) articulated the feelings of Aboriginal people for the rest of Australia in a way that they had not heard before.  This is evident in one of her most famous poems and her first book “We are Going” where she states
“They came in to the little town
A semi-naked band subdued and silent
All that remained of their tribe
They came here to the place of their old bora ground
Where now the many white men hurry about like ants
Notice of the estate agent reads “Rubbish May Be Tipped Here.”
Now it half covers the traces of the old bora ring
“We are as strangers here now, but the white tribe are the strangers.”
We belong here, we are of the old ways.”


Kath Walker, through the above noted poem clearly establishes the colonization of her people, how they have been made to be strangers. She also notes that though the old bora (sacred land) ring is half covered, they still rightfully belong to the land and their identity is established through the old ways.
 In returning to her homeland of Stradbroke Island, she established a cultural and educational centre and personally undertook educating thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people about Aboriginal culture. This establishes that though she returned to her homeland later in life, her desire to know her cultural roots never left her, and she evidently passed her knowledge onto others so that the history and culture of her people would continue.

Works Cited:
Michelle Blanchard (Lecture) Issues in Indigenous Land and Culture, University of Sydney, July 13, 2010.

Heiss, Anita & Minter, Peter Aboriginal Literature: Macquariem PEN anthology of Aboriginal Literature/edited by Anita Heiss and Peter Minter; general editor, Nicholas Jose. Crows Nest, N.S.W: Allen &Unwin, 2008. Introduction: Aboriginal Literature

Inside Australia: Indigenous Australian Studies-Course Reader, p. 34, 2010
Rose D B, (1996) ‘Country’ Chapter 1 in Nourishing terrains: Australian Aboriginal views of landscape and wilderness, Canberra: Australian Heritage Commission. (pp.7-13)

T, David (  2007) Oodgeroo Noonuccal biography poetry Publication List. Retrieved July 7, 2010 from

Reflective Journal Week 2

Christine McFarlane
 Reflective Journal: Week Two

Indigenous Rights has always been an issue that has interested me, and as a freelance writer for First Nations newspapers in Canada, I have often had the opportunity to cover issues such as human rights and injustices that have been imposed upon my people by the hands of the Canadian government.
 As an example I covered an event that was protesting the ability of the Canadian child welfare system to go into First Nations communities and apprehend children they felt were being abused or neglected. This protest was to let the government know that First Nations communities would no longer allow government officials to come in and take our children because it was reminiscent of when the Residential School system was implemented and our children were stolen and taken away from their families and communities.
The Human Rights and injustices that I have learned about in regards to Indigenous Australians, though named and dated at different times are very similar to the human rights and injustices that were and are still being committed against First Nations people of Canada. As an example, the issue in regards to the implementation of the Protection Acts imposed upon Indigenous Australians, is similar in Canada, however for First Nations people in Canada, it is called the Indian Act.
The Indian Act in Canada, much like the Protection Act imposed upon Indigenous Australians introduced a system of indirect rule where First Nations people could not hold land, controlled people by how they took part in ceremony, banned languages and inferred upon First Nations people the distinction of being different from the rest of society.
I found that in the past week I really enjoyed learning more about the policies that govern the Indigenous communities of Australia. In particular, I really liked when Lecturer Peter Minter asked us to write individually what we believed human rights meant and how it could pertain to Indigenous land rights. The definition that I wrote was as follows “Human rights is the ability for all races in society to co exist harmoniously without one race being put above another and seen as being superior, and despite differences in cultures, traditions and languages-everyone and everything deserves the right to be respected and treated equally.”
 In reflecting upon my definition and how it correlates with the lectures this week on Indigenous Australian land rights and human rights, I refer now to our first reading of Module 2- the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’ The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that in Article 1:
“Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.” (United Nations, 2007)

The Human Rights as stated in the United Nations Declaration is contradictory to not only how Indigenous Australians are treated but also how First Nations people in Canada are treated as well. Indigenous people of Australia were not included in the Federation or the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.  Without the acceptance of being recognized in these two very important documents in Australia’s history, Indigenous Australians were ostracized because it did not give them the recognition of being ‘citizens’ that could enjoy the rights that non Indigenous Australians had-which involved ownership of land and the ability to have universal freedoms.

Works Cited:
United Nations (2007) “Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples”, United Nations

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Abroad Reflection Journal 1

This is the first time that I have participated in a Summer Abroad Program, and initially I had some misgivings about participating because it would mean that I would be away from the support system that I am used to in Canada. I have found that the program is very informative and has increased my desire to learn more about Indigenous people, so that I can apply my knowledge even more upon my return to studies in Canada.
Before attending our first lectures, I did not know much at all about the Indigenous people of Australia and I had the belief that their history was different from those of the First Nations people of Canada. The similarities that I learned in lecture truly had me wanting to learn more. Subsequently, I have picked up some further texts in order to take in as much as I can.
On the first day of lecture, it was stated that “Indigenous people say that they have always existed in Australia,” (O’Brien, 2010) and that some Indigenous people have said that “it’s not important to find a starting point” for Indigenous habitation of Australia. This concept is similar in Canada, because many First Nations people believe that ‘we have been here since time immemorial.’ When Dr. O’Brien recounted the Indigenous Australian’s first contact with Europeans and their subsequent struggles to be recognized as the “original inhabitants of Australia,” it became clear to me that Indigenous Australia has encountered much of the same struggles as First Nations people in Canada.

As a First Nations woman, I can identify and also relate with the struggles of the Indigenous people of Australia, though some of their struggles with governmental policies and representation are coined in different terms from the same policies and practices that have been initiated and in practice in Canada. According to Dr. O’Brien, “competing viewpoints determine how we view Australia’s history,” and “colonization is not just about the settling of land, it is also a continued practice of dispossessing the indigenous people through various means.” (O’Brien, 2010)
In Canada, “colonization has taken form under the Indian Act, and how First Nations people are identified under that specific Act.  If you are status, you have certain rights, if you are not status; your rights are like the rest of Canadian society.” (McFarlane, 2009) It has long been understood that we are governed by a government that believes in assimilation. Though they say they were sorry for such paternalistic acts such as the residential school system and the further actions of suppressing our languages, traditions and culture, I believe there is still miles to go before we see action that will turn First Nations people in favour of how Canada is governed.
I can see that through colonialist discourse and paternalist acts, Australian Indigenous people are not that much different than their counterparts in Canada. Colonization created many problems for First Nations people, and the attempts to assimilate our people were almost successful. The viewpoint that Indigenous people are less than, stem from colonial policies and practices.
Colonizers viewed and treated Canada’s indigenous people as less than,  and this appears to be the same in Australia. Colonization has made an immense impact on Indigenous people emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally. It has taken me; many years personally to try and come to terms with what has happened to my own family and to my people as a whole. I find that in order for positive change to happen for all Indigenous people, understanding how the colonial discourse shaped and represented Indigenous people is important, so that we can all work together to create a more positive narrative that works for everyone.
In conclusion, the field site visit to Yiribana Gallery was enlightening, because it helped me to understand and witness more of Indigenous Australia’s rich and vibrant history. I am looking forward to participating in the rest of the program.