As part of our series on trust and the navigating of a polarised world, we caught up with Chief Executive Officer of JYAC (Jamukurnu-Yapalikurnu Aboriginal Corporation), Tony McRae, for insights into how trust is amplified or diminished within some of the communities with which he works.
CCA: The recent Edelman Trust Barometer has highlighted an enormous withdrawal in the trust placed in institutions. Within JYAC, how has this played out and how does your organisation go about establishing trust with your stakeholders?
TMcC: The withdrawal of trust in institutions has been observable locally, nationally and globally. It hasn’t only been in institutions, but across governments and service providers. Not only do we see it happening, but we see how its fractures communities that previously found ways to connect with each other and enjoyed much common ground.
CCA: How have you seen this in the local context of Newman?
TMcC: Well, we’re hopeful. We believe that East Newman can be part of both rebuilding and creating spaces where there are shared experiences and where people can know each other, a bit, and trust each other, a bit. Our goal may be a lot of understanding, but it begins with a bit.
CCA: What do you think has hampered this building of trust in Newman?
TMcC: One of the things we know well is that for the vast proportion of people in Newman, there is little knowledge of the Nyiyaparli people and the Martu people. Most don’t know the difference between these two large and important aboriginal groups. A little bit of knowledge would help the Newman community understand itself.
There’s no fault or blame in this – it is part of the journey of our country.
Knowledge and understanding ultimately builds trust because low levels of trust are often fuelled by ignorance. Developing a mutual understanding overwhelms ignorance and helps us enter into honest conversations.
CCA: So, little steps.
TMcC: Certainly. While a relatively small change in Newman isn’t going to solve all of those problems, small things can change people’s lives. A small playground becomes the context for people discovering what they share in common as children interact together. Bridges can be built in places of informality. Parents observing their children playing can change peoples lives. Small actions can change how we relate to one another and potentially be a bridge to bigger ideas.
CCA: This seems to point to some far bigger conversations going on across the nation right now.
TMcC: Yes, the conversation around truth-telling and The Voice and Treaty are really all talking about the same thing. They’re a context for understanding how we know each other and how we relate to one another.
And in our local context, plans like the East Newman Revitalisation Plan or the Western Desert Strategy become meaningful if they help us understand more about the people who are involved with them.
CCA: You seem hopeful about the potential for trust growing in your context.
TMcC: Always hopeful. I believe we always need to have a bigger vision but with a consideration that our journey towards that place of trust is one of thousands of smaller steps. It’s the accumulation of many of those steps that builds trust over time. It’s the only way it happens – by continuing to show up and co-creating a variety of strategies that work together.
CCA: Thanks for your time and your insights into growing trust in these spaces, Tony.