Rich Rewards: Cultural Diversity and Heritage Practice
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7. Guidelines for Consultation with Ethnic Communities

Part One - Introduction

These guidelines have been based on experiences of culturally diverse community consultations held in small to medium sized country towns and regional centres. The methodology could be adapted for use in a larger centre, with consideration given to the size of the area to be reviewed and the number of communities. Time taken to do the consultation/s should be adapted accordingly.

7.1. Introduction to Community Consultation

Community consultation creates opportunities for people throughout the community to be involved in heritage processes. It provides a valuable starting point for culturally diverse heritage practices because it provides a forum for people from a range of backgrounds to identify and assess heritage from their own cultural perspectives. This process has rich rewards. It may uncover heritage items whose significance has been previously unrecognised or illuminate new layers of meaning for existing heritage items.

It is necessary to adopt a flexible approach to community consultation because no community is homogenous. It is important that workshop organisers recognise differences within, as well as across communities. Like all communities, ethnic communities have differences of opinion and idea, and of class, gender, and age. The time of arrival often marks differences in attitude and experience among people from the same country of origin. You may need to adapt your workshop to suit the characteristics of your community.

With slight adaptations the guidelines could work as a consultation with one particular community (ethno-specific) or a cross -cultural workshop with representatives of many communities. The cross cultural workshop would be equally effective in generating a specific focus on the heritage of people from non-English speaking backgrounds among the cultural network, or to include people from non-English speaking backgrounds within a broad community consultation.

7.2 Outputs for the Workshop

The guidelines for the workshop have been developed for use by a range of programs and organisations across the community. It is proposed that the guidelines could be used for a specific project, for example as part of a community based heritage study undertaken by local government. In this case the aim of the consultation would be to identify items of importance to ethnic communities for inclusion in local government listings and thematic histories. Here the workshop provides a point of consultation for ethnic communities to work with heritage advisors and historians.

However, a range of organisations could initiate the workshop to achieve a range of outcomes. Some of those identified so far include

The workshop guidelines can be adapted to accommodate one of a combination of these functions without changing the central tools for identification and assessment, photography and discussion.

The workshop could also be used as an introduction to heritage with the aim of developing a cross cultural heritage committee. This committee could act as a 'driver' for ongoing, culturally diverse heritage initiatives. These initiatives would be community driven and link into the existing heritage framework. In this case it is recommended that, having identified areas for further heritage initiatives in the final workshop session, that the facilitator propose the a working party be formed to undertake these initiatives

A Committee could include community members, representatives from across the cultural network or any individual or organisation that would like to make a contribution. It would serve as a point of consultation, to ensure that the perspectives of ethnic communities are considered in all relevant heritage decisions. It is anticipated that this cooperative approach would generate a greater focus for migration heritage through more inclusive initiatives in the existing heritage network.

7.3 Setting the tone of the Consultation

The workshop uses consultation to identify and gather information about migration heritage, so the tone of the day should encourage people to tell their stories. For some participants it may be the first time that they have had an opportunity to publicly express their relationship to their adopted country, or to tell their experience of migration, So the environment should be friendly, supportive and open. For many people from migrant backgrounds, the heritage workshop will represent their first experience in the heritage process so it is important that the workshop be both informative and fun!

Secondly the workshop presents an opportunity to build new relationships between ethnic communities, the cultural network, in fact any individual or organisation across the community that have a contribution to make. This aspect of the workshop shares skills and expertise raises awareness about cultural diversity that helps generate new pathways for culturally diverse heritage practices. The tone of the workshop should establish the value of shared skills and benefits of reciprocity.

7.4 Workshop Outline

The workshop takes place over one day. However, you could take longer, depending on the size of your community or the requirements of your project. Following a short introduction to heritage participants are invited to go out and take photographs of the heritage items and places that are important to their communities. These photographs, having been developed during the lunch break, are pasted up onto boards and participants are invited to write a short caption about why the item or place identified is important to them. These photo-boards form a mini-exhibition of migration heritage in the area, that become the focus for discussion in the afternoon. Through these activities people from ethnic communities are beginning the process of identifying and assessing their heritage.

Through this process participants will also develop new skills to identify and assess their heritage from their own cultural perspectives. The final session, a discussion on the future of migration heritage in your area, should provide new directions for application of these skills through the identification of further initiatives.