Aboriginal Community Services’ Aboriginal Elders Village (AEV) is currently home to 22 residents. Each Elder has their own story and a wealth of wisdom. It is a privilege that our organisation is able to honour them every day. While we, and their families, can appreciate their knowledge and memory, an opportunity to share their story more broadly is an exciting way to not only celebrate Elders, but support the growth of young people in South Australia.
In October this year, local teacher Gemma Trueman had an idea that would promote engagement between Aboriginal Elders and P-6 students at Lonsdale Heights. Students wrote letters to AEV Elders as a part of their Cultural Studies class, as well as some creating self-portraits. The idea was inspired by this year’s NAIDOC theme, ‘For Our Elders.’ Gemma explains,
“I think it’s important for the students to connect with Elders because the Elders are knowledge holders and the students are the next generation.”
There are many benefits of intergenerational relationship building. Mob know that listening to Elders is crucial to keeping culture alive. Anangu Elder, Robert Stevens, expressed his concern to SBS News about the engagement of young people in his own community, specifically, in regards to passing on the Anangu concept of Tjurkurpa.
“For the young kids, young people, young generations to continue on. Otherwise, if they don’t have tjurkurpa they really don’t have anything, they are lost. When someone goes there and asks them what dreaming is yours? They don’t know, they don’t have tjurkurpa. That’s what will happen one day.”
Ways to encourage connection between Elders and young people, like what Gemma has created, can not only help to maintain learnings and the passing down of knowledge and culture, but also ingraining respect for First Nations Elders in non-Indigenous students. Gemma says that she thinks its important for students to grow up having respect for Indigenous Elders.
According to UK Aged Care provider Future Care,
“Intergenerational relationships have been linked to improved health and well-being for both younger and older individuals. For older adults, engaging with younger generations can promote a sense of purpose and motivation, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and enhance cognitive function.”
Students were excited to hand over their letters and drawings to ACS staff earlier this month, and Elders were certainly delighted to receive them at the AEV.
Some of the aunties expressed,
“It’s lovely what they’ve done for us!”
“Yes, it’s great!”
Many laughs and smiles were shared as residents and staff sat together around a table where they passed the letters amongst each other.
ACS would like to say a big thank you to Lonsdale Heights students and their teacher Gemma for putting a smile on our Elder’s faces. The AEV hopes to continue facilitating school visits and continue this budding relationship with Gemma’s students, building connections between young people and Elders.