The language of community engagement in a regional and indigenous context

Document Type


Publication details

De Weaver, L & Lloyd, DJ 2005, 'Language of community engagement in a regional and indigenous context', paper presented to United Nations International Conference on Engaging Communities, Brisbane, Qld., 14 - 17 August.


Do the processes of community engagement employed by federal and state agencies genuinely engage the target community or is the language of bureaucracy another means of reinforcing ‘in-group’ and ‘out-group’ stereotypes? Using case studies of government programs designed to engage people in small rural communities and Indigenous Elders from the Bundjalung Nation in Northern New South Wales, the authors examine the experiences of targeted communities as they attempt to deal with what agencies describe as genuine engagement to review management options and to gain access to government programs. The authors look at the impact of schema theory on the outcomes for both groups as they engage in the consultative process. They have also identified some of the language-related issues that affected these outcomes. All of which beg the question regarding such government programs of who is responsible to whom? This paper highlights the need for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous managers to gain a better understanding of language capabilities, knowledge systems, educational levels and protocols in order to ensure quality input and better outcomes for targeted groups. The authors focus on some of the underlying cultural issues that need to be addressed by governments and their agencies, before they seek to intervene in rural and Indigenous communities, not the least of which is the importation of their own cultural, educational and corporate sector values.