The history of post-contact Australia has in part been the history of attempts to destroy Noongar moort (family systems) and remove Noongar men from their involvement in maaman (fathering). This history has seen many challenges confronting Noongar, including absences associated with involvement in the justice system, alcohol and substance use, involvement in gambling, problems in access to housing and a lack of fathering figures and role models. Despite this, Noongar men have been able to maintain a range of roles in the lives of their communities, central in traditional knowledge transmission, work, leadership and the raising of children.
Today Noongar fathering practices continue to be greatly impacted on by a range of forces including institutional child removal, access to traditional lands and economies, the imposition of market economies, the introduction of foreign technologies, forced language loss, the introduction of various forms of Christianity, western epistemology, and modern expressions of culture. At the same time, many Noongar men continue to be shaped by a renaissance of culture, language, and expressions of identity.
This presentation will focus upon a research project that seeks to understand ‘fathering’ and the influence of Noongar fathers on the lives of their families. It will compare and contrast the situation facing Noongar men with the global movement towards supporting Indigenous men’s active involvement in their health and wellbeing. It will draw upon filmed interviews with Noongar maaman (fathers) and include a background discussion of the social and cultural challenges for Noongar fathers, some of the traditions that shape Noongar ‘parenting’, other historical influences on Noongar fathering, examples of strategies and features of good Noongar fathering, projects and programmes used to support Aboriginal men, ingredients for success, and some of the consequences of supporting Noongar men in their task of being good fathers. While it would be wrong to deny the magnitude of ‘Western’ systems and ‘foreign’ influences, there is considerable evidence that many Noongar men continue to raise children responsibly in distinctly Noongar ways. Indeed, many are returning to the task of fathering with increased vigour of recent years.