Over several years now we have run training workshops for indigenous people in the Top end who want training to be researchers, evaluators and planners in their communities. Our training has focused on delivery of simple visual tools drawn from Participatory Action Research. This is the 4th workshop of its kind and this and the previous workshops were supported by the Department of Employment and Training DET in the Northern territory Government. This year we got additional funding from RIRDC.
This year saw yet another successful training session with indigenous participants drawn from the Top end. Participants put their hands up for the course and come to the training. The participants some who are shown in the photo below include urban based and rural participants. This mix presents some challenges for training as there are different interests and perspectives in the group which can create some rather interesting dynamics as regards, behaviour, understanding and viewpoints.
Some of the Participants at the March 2012 training workshop, Charles Darwin University, Darwin - ARPNet
There has tended to be a dominance of women in the trainees that we have seen come to the workshop though we are hoping to spend more time in the future encouraging men to participate. We had representation across all age groups and two married couples which presented some challenges in terms of accommodation at CDU and also transport seating. But we are learning all the time.
Getting everyone to Darwin is never an easy task. Of course Hmalan, with some help from me and Desliegh brings a certain calmness to the process which sees us all giggling though some of the challenges with rerouting or cancellations which inevitably occur just before travel date. Clearly, the hand phone is a wonderful invention but just before meetings one can wish it was never invented. Once everyone was in Darwin, everyone sits down, find their accommodation, have a feed, discuss the program and is ready for the course.
The training lasting 12 days is hard and very tiring; there is so much to take in. Some participants are clearly unprepared for the intensity, and in the past some have given it up after a few days. This time we managed to complete the course with a full complement of participants, save for one who got ill near the end. During the training we try to make sure participants get a chance to individually, try out and learn how to
- use simple visual tools;
- use conventional survey techniques (interviewing people using questionnaires);
- plan and work in groups in the community;
- understand the basics about participation;
- are able to understand and observe research ethics (confidentiality and respect for clients) and
- learn to understand the project cycle and perform simple project management tasks.
The sessions were broken up in short but detailed and repetitive lectures sometimes using butcher’s paper or the white board. Some participants jokingly started measure the full length of the butchers’ paper to find out what it takes to be a research practitioner. Sadly, I never got the measurement, otherwise I would now be able to tell you that it takes x meters of butchers paper to make a practitioner! Of course, that would not include the activities on the floor, the walking around and outside the venue, so some complicated mathematics I think to get the correct answer.
Each tool was described first as a series of simple steps, then it was demonstrated, then the participants tried it out. Tools were tried out in and out of the class room to break the monotony for the participants. The training this year was conducted in Darwin even though the preference is to hold these training courses on country. Lisa Petheram observed some of the training sessions. She stated that
“to summarise very quickly, I found it interesting as I didn't know how ARPNet operated, so I enjoyed seeing how people were taught the tools and the types of questions people asked and the way people were very receptive to the tool” ( Lisa Petheram, Facebook conversation 14/8/2012).
Still participants got opportunities to catch up with family and friends in Darwin and to catch up with each other.
We were able to invite presentations from trained ARPNet members to contribute to the training. For example, the course also had a session about relationships and ties among the students led by Cherry Daniels, Otto Campion, Dean Yibarbuk and Lorraine Williams.
We asked Anne Risk a Larrakia elder to do a Welcome to Country. Otto Campion, Cherry Daniels and Dean Yibarbuk assisted at various points during the discussion and the practical excises to show how to use different tools. This was the first time ARPNet members have actively participated as trainers in the courses. There is real potential here to further develop their capacity.
Cherry Daniels (in the picture) explains the kinship ties and effects on research behaviour and practice.
Otto taking a group of women around to show them how to do a transect - ARPNet
Halfway through the training we were able to organise some of the participants to present at a well-attended RIEL Seminar at Charles Darwin University. Julian Gorman who organises these seminars, was very happy and said this was one of the biggest seminars he had seen in a while. We had Michelle a young girl from Crocker as the MC for the seminar where Otto, Grace, Anne and Hmalan made presentations reflecting their knowledge and experience of ARPNet. It was both gratifying and humbling to see how everyone performed at the seminar. The amount of interest generated by this seminar saw us having discussions with various departments in and out of the university.
After the seminar, it was back to the “slog” of the workshop as Hmalan called it. A few more days talking and going over the tools showed how much the particpants had learnt during the training. Otto Campion and Edna Nelson handed out certificates.
Dean taking another group around to show how they do a transect - ARPNet
During the training participants are checked to see how they progress individually. Attendance of all training sessions is mandatory and those that do not complete the course get a letter to invite them to complete the training at a later date. Others complete the training and show that they have understood how to use the tools. They get a certificate of attendance showing that they have completed the foundational course. To be sure, many participants when they don’t get to use the tools forget about them and they are allowed to come back and join the next course. Those that successfully complete the course get a certificate as Michele in the picture.
Edna (representing executive committee members), Michelle and Bev (the trainer) - ARPNet
Once the training is complete we ask all members to complete an evaluation form. This form provides feedback which we use in designing the next training. The form has a place for people to write what they did not like and what they liked.
- The food that was given to us on the course, the older trainees helping us through the course and also helping us understand different parts of the top end area around the NT. And another thing is that I got to meet other families in and around the people and mainly old people.
- Doing the course it gives me my opportunity to learn more and gives me ideas of how to work in my community.
Participants didn’t like the following:
- When other members thinking something bad it make me feel bad, they holding time for others and wasting time for the course to run from start to finish.
- Working full day on weekend because this create negative behaviour in our participants, example, tired , sleepy in class also venue was not big space to move around and on how we give feedback, because some members feel shame maybe ( through culture way) , we felt unsure about the budget when speaking about our travel and accommodation changes. We need to know where we feel comfortable when we plan.
Overall, the feedback on the training was very positive but a number of issues were raised which need to be addressed to improve the structure, scope and delivery of the course in future.