Written by

Suzie Eisfelder
May 27, 2015

One of the things we’re discussing in English Language is the use of words and how we can use words that don’t offend others. I’m finding this such a fascinating discussion as I suspect I’ve been offending without meaning to as I have a different take on various words and what they mean to me.

Let’s have a look at a document. It’s a page from the Editorial Style Guide from Monash University focussing on Inclusive Language.

To refer to the entire Indigenous community, or if you don’t know someone’s clan, use terms like ‘Aboriginal Australians’, ‘Indigenous Australians’, ‘Aboriginal people’, or ‘first Australians’. Use ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Indigenous’ as adjectives.

Ironically, my teacher mentioned the typo in this document.

It points out we shouldn’t use the word ‘Aborigine’ as some feel it is offensive and that we should use the word ‘Indigenous’ instead. For me this is problematic as I suspect I’m interpreting the word differently to the norm. Let me go into how I see the word and you’ll understand.

For me the word brings to mind a people with a deep, rich culture, a people with strong and complex interpersonal laws which make sense from a genetic point of view, a people with respect for the land who have cared for it for thousands of years and not destroyed and pillaged it as western culture has done. In other words, positive connotations.

The problem here is that when I use the word other people don’t see into my mind. They don’t see the respect in my mind for them and their people. They only see what they feel they see which is generally the total opposite of my mind’s eye as that is how the media portrays them.

I’m going to change my use of the word as I don’t wish to cause offence in any way, shape or form. But I leave these thoughts here in case anyone happens on this blog so they know how much I respect their culture and their people and that if I happen to use the wrong word it’s done out of respect and admiration rather than derogatory.

  1. I always use Indigenous, but then again I worked in the Indigenous Government Coordination office here in Qld. It ensures we’re inclusive of Torres Strait Islanders as well as Aboriginal Australians.

    Deb

    1. Now that’s an interesting question. In my mind I always thought they were the same culture with the same rich and deep history. I’m learning stuff all the time and I’m trying to change my language.

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