Elders at both Galiwin’ku and Ngukurr emphasised a surprising point about government engagement and coordination: government workers must engage properly and respectfully with community elders, because that is the main way today that the new generation of young people come to observe, respect and learn the authority and the agreement-making and conflict-resolution skills of their elders. Traditionally, young people would mostly learn to respect, understand and practice good engagement and coordination in ceremonial contexts (and in collective hunting and burning etc). Today they must learn those things as they watch their elders negotiating with government and other outside organisations. When government workers arrive in a community and don’t engage properly, this undermines the authority of the elders in the eyes of young people. This is of distressing and humiliating for community elders makes them worry about the future generations.
“Nonindigenous way and Indigenous way understand like that and solve those problems. To make it look good, to make our younger ones understand what we are talking about so that we can be the role models – we are the role models of our children – both ways.”