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African culture: how we can support cross cultural permanent care and adoption and overcome shame.

African culture: how we can support cross cultural permanent care and adoption and overcome shame.

00:00 - Start 02:34 - Culture and norms and practices in Africa 09:33 - Roles of Mum and Dad are identified but becoming more equal 11:10 - Men are seen as strong, the protectors, and are not allowed to cry, resulting in PTSD or trauma, and subsequently coping mechanisms like substance abuse (Khat, a leafy amphetamine, or alcohol). Women are weak but similarly repress their vulnerabilities and don't express themselves eg post natal depression. Shameful matters like overdoses are taboo 16:56 - Deaths have rituals that protect women 23:50 - Menstruation and pregnancy and pre-marital sex are not discussed. 28:12 - Church or the Mosque is an important social space where you enjoy a strong, fun, warm culture or seek advice on family matters, but the father is the main decision maker 33:06 - Dogs and other animals are dangerous or diseased 38:20 - Hair goes to the core of your identity, to connection and felt safety 44:30 - Skin colour and skin shade differ in parts of Africa and skin colour can be a trigger for racism and bullying, which affects ones self-esteem and confidence 47:08 - Embrace cross cultural caregiving by understanding the culture and exploring the culture and immersing oneself within it. Africans are warm and welcoming so please join them with your cross cultural family

Culture, understanding and grief. How to support culture in care with Zahra Shire - Transcript

This is Sonia Wagner, representing PCA Families in one of our recordings that capture lived experience and best practice evidence-based learning that assist kinship, permanent and adoptive parents/carers in supporting young people. PCA Families has a zero tolerance of child abuse. I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay respect to elders past and present and express our intention to move together to a place of justice and partnership.

I have been to many meetings where things have been discussed and agreed in relation to children’s lives, without any real cultural awareness.  Today I would like to discuss those aspects and also talk more specifically about grief and how that gets managed within a culture.

0:42 Introduction to Zahra

I am joined today by Zahra Shire. Zahra is PCA Families Client Services Officer and has a background in providing assistance to refugees and asylum seekers with the Australian Red Cross.  Zahra is passionate about outcomes for culturally and linguistic diverse communities and will finish her studies this year as a cross-cultural counsellor. Welcome Zahra.

What else should we know?

Thankyou for having me here today and for discussing a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. My name is Zahra and I was raised here in Melbourne. I am a CSO with PCA Families and have been here for 9 to 10 months now, but it feels like forever. Becoming a cross cultural counsellor is what Im working towards this year and I’m hope if Covid allows I will be able to finish that up by the end of this year.

So a little bit about me. I was born and raised in Australia. My parents migrated to Australia in the early 90s from Somalia in East Africa. So they have had their fair share of trials and tribulations, moving from a war torn country and settling here in Australia, due to the culture clash. Hopefully I can provide a little bit of insight into some personal and lived experiences that we faced

02:34 Culture is the often unseen thoughts, feelings and behaviours that underly a group of people.  There are very visible parts to a culture, like the clothes people wear, food or celebrations. But there are also many unseen parts of a culture such as family roles, importance of time, personal space, personal property and more.   

Children who are separated from their birth families can struggle with cross cultural matters. Cultural identity can create additional complexity in determining their own identity. Often there can be resistance to attempts to assist them in connecting culturally, perhaps because they are ashamed or perhaps because it is something a carer is trying to “force” on a child.  That child can also face prejudice within both cultural groups.

For me personally I have observed elements of the African culture, in raising two girls of African background, so its great for us to share concepts in this shared background.

I have observed practices that differ to how I raised my children and these girls. For example, I observed that there were specific roles for men and women and somewhat authoritarian parenting.  Women tended meals and cleaned, spent time on their presentation of hair and self and were expected to be well dressed in heels and dresses from around 12 years of age, hair tended to (which could take hours as the hair is coarse and frizzy, requiring braiding or treatment with relaxer to soften) they were accompanied by a male sibling outside the home and generally expected to be home at sundown, help around the home and remain home until married.  The men on the other hand appeared to be the breadwinners, allowed to roam freely, expected to be acknowledge first ahead of the females, with minimal eye contact as this could be seen as disrespectful and Mum would pay her respects to Dad by sitting at his feet. In addition, the Church pastor was consulted on all life matters, from whether a boy and girl could date, and the Church pastor to my knowledge was always male.  For younger siblings, there were also older siblings who expected compliance with their expectations.  Now this is only my observation of one family in a community, but I assume this goes to culture, not just family practices.

Obviously Zahra you have far greater access to a broader section of the community.  Are these fair observations Zahra of African culture and the norms within them for males and females?

Absolutely. Some of the things Sonia you've just mentioned are some things that do happen in some African households Because Africa is such a large continent and there are so many different religions and cultures inside, some parts of the country share very similar cultures and some share very different. I think religion does play a big part in where you're from. Just based on my experience, as we were growing up, my mum would predominantly be the one that stays at home and looks after us. The children and my father were the ones that go out and start working. But as that was happening in the early years we got to a stage where we would transition, where both parents started working and then the role sort of divided and became a bit more equal. So I find that as the years go on the roles are constantly changing and that's due to you know the lifestyle here. Predominantly back in the days when everyone was back in their home countries and before the war happened, a lot of a lot of the roles where the father is outside predominantly and the mother's always inside were prevalent.

We do share that the female is always accompanied by a male and that's really, and for many people the reason is surprising, because of safety. I feel like now in Australia we're in a country that is very safe and everyone's sort of independent. But back then there's a lot of wild animals there in Africa. Females they're seen as weak, so you know if a female is just roaming the streets then you know there's that there might be another male that sort of takes advantage. There’s kidnappings and there was a lot of things where you know where little kids were being sold and stolen. So it was more a sense of safety. That's not so much happening now. I recently went back to my home country in 2014 so it's not such a big issue then, but it was back in the time, which makes sense. So things are changing.

I feel that the roles are so much more equal now and there's a lot more education. I feel like when my parents were young and they had their mum and dad around, there was a lack of education. What was taught between each generation was sort of kept on, but as people started to move out and migrate to other countries around the world their culture, what they've learned, has sort of been merged in and incorporated.

It takes time to learn a new culture. You can't just you know suddenly turn up, move to a new country and then you adopt a whole lot of new practices. That does take time to get familiar and feel safe and make changes to how you live your life.

I think you mentioned hair is such a big issue in the African community. It's been a topic probably worldwide. I think maybe we'll get to a little bit more down into the conversation because it's a huge topic and we've come such a long way.

9:33 Did you want to say anything else about mother or father roles, growing up or how that's changed?  

Like I said um the roles have been a bit a bit more equal as we grew. Living in Australia you start to mingle with your neighbours and friends and you see females or other wives studying and working. You sort of think to yourself oh well if they can do that I can do that too. So notions just emerge as we were grow. My mum at the age of 35-40 decided to study. She is a person that didn't finish secondary school back when she was home so for her to at that age decide you know what, I want to go and learn something and do something was really inspiring for us to see. She went in and she did a short course, she did a diploma in early childhood and education. She was so empowered and then she was able to go out on her own and find work and it was just so empowering to see those little things have sort of stuck with us. To see their sacrifice has sort of empowered us to sort of give back and be appreciative of being here. And the power of education and you know creating your own destiny.

11:10 Zahra you have mentioned to me that within the African community there is restrictive emotionality and a denial of mental health challenges among men.  A boys don’t cry mentality. Can you tell me a little more about the masculine norms in the African culture and how that affects mental health?

Men are always seen in in our culture as strong men and strong individuals and they don't really cry or express their feelings or if they're having a bad day they sort of keep it to themselves. They go along. Especially seeing a lot of my uncles and one of my dad's older friends now. Obviously moving from a war-torn country, there's a lot of trauma involved in that. Moving to a country where you don't know how to speak the language, you don't know how to find work and you're sort of fending for yourself in a foreign place. It's a bit difficult. Nobody ever spoke about that and there was a lot of PTSD involved that was not treated that or discussed. It was more to keep it to yourself. I’m the man of the house. No one can really see me being weak and sort of that's how they would move along. Because of that it has led unfortunately to a lot of men in our community, older men, turning to stimulant drugs. There's a drug stimulant drug that is really that big in the African community called cold khat. It's a leafy substance and it's a drug that they've sort of used as a coping mechanism as they've grown up. That was the only way that they could resort to being able to cope with what they were dealing with, whether it be the demands of society or whether it be just erasing those memories of seeing your loved ones either dying back home as you were migrating or having to walk for days without food just to get out of an unsafe environment. So those are the sort of things that our older men had to deal with because of that mentality men don't cry and men are supposed to protect the family and women were seen as weak. But they themselves were also not really given the opportunity to express themselves. So women who would be giving birth had no idea about you know prenatal depression and postnatal depression. They would sort of work on it on their own and deal with it alone. Even for me as a female growing up I've had my times personally where I wasn't able to discuss with my families you know the things that I was going through because I've never seen my parents be vulnerable. You know you grow up in  a notion where there were times I remember my parents saying to me you're very lucky to be here in Australia. We've come from war. You've got a roof over your head. We didn't have homes to live in for a couple of days. Because that is being put into your brain constantly our generation we're also suffering in a sense where we're not being able to express ourselves sometimes. And then you can you see the younger generation again the cycle is just repeating itself and they're not seeking help, they're not seeking therapy. It's seen as a sign of weakness. For example, say you've got a friend who isn't from an African background saying hey maybe you need to see this counsellor. You know I see this counsellor and it helps. But you go oh no, no I can't do that. I can deal with it on my own. And then you've got the younger generation you know being resorting to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism. That often leads to death. Recently we heard about a person from our community (we are a small community so everybody knows everybody), a boy passed away in his sleep. We thought okay that's unheard of. That's fine but then later on you find out he actually didn't die in his sleep it was overdosing. But nobody is speaking about it because the family see it as a shame. Rather than raising awareness in this area. So it's such a taboo in the community to talk about mental health and suicide and you know all these important topics that need to be discussed. Unfortunately as we move through the years we're going further into the future, it's still an issue of concern.

Especially now with what's going on with Covid.That again is all about perspective. I hear some people say oh you know they're living in a 5 million mansion. What have they got to complain about. But it's all about perspective right. So everyone's feeling it on some level - there's some change to people's lifestyles.

16:56 - When there's a death in the family that must be really tough I imagine if you need to kind of control some of those emotions. I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about then what happens with some of those ceremonies and rituals and how people grieve or how grief does get expressed.  And what are some of those restrictions?

When a death occurs in the family again it depends on what part of the country or what culture you follow and what religion you follow. Different religions have their own way of dealing with death and their own rituals. From where we come, if a family member passes away, there's a three-day grieving period from the day of burial so those three days are when you can have family over.  It's not really restricted to those three days but it's advised so that the immediate family can have time to grieve. Because you've got such a small community, everyone knows everyone, so everybody wants to come in and give their condolences. So there's a three-day period where family friends and families can come into the house of the deceased where they can give or pay their respects and give their condolences and leave. That's usually done for three days and then the immediate family can take as long as they need to grieve the loss of their loved one. So with females, and it's a bit different especially if it was the passing of a female's husband okay. Her grieving period is a little bit more different in a sense of it's not really called a grieving period. It's called a waiting period. So if a female's husband passes away there's a waiting period for her of four months and 10 days where she's pretty much not allowed to remarry. If she decided that’s the case and to remarry quicker after a death, especially you know back in the days a long time ago. The reason for that time frame of four months and 10 days is just because in case she's pregnant and if she is pregnant then her waiting period is extended until after birth and then after that time she is able to go out and remarry, doing that waiting period again. As you know as time goes on the rules change. But when my parents and their parents were younger and they were all back home in Africa the waiting period meant that the female wasn't allowed to leave their house. So in a sense if she needed to go out to the shops or parties or weddings or birthdays for that waiting period of four months and 10 days she wasn't advised to or allowed to do so. Obviously living here in Australia everyone's working and everyone's commitments are different and some people live alone so obviously those rules are different. What they mean here by not going out is it's not that you can't go to work, I mean obviously you can go to work, it's an essential need. Or you can seek medical attention, but things like not exposing yourself out into the community just after a death has happened. So its more about protecting the female after that because of losing her husband and her loved ones. So it's more protecting them and allowing them to sort of heal.

There's always a religious advisor to come into the house or you could go visit them and they can provide some healing. It's not therapy but some healing advice. And again seeking  therapy after a death is not so much a practice in our community. This is where you know they're not dealing with their grief and you find people after three four years and you can still see it in their face that they haven't grieved properly because they haven’t sought professional help. So it’s a big issue in the community.

So they can have friends and family come into their space absolutely, so they can seek help in that way.

Absolutely they can have people coming over friends and family with that support process but sometimes you know especially when it's a sudden death you just don't know how to deal with the grief and loss. Often you know once they come out of their waiting period they think oh I’m okay it's been four months and 10 days I’m okay I’m not crying anymore therefore I’m not sad. But there's also some probably underlying issues that you needed like some closure that you didn't receive that you needed. So it's always good to get that extra help. But then again nobody wants to show their weakness.

So the body of a person stays in the home for three days? No. As soon as the death happens, if the body is not with you the coroner or anything, it's actually recommended that they get buried right away. In our culture we don't do cremation. So the body is cleansed, it's washed and then once the body is washed rose water is placed on top of the body and then it's shrouded in a white cloth. Then the body is buried and at the graveyard, it's not a ruling but it's recommended that females don't attend. If they do attend, not to be as close to the burial only because women don't really take being at the grave really well. There's always the sense of wailing that they try to avoid. So it's not a ruling, females can attend, but if they do it's usually standing behind the men as the men put the body in the ground. So the men are protecting the women.

23:50 I wonder about other aspects of the culture that might make it challenging in you know a permanent care type situation or adoption? So things like this have been challenging for me in my experience. Menstruation and pregnancy. So for me permission was not provided for me to discuss the menstrual cycle with the girls in my care when it looked like that was really imminent. So I think that's part of a bigger religious initiation. But maybe you can talk to that? Then it also followed that pregnancy or premarital sex can also bring shame and stigma to the family and that can result in ostracization too. We were also asked to take in other pregnant African girls while these other two African girls were with for that reason. There was shame and they were being abandoned by family. We didn't bring that into our lives but its now one of my observations. So are you able to talk to menstruation and pregnancy first before I mention some other observations?

I've always wondered why this was the case as menstruation, pregnancy and premarital sex weren’t topics that were discussed when the time was required, if that makes sense. It was often a topic that was avoided. For me personally, when I was young, my mum didn't much  speak about it. She probably mentioned menstruation previously but very slightly, it wasn't dramatic in a sense where come let's have a conversation let's sit down, let's talk about these things. Thankfully for me being in Australia I learnt this at school, but I do wish that you know I had that talk with my mum face to face because that would have opened up those serious conversations that little girls and females need to have with their parents. So I never understood why it was such a quiet topic and even as I grew older and I myself became pregnant with my son I found it really challenging to speak to my mum about it. I sort of felt a bit embarrassed if that makes sense. Like how do I tell my mom I’m pregnant. Thinking about it now I actually had to create a story. I remember I had to create stories and I'd call my mum one day and I’m like oh mum I’m feeling a bit tired, I’m feeling a bit sick, or I started to list the symptoms of pregnancy. We laugh about it now because she says to me I knew you were pregnant and I knew you were awkward about talking about it. I’m like why didn't you just talk to me about it. I had to make a whole charade about it and I never understood why. And when it comes to things like that I find that my mum holds a bit of resentment in her upbringing, as a female, because again her mum didn't do the same thing. It's just like it's history repeating itself. So she probably assumed that I would already know. Then I remember talking to my sister about it when it was her time because I knew that I never got that. So I was my sister's go-to when she needed to talk about anything about menstruation. I’m making a change because I know what it felt like.

Well I went off to the museum because the museum's got information on it!

28:12 One of the other big observations is around socialisation and the church for me:

  • Church is the safe social ground with singing and dancing important aspects where everyone is asked to contribute to identified goals and often teens are identified as holding special roles eg dance group leader or are involved in further study to lead a church group
  • As mentioned the Church pastor is consulted on life maters such as whether a couple can see each other (pastor will assess if they are appropriately matched, mature and responsible enough to enter a relationship)
  • The church experiences offers storytelling and socialisation, depicting traditional roles as regards giving, caring for others, greed, selfishness
  • Parental responsibility extends beyond the parents to the extended family and broader community and consequently removal from the family home brings shame.

Are these aspects that you've observed and how do we help with those traditions and beliefs?

So socialisation in the African community. In our religion members go to the mosque and  there are imams that you go to to seek advice if there are issues in the family. But I find that these responsibilities are more put on the fathers of the house. The fathers would always have a say in who you would marry or if they were able to accept it. So they wouldn't go and see the imam it was more that you have to cross your dad first and then we can go to the imams to initiate the marriage or the engagement. Often you know today there are issues in couples who are not able to get married because their father or their mother have said no. It's an issue that doesn't seem to change and the reason is because it could be that the other spouse is from a part of Africa that they don't agree with, due to tribal issues between each other that are sort of causing um issues in couples getting married. So one spouse might be from the north and the other one might be from the south and they don't get a long in the history of the war background. They don't get along even till today. Even though you know these two might have been born and raised in Australia. There are still those issues. So those issues are not taken to the pastor or the imam as it's more so the father has a say.

If a child leaves the home there's so much shame that it brings to the family. It's like nobody really looks at what caused the child to leave the house. It's more about he left he's a horrible person and he is immediately exiled from the community. So it's an issue that needs to change in terms of socializing.

African people are really big on poetry and music. They love to gather during religious holidays and just share food. Weddings are a big thing. They go on for like two weeks, 14 days straight in one celebration after another. They love to go along and it's always showcasing the culture, the clothing, the poetry, the music and just using traditional instruments to just to have a great time. So it's a very warming culture and it's good to see that it still plays a part you know even though we're miles and miles away from back home. In Australia the 14 day wedding is probably cut down to three days because of work, life and commitments.  We can't all party for 14 days unfortunately. It's exhausting and there are the bills to pay. It’s too expensive but it's still good to see that we still embrace it. Living in Australia and living in a multicultural society we're all able to embrace different cultures and invite them along. It's just so good to see that. We're very lucky to be in a country where we accept everybody for who they are. A rich country from sharing.

33:06 There were also times where we would be advised to do something for the girls that actually went against their culture. For example, it was suggested we get the girls their own pet, yet they hated animals, especially dogs, predominantly because they spent their early years in Africa avoiding them  to also avoid disease.  Similarly, we would be advised we needed to get the girls hair cut because it had been 12 weeks without one. Now if you are African, you know exactly why that is.  African hair takes forever to grow long. It is highly textured, curly hair, prone to breakage. It needs to dry on its own, hence the head scarf worn overnight, preferably silk on a silk pillowcase. Utilising an oil, like good old vegetable oil (coconut or Moroccan is even better), and braiding, aids growth and minimises breakage too.  And a hair relaxer product is a game changer – immediately relaxes the hair so that it appears much longer.  These simple things like not having animals in the home and how to manage African hair are practices that went to the core of them feeling safe and secure.  How they ever got to feeling safe with 10 animals in our home, which they never embraced in 11 years, is beyond me.  If these things were known at the time of placement, surely we could have better outcomes as regards connection and felt safety. How do we get talking and documenting some of this for the benefit of other children being placed?

When you mention dogs I sort of freaked out a little bit. I think there's a reason why some African cultures are not accepting of having pets, especially dogs. I think nowadays  everyone's got a cat in their home. Maybe some African households. But I think the reason why again is because of avoiding disease. The dogs in Africa were pretty much wild and we were always taught stay away from them. If you see them, go the other way and don't run or they will run after you, which is just something I learned the hard way. So I’m personally  scared of having pets and dogs. Again it's the upbringing that we were taught to avoid dogs as they bring diseases. Living in Africa where we don't have immunizations or things to protect people and the medical help in the hospitals over there is really poor. So if there was a way to avoid getting a certain disease or sickness everyone would pretty much avoid them. The dogs in Africa were really wild so there were ones that you could pat or keep near you, there were ones that were going to attack you, so that's probably the main reason as to why there's that hesitancy.

I think the only way in getting families and African children to accept pets is probably just being able to expose them as much as possible. Some might not be accepting and it might be getting exposure therapy from a psychologist to be able to get those fears out. Some might be exposing them to dogs and you know maybe little puppies and getting them comfortable and then being able to slowly accept. Starting off with kittens or cats and or even having birds in the house or anything to sort of you know ease them in slowly. Especially those that have had you know those little bit of trauma in the past. I think that's just the best way and get them accepting. As time progresses these sort of things are subsiding a little bit, but there is that notion that's been embedded in you for such a long time that when you see it you sort of freak out. Until today I have these experiences even though I was born and raised in Australia. But I still have that fear. I got chased by a dog because my mum said to me oh run away run away it's a dog. I was thinking it's just a dog but because I was told to run I ran and then the dog you know chased. Now with my son who's a three-year-old, when we're at the park and he goes to the dog, I’m facing the other way but he's okay with it. I’m trying to change the trend so I let him touch whatever he wants to touch. It's really hard and it causes anxiety sometimes and it sticks with you for a long time.

38:20 Hair

Now hair, wow, where do I start? When I was younger when I wasn't wearing the head scarf, I've got really thick, thick traditional African hair and when I say thick I mean if I come and get out of the shower and my hair is wet, it will dry in less than 60 seconds and it will frizz up again. It was really hard taming it and managing it and often in our household, and I’m pretty sure it happened in a lot of Somali households, we would dedicate a whole day just for hair, because that's how much attention it needed.You know we'd start in the morning by washing our hair and then you know we go into brushing it out straight away, then putting those treatments in. Some moroccan argan oil was something that we would use a lot. I’m putting in that treatment just to make it a little bit more manageable. Often it was really embarrassing sometimes to even go to hair salons because when we were younger people would just look at us and be like you've got very different hair. I remember there was one time and it made me so angry but there was a time that my mum took us. This time when my mum was working. So dedicating a whole day to do our hair was a bit hard for her because she was working literally six days a week. So she thought let me go to the hair salon they'll cut the time down for us. We went to the hair salon and this is probably early 2000s and we looked at the price list and we thought okay 30 dollars for a trim and  a blow wave. We're good yeah let's go for that. So it was me and my sister we got in there, they started to wash our hair, they did everything. As they were brushing our thick hair you could see that they were getting a little bit annoyed or like it was really tiring for them. We get that but we just felt like we were a burden sort of thing. And then it came to paying and they looked at us and they said to my mum $250. What? My Mum was like, she wasn't the confrontational type. I spoke up and I said but it says here $30. She looked at us and she literally said your hair was very hard to work with today so it's $250 for the two of us. It was $125 each. Wow! My mum paid it but that was the last time she ever took us to a salon. That was the cost. Who can afford that? That was pretty much you know you've got African hair so you need to pay more. That's pretty much what it felt like and that was the last time that my mum ever took us to a hair salon.

There weren't a lot of African stylists back in those days that would open up or people that sort of knew how to work with African hair. They were still settling into Australia. They were still fairly new because we migrated very late into Australia. So people didn't know that they could open up businesses and they weren't at that place yet. So that was the last time we went and that was literally one of the worst experiences we've ever had. It was you know. Now I don't think you would ever see that happen. It was really, really difficult.

Often when we were in primary school and my hair was in braids you know you could see the other kids looking. It's like why is her hair different? Why is her hair always braided? Why doesn't she let it out? Often you know I didn't want my hair braided. I wanted to be able to have it pinned up and thrown up. It was that fear that you know the other kids would look at you. I often got bullied. I remember another African friend of mine who was in the same year level as me was bullied in the playground. It carries you as you grow up. But now thankfully with the bit of education and understanding and the power of social media and seeing African-American celebrities embracing their fro and not having to wear a weave or hiding it and being able to embrace it has sort of opened up and caved the way for us to also embrace our different hair textures. Now we've got so many hair salons that are accepting and wanting to take us and charging same price. It's good to see. There are still people that are not willing to work on African hair, which is fine, but at least we're not secluded out and there's somewhere, a place that we can always go to. There are treatments there, so many treatments now. So there's no more hair relaxer. We've got hair botox and we've got keratin which sort of carries and does that work well the character. It's not permanently straight but it does go wavy and it's a lot more manageable where it doesn't fro up. It's a lot more manageable and you can go to the beach with your hair and not worry about it buffing up. It only lasts probably three months. It doesn't last for a long time. It's probably three months and then you've got to do it every three months.

I can relate to all of what you said in terms of price because when we looked at it was over $300 so we actually got the hair done for the first time in San Francisco on holidays because it was much cheaper! It's much cheaper in America and half of our products can come from there anyway. How scary it was though sitting in that salon with all these bars everywhere.

44:30 I’m wondering are there other cultural things that I haven't observed that we need to be aware of that might make placement difficult or challenging? Other unobserved aspects to the culture that we might need to be aware of?

I think just the obvious reason that a lot of different countries inside of Africa. Everyone's got their different skin colour and skin shade is just something that a lot of people resort to when it comes to putting someone down or bullying them. They always refer to their skin colour. It's like hey you know go back to your country you don't belong here. So there's a lot of  racism and bullying that happens in society even today sadly enough. It just plays a huge detrimental effect in in one's self-esteem and confidence. Some of the issues that potentially that I can see happening in placement is sometimes a child might feel isolated especially if you're in a family and there might be that difference that the child might feel. Like you know my adopted mother or father have fairer skin than me and then going into school. Then you've got other children asking how come your mum's white and you're black. So there are those issues and knowing how to deal with those remarks and being able to provide a safe space in allowing the child to express themselves. Being able to have those open-ended conversations and just raising awareness in in bullying and racism and getting people to accept one another. So I think that's just another added issue that African cultures face.

I think we can all help with that. As an adoptive parent we can be going to the school and trying to share books and resources or you know content to educate the class. Teachers are often very welcoming of trying to educate in different aspects. But some of it does rely on us to make the effort to make that happen.

47:08 I guess I wonder now we've discussed all these many different things what are your thoughts on these intercultural adoptions or placements and how would you suggest the African culture be embraced when placing a child into a cross-cultural permanent care situation?

I think for me I welcome this. It's really important for families that are looking to accept children of African heritage is to understand the culture on a basic level. Just being able to accept a child and if the child wants to explore or express their culture and explore in a certain way that they are willing to accept that. If you find that the culture doesn't sort of align with your family values and beliefs then it's probably best not to accept the placement. But if you're culturally aware, diverse and you think you're able to do so then I would definitely welcome it. I think the key is to have constant open-ended conversations you know don't leave anything unturned or overlooked. Just being able to be a support system to them, there are a lot of internal issues that we've discussed today that I think the main standouts and issues in in the African culture. Being able to just be aware of that and accepting and if it fits within your family values then it's perfect, it's beautiful. We live in Australia and you know everyone is just so accepting of everyone. It's just going to make our country a little bit more richer in that sense. Like you say continuing to be curious and learning and sharing and not just sitting in your own little world. And African families are just you know reaching out to other African families. From where I come from and how we've grown up we're very accepting of you know mixing with other cultures and we actually encourage it. Just being able to share food and attend sometimes African festivals happening here and there. Just being able to you know not have that fear that they might not accept you. I mean I think we're the warmest people that you could ever come about. So we might look a bit different but you know we're just as human and we're very accepting of everyone. So put yourself out there. Sometimes when we're out and about and just seeing different cultures mixed with each other and like sometimes there's a lot of similarities definitely. Just being able to embrace that. I think that's just really important and respectful.

Absolutely. I think everyone at PCA Families would vouch for how for how welcoming and warm you are so it goes both ways. It must be from that family unit and the broader culture as well.

So thank you for sharing all those personal insights into your culture.

No worries thank you I actually really enjoyed it so thank you for having me.

And to anyone else making the time to listen to this recording by PCA Families thank you for giving up your valuable time for the benefit of the young people in your life.

Until next time have an amazing week.


Maintaining Culture - Helping a Child Retain Cultural Connection and Identity, ACWA 2013

Parenting in Racially and Culturally Diverse Families, Child Welfare, September 2020