The Aboriginal Practitioner as Communication Mediator in Intercultural Bureaucratic Encounters

| February 7, 2011

June 2011
Volume 5 Issue 1

| June 2011 Index | PDF Version |

The Aboriginal Practitioner as Communication Mediator in Intercultural Bureaucratic Encounters.

Arthur S. Firkins 
Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University-Sydney

Arthur Stuart Firkins is a sociolinguist and a research associate of the Centre for Language in Social Life, Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University –Sydney. His research interests lie in the area of professional discourse, intercultural risk communication, discourse analysis and linguistic anthropology.


Governments in Australia have deployed Aboriginal specific positions within government departments which focus on health, education and welfare services. This small-scale study uses a qualitative interpretive interview approach to explore the relative value of these targeted positions to service provision. The paper reveals that Aboriginal practitioners use a range of communication strategies that enable them to act as mediators and to traverse cultural distance between the bureaucracy and Aboriginal communities. The paper points out that Aboriginal practitioners experience unique types of professional pressures, which may not be evident in the wider public service. The paper concludes that the uses of particular communication strategies have the affect of creating distance and building solidarity between the practitioners and the communities they engage with. Although focused on Australia, the findings may have implications for other intercultural communication contexts that involve interaction between indigenous people and government bureaucracies.

Keywords: intercultural communication, Aboriginal English, identity, code-switching, Aboriginal practitioners, bureaucracy, communication strategy, social policy

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Category: Volume 5 Issue 1 2011