In Wiktionary, to ‘walk the talk’ means ‘to perform actions consistent with one’s claims’. I first came across this term in Reconciliation circles. It implied that if you really wanted to make a difference in the lives of Aboriginal people, then don’t just talk the rhetoric; you have to get off your backside and walk with them in the fight for justice and recognition. To me, it is also important to walk alongside, not in front and not behind.
So how do we walk alongside in solidarity with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, when practising social work, a profession which has a history of baggage like removing children from families? This was a question I was trying to answer when I graduated with my Social Work degree.
At that time, working with Indigenous people seemed like a daunting task. I remember feeling so inspired and passionate about living out my social work values of human rights and social justice, that I upped and moved my young family from big city life to the remote North. To be honest, it was scarey, I didn’t know where to start and I had no real mentors to show me the way. Like many others, I was thrown in the deep end, flying out to remote communities, with nothing but a listening ear to offer. For two years, I felt like I was in a big bucket of water, with just my mouth sticking out, gasping for air, just surviving. I continually questioned ‘am I doing this right’? Am I making a difference? Or am I contributing to the problem?
Most of us come with good intentions, bringing all of our head, heart and hand to the work, but how do we do it in a way that is decolonising and authentic. What does best practice social work in Australia’s indigenous communities actually look like on the ground?
This is the question I hope to explore in a new podcast, I’ll be developing and launching in the coming months. Don’t throw out your textbooks, but I believe there is real value in hearing stories of experience, straight from the mouths of those covered in dirt, sweat and dust. “Talk the Walk” will feature interviews with those working in the field as well as traditional voices with words of wisdom for the whitefellas in white Toyotas.
My hope is that “Talk the Walk” will be a valuable resource for graduating social work students preparing for the journey ahead, and a watering hole for the rest of us who continue to learn every day!
If you or someone you know would make a great interview, please drop me a line through our Contact Us page. They could be a social worker, community development worker, counsellor or other allied health professional, or an Elder or Indigenous community member.
Yes, I can see the irony here. A podcast is all about talking. So my thinking is that, the podcast is a learning tool to help all of us get off our butts and do the walking.
So if you know how to walk the talk, tell me your story. Let’s ‘Talk the Walk’ together.