How could one’s own culture, including those of Western systems and structures, impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and how they engage with services?

The Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia have had to adapt to Western culture, especially in language and lifestyle. This has caused significant cultural loss as well as struggles to conform to Western practices and attain needed services.

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Whenever cultures meet, there must be adaptations on both sides. However, the ruling culture, which in Australia is the Western culture with its systems and structures, changes less than the native cultures. The Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia have encountered many challenges during their years of adaptation, as they have struggled to adjust to Western culture.

For one thing, Australian officials have insisted upon all Australians learning and using English. In fact, at one point, the Australian government even banned native languages, and many languages have died out as a result. Parents no longer taught their children their ancestral tongues for fear that such knowledge would hold them back, and children certainly did not learn such languages in schools, where only English was allowed. This has resulted in significant cultural loss for the native peoples of Australia.

Further, many Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders have moved from their homelands into cities where they can find work. In doing so, they often integrate into Western culture to a large extent, leaving their traditional customs behind or at least not practicing them as part of their daily lives. Again, this leads to cultural loss.

As far as engaging with services offered by the Western-led government, again, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders must adapt. They must, of course, speak English to even access such services, and they need to adopt Western categories and ways of thinking in order to fill out forms, interact with the bureaucracy, and receive aid. Of course, perhaps they would not need such government services if their traditional ways of hunting, gathering, and farming had not been disrupted in the drive to become more Western.

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