Insights on Aboriginal Culture with Shirley Crane


Insights on Aboriginal Culture with Shirley Crane

Shirley Crane

08 July 2024

54:28 min

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At Close the Gap Research, we aim to illuminate the issues facing remote Aboriginal communities in Australia. Explore this in-depth interview with Shirley Crane, an educator from Katherine in the Northern Territory. This video delves into the unique challenges and cultural aspects of Aboriginal life, offering a comprehensive view of the realities on the ground.

Shirley Crane has spent much of her career teaching and working with Aboriginal communities. In this interview, she shares her firsthand experiences and insights, addressing critical issues such as youth crime, homelessness, and the role of government and non-government organisations. Shirley also discusses cultural practices like humbugging, payback mentality, and Welcome to Country ceremony.

Cultural behaviours and attitudes

Shirley provides a detailed look at Aboriginal cultural practices, explaining how traditions like humbugging and payback impact community dynamics and integration into modern society. Humbugging, a practice where individuals demand money or resources from family members, creates significant economic strain, preventing many from achieving financial stability. Payback, a traditional form of retribution, often leads to ongoing conflicts within and between tribes.

Challenges in the Katherine community

From youth crime to the impact of transient populations, Shirley outlines the specific difficulties faced by the town of Katherine. Due to its geographical location, Katherine is a crossroads for many traveling to and from other parts of the Northern Territory. This has led to a transient population that includes many Aboriginal people displaced by governmental policies or seeking better opportunities. The town struggles with high rates of youth crime, homelessness, and inadequate infrastructure to support residents.

Education and Literacy

A significant portion of the interview focuses on the importance of education and English literacy for Aboriginal children. Shirley argues that improving literacy rates is crucial for closing the gap and providing future opportunities. Many Aboriginal children enter school with limited or no knowledge of English, speaking instead in Creole or tribal languages. This language barrier, coupled with a lack of consistent schooling, results in poor literacy levels and limited future prospects.

Economic and social impacts

The video also touches on the economic contributions of Aboriginal tribes through tourism and the effects of negative publicity on local businesses. The tourism industry in Katherine, including cultural tours and natural attractions like the Katherine Gorge, is a vital source of income for many Aboriginal people. However, rising crime rates and poor publicity have driven tourists away, further straining the local economy.

Government funding

Shirley critiques current government policies and the misallocation of funds, advocating for better planning and accountability to truly benefit those in need. She emphasises that government programs often treat Aboriginal people as a homogeneous group, failing to recognise the unique needs and cultural differences among tribes. This lack of targeted support leads to ineffective solutions and continued disparities.

Shirley's interview offers a sobering yet hopeful perspective on the challenges faced by remote Aboriginal communities in Australia. By understanding these complexities and advocating for thoughtful, inclusive policies, we can make strides toward closing the gap addressing the specific needs of Aboriginal people facing adversity.

Aboriginal culture series


Aboriginal culture series: What is humbugging?


Aboriginal culture series: Mining royalties in remote communities


Aboriginal culture series: Payback mentality


Aboriginal culture series: Welcome to Country


Aboriginal culture series: Who gets the services?