ISA2024 Advice for Being Culturally Respectful

Guidance for presenting to Australian audiences

More specifically, to ensure your presentation is appropriate for Australian audiences, we would like to share the following advice with you:

  • Start your presentation with an Acknowledgement of Country. Recognise the Traditional Owners of the land on which the event is taking place (the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung) and pay your respects to Elders past, present, and emerging. This acknowledgment shows respect for First Nations people in Australia.
  • Use appropriate language. Avoid outdated or offensive terms that have been used historically to describe the First Nations people of Australia. For example, one term that is not used in Australia that is sometimes used in other parts of the world is “prehistory”. In Australia, this term is avoided, primarily because it can be taken to mean that people who did not document history in writing did not have a history, which is incorrect.
  • Educate yourself on the cultural practices, histories, and sensitivities of First Nations communities. Be aware that certain topics may be sensitive or sacred and should not be discussed or depicted without permission. If your presentation or poster contains information pertaining to Aboriginal archaeology/cultural heritage, you must seek permission from the relevant Traditional Owner organisation/s.

When presenting material that includes skeletal remains, human remains, or references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away, special consideration and respect must be given to cultural sensitivities. These elements require careful handling to ensure that your presentation respects cultural practices and beliefs, particularly concerning the deceased. Here are additional guidelines to incorporate these considerations:

  • Prior Warning: Always provide a warning before showing images or discussing topics related to skeletal material, human remains, or sensitive archaeological findings. This allows individuals who may be uncomfortable with such content to prepare themselves or choose not to view that part of the presentation.
  • Respectful Presentation: Ensure that any discussion or display of skeletal material or human remains is done with the utmost respect. This includes not only how you talk about these remains but also the visual presentation and context in which they are shown.
  • Cultural Consideration: Understand that for many First Nations people, human remains are not just archaeological artefacts but represent the physical and spiritual remains of Ancestors. Engaging with local First Nations communities or cultural advisors can provide guidance on how to handle these topics appropriately.
  • Cultural Warning: Include a clear cultural warning at the beginning of your presentation if you will be mentioning names, showing images, or discussing stories of First Nations people who have passed away. This warning should inform the audience that the presentation includes such content, for example “I wish to advise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers that the following presentation contains names, images, and stories of people who have passed away”. In many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, mentioning the name of a deceased person or viewing images of them can cause distress to family members and communities. It is a sign of respect to provide a warning to prevent causing unintended harm or grief.
  • Consultation and Permission: Before including names, images, or stories of deceased First Nations people in your presentation, consult with their families or communities to seek permission. This is an important step in respecting cultural protocols and ensuring your content is appropriate.

If you wish to discuss this guidance, please reach out to us, we will be happy to assist.