By Tabitha Lean and Colin Herring
Tabitha shares her experience on the importance of Tauondi:
Tauondi College has operated as a site of vocational education and training for Aboriginal peoples, led and managed by Aboriginal peoples for more than four decades. Tauondi is the third oldest Aboriginal-owned and community-controlled registered training organisation nationally and the oldest in South Australia, having 46 years of history in the area of adult education for Aboriginal peoples in this state. It has been a site of community gathering, a place that respects law and custom, promotes both Aboriginal culture and authority and has fostered a diverse range of community and student aspirations and ambitions. It is a place that we trust, a place that we love, and an institution that welcomes and supports us. It is a place where the old and young sit side by side sharing, growing and learning.
In March this year, Tauondi lost a major contract with the state government. This has meant that as of 30 June 2020, the amount of funding that Tauondi receives will be reduced by more than half and Tauondi will be forced to reconsider its priorities and potentially recalibrate its service model. While the Board are busily trying to negotiate a new funding model with the state government to ensure they can continue to contribute in a critical way to providing holistic education services to our community, we remain concerned that this could be just another attempt of mainstreaming our services.
Mainstreaming of Aboriginal services has been a practice of this country for decades. The term mainstreaming refers to the transitioning of Aboriginal services to the mainstream where service provision is undifferentiated to all consumers, regardless of differences in locality, ethnicity or levels of disadvantage. This practice has seen a massive reduction in and eradication of many Aboriginal specific services and programs. The practice is born out of both official and unofficial government policies aimed at assimilating us and furthering the colonial project. Mainstreaming has directly contributed to the gross lack of accessible, effective and comprehensive services for Aboriginal peoples. The commonwealth governments’ own “closing the gap” report, while contentious in its very design, states that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in all regions and across all function areas experience entrenched levels of disadvantage compared to other people living in this country they call Australia. Many Aboriginal organisations and commentators have long argued that mainstreaming our services has both compounded the problem and rendered solutions more difficult, as subsequent governments send us into cycles of poverty and disconnectedness, which remain entrenched over time and across generations.
We want services which are controlled and managed by our own community. We want full and effective participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in all decisions affecting service design and delivery and funding distribution. We want long term and secure services which reflect our aspirations: what blak fullas want to see now and into the future.
That’s what we have with Tauondi. I am proud of that place. It’s a place where I feel like I belong. I see myself and my family and my community represented in every aspect of the place. I am proud of the staff. I am proud of the programs they offer. And I am a proud language student at Tauondi. Unlike university, when I go to Tauondi I don’t feel like the minority, because I’m not. I don’t have to navigate systems and processes that are designed for everyone but blak fullas. I don’t have to navigate micro aggressions, race and racism throughout the day. I can sit and yarn with aunties at lunchtime. I don’t have to work extra hard to survive in a place that is designed to erase people like me. I am home at Tauondi.
So, please get mad. Get mad that our mob are again fighting to maintain a place that is uniquely ours. Get mad that the government is making us fight to save an educational institution serving our peoples. Tauondi is a gateway to further education and training for our mob. As a community, all of us – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, Tauondi student or not – have to fight to save this place that has served us for so many years.
Colin shares his thoughts on attending the “Save Tauondi” rally:
So on 8th July, I attended the ‘Save Tauondi College’ protest. It was my first time there. A number of smiling face greeted me especially Aunty Stephanie who made me feel very welcome. It was good to see those friendly faces. We went to the front where traffic constantly goes over the railway bridge on Grand Junction Road. The state government wants to limit funding for this nexus of Aboriginal Business around the Port Adelaide area.
Apart from one semi-driver who hurled abuse at us, the passing traffic were very supportive. Quite a few honked their horns in support as they drove by. The police were very considerate although I always feel uncomfortable when their PR machine turns up with their holstered guns and mace. Apparently they treat everyone this way, you know… not to be trusted. You would think there was no need, but apparently it’s standard issue.
Anyway, past and present people cited how Tauondi is their connection to place and offered many certificates that gave rise to a lot of employment and future education. Many cited how Tauondi gave them the confidence to believe in themselves and make a difference.
Trouble is there’s only funding directed to ‘bridging the gaps’ and when those gaps diminish what do they do? They cut funding. In hindsight we realise that ‘the gaps’ are all about assimilating us toward matching white statistics. Then we might be considered normal. If we want more funding we have to be dysfunctional. Or when we start looking like whitefellas and talking like them they shut down our personality and mainstream us. And that’s what the cuts are for: so we can become part of the mainstream.
Tauondi is uniquely a Nunga place of connection for Aboriginal peoples from all over Australia. However, the government has rarely let us connect intergenerationally. We think there’s a reason for that. We need constant reminding that we are Australians first and Aboriginal peoples second; but this notion to us is ridiculous. You know the slogans… always was, always will be… occupied by the coloniser since 1836… never ceded. We need this space because our ancestors came here for socialising and land rights. Our generations have come to the same locations and enjoyed the idea of Native Title and sovereign status. Our spirits are committed to this place.
Now the Coloniser, Premier, Government shows its true colours and wants to slash funding in a robbing Peter to pay Paul move so they can steal our peanuts to prop up their mainstream exhibit at the Zoo called Adelaide. We, of course, have our own names for this place as chosen by the Kaurna Nation.