Ganma: Indigenous Knowledge for Reconciliation and Community Action

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Ganma: Indigenous Knowledge for Reconciliation and Community Action.

Ian Hughes
School of Behavioural & Community Health
The University of Sydney
PO Box 170, Lidcombe NSW 1825, Australia

Ph: +612 9351 9582, Fax +612 9351 9540


In this paper I reflect on a new model for doing action research in cross cultural situations, that can assist deep reconciliation as well as the growth of new forms of knowledge drawing on ancient and modern traditions. From 1993 to 1995, as a member of an Aboriginal Health Action Group, I worked on a successful community action research project to establish a new Aboriginal Health Service. A form of Indigenous knowledge called Ganma in Arnhem Land, and called Yerin in the Gurringgai language, informed the philosophy of the action group.

Models of community development and rational strategic planning did not meet the needs for community action in this context. An alternative to development theory was needed to explain and promote Indigenous community based action. We have heard calls for new paradigm research and practice in the health, but Australian Aboriginal people call for what may be called old paradigms, which have relationships with the Dreaming. An outcome of the community research project was a model for Indigenous community action (Hughes 1997). This paper presents a reflection on the dialectical relationship between social science knowledge and Indigenous knowledge, using the Ganma metaphor.

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