Is it Time to Redefine ‘Community’?

Partnerships - reproduced with permission and acknowledgement of the Making Two Worlds Work Project

Partnerships – reproduced with permission and acknowledgement of the Making Two Worlds Work Project


The word ‘community’ means different things to different people. The basis for understanding what a community is can be dependent on a variety of different factors: personal beliefs, societal constraints, geography, and historical and contemporary contexts, just to name a few.

To many Aboriginal peoples in Australia – perhaps, to many Indigenous peoples the world over – community is usually associated with land, either the land on which someone resides, or the land from which a person has traditional (family) connection to. In some instances these will be one and the same place, however for many Aboriginal peoples – for many different reasons – the land they currently live on is not the land their ancestors were traditional owners of.

An interesting, and sometimes unfortunate, side-effect of this ‘dispersion’ of Aboriginal peoples across Australia is the way in which communities are now integrated and internally interact. Once we would have seen communities where the descendents of the traditional custodians made up the overwhelming majority, if not the full population, and no doubt there are still areas where this is the case. However today, many communities are made up of peoples from all over, and as these – maybe ‘multi-cultural’ is the correct word here? – communities mix and grow, issues relating to rights, responsibilities, and recognition are becoming more prevalent. This in turn is leading to dissonance, division, and lateral violence within these communities.

On the surface it seems it should be quite simple: the traditional custodians (or their descendents) of an area should be the ones who have the ‘authority’ within the community. After all, it is their land, and all others are effectively ‘visitors’ to that area. In reality it isn’t that clear cut. For example, some communities give peoples who have come from other areas the right to have ‘authority’ within the community, based on a respectful acknowledgement of their knowledge, experience, wisdom, and/or contribution to the community. Some members of the community embrace this, whereas others do not. Some communities become ‘factionalized': they create divisions within the community based on kinship and associations with others. Some communities remain locked in debate about who the traditional custodians of an area actually are. This is particularly contentious where it is apparent that custodianship of an area was in fact shared between a number of language-groups.

The unfortunate, and often regrettable, result of this are communities who expend their energies in in-fighting and lateral violence, whilst real issues that affect all members of the community fall by the wayside.

And all of this before we even start considering how non-Indigenous Australians could be ‘integrated’ into an Aboriginal community, as part of a reconciled, unified, Australia.

Having lived and attempted to be involved in several communities, as well as seeking out, understanding, and developing my own identity as an Aboriginal man, I’ve come to believe that the answer is anything but simple. But when I reflect on how this issue could possibly be resolved, I find myself coming back to the same concern…

What if we’re asking the wrong question?

I keep thinking about something my cousin, a Bundjalung Elder and Kurradji (traditional healer) said to me in the short time I got to spend with him before his passing.

“Everyone is Bundjalung.They just don’t know it yet.”

There is a sense of inclusiveness in Uncle’s statement that is profound, and also the suggestion that we – as a community, as a population – haven’t realised it yet.

Perhaps the answer lies not in trying to impose our view of what a ‘community’ is or should be, or who ‘owns’ it or belongs to it or has a say in it, but in redefining what ‘community’ actually means?

What if our ‘community’ became something that all of us could engage in, contribute to, and be proud of?

What would that look like?

What does ‘community’ mean to you? What would you like your ‘community’ to be? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Physical Therapy Credentialing – The Missing Tips!

certification-stampSo there I was: I’d made it through the grueling process of having my physical therapy qualifications credentialed, I’d successfully passed the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), I’d received my State license, and I even had a job offer. I was all set to go get my visa and become a physical therapist in the United States. Little did I know the credentialing process wasn’t finished with me yet. A new nemesis emerged – the VisaScreen Certificate, and without it, I wasn’t going anywhere.

The VisaScreen Certificate is a requirement imposed by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for all foreign (non-US) non-physician health care workers who wish to work in the United States. It aims to ensure that the foreign worker meets the minimum requirements for training, licensure, and English proficiency in their profession.

Wait a minute. Isn’t that exactly the same as the credentialing process? Well, yes, but then again, no.

It should be the same process, and obtaining one should automatically qualify you for the other, however in practice it doesn’t work that way. The reason for this is that many the State-based licensing authorities will accept credentialing reports from a number of credentialing organisations (for example, Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services currently accepts credentialing reports from four approved organisations), however, DHS currently only accepts the issuance of health care worker certificates for physical therapists from two of these: the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT) and the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS).

The rationale for this is unclear, especially when you consider that all recognised credentialing authorities must be approved by the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) to use their Course Work Tool (CWT) in order to evaluate a foreign trained physical therapist’s qualifications. What’s worse is that neither of the organisations authorised to issue VisaScreen certificates will accept credentialing reports from any of the other FSBPT approved credentialing organsations*, so if you’ve already had your qualifications credentialed by someone else, you’re going to have to go through the whole process again. As I learned for myself.

Armed with this new information, I can now offer you two additional tips to those I have previously offered for the physical therapy credentialing process.


1. Choose one of the DHS approved organisations

Consider this an addendum to my previous tip on choosing a credentialing authority. While you still have the option of choosing from a number of credentialing services, you will save yourself a lot of time, effort, and expense if you choose one of the (currently) two organisations that can assess you for both licensure and VisaScreen Certificate purposes. Given that if you want to work in the US you must have both of these, it only makes sense to go through the process the one time (and certainly what I would do if I had my time over). At the time of writing, FCCPT offers an all inclusive package for qualification credentialing, English proficiency, and VisaScreen certification, whereas CGFNS offers these as separate services.

If you still choose to use a different credentialing authority to obtain your US State licensure, be aware that at the time of writing this, FCCPT does not offer an evaluation service solely for VisaScreen certification, meaning your only choice then become CGFNS.

2. Be aware of actual versus proposed processing times

Given that I was unaware of the need to obtain any sort of certification beyond my credentialing report, when my future employer’s attorney requested a copy of my VisaScreen certificate the need to obtain one became very urgent.

In addition to my previous advice on waiting times, this time through I discovered a new problem. The organisation I chose advised a four-to-six week processing time from the time they received all the required documents and information to process the application. They also offered an expedited service for an additional fee, which guaranteed a reduction in the processing time to five business days. It seemed perfect – I expected that by the time I got the documents to them (I knew what to send because I’d already been through it) and expedited the process I would have only suffered a delay of about three weeks. What I wasn’t told by the organisation is that upon receipt of my documents, they are scanned into their system before being forwarded on to the person responsible for reviewing them – and the receipt and scanning of the documents takes up to four weeks itself! So the real processing times were a minimum of five weeks, and anywhere up to ten, under optimal circumstances. (As it was it took me about four months to get through this process – bearing in mind it was the holiday season.)

My advice then is to check with the organisation as to what the actual processing times are, and whether there are any additional timeframes other than what they promote through their websites, before selecting one to go with. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to obtain a ‘promised’ turn around time, however it will give you a clearer indication as to how long you can realistically expect to wait. This is also another reason why selecting one organisation to process both your credentialing report and VisaScreen certificate can be beneficial.

Combine these with my other tips and with any luck you will find the credentialing process much easier than has been my experience. Good luck!

Have you been through the credentialing process? What was your experience? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

* At the time of writing, CGFNS have stated that they will accept credentialing reports from the International Consultants of Delaware (ICD), which is a subsidiary of CGFNS.

Has Sorry Lost Its Meaning?


On 26 May this year, the seventeenth National Sorry Day will be observed following the Bringing them Home report, which detailed the findings of the National inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Before that, on 13 February, it will be seven years since the then Australian Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations.

Both of these days have special significance for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: both recognise impact that past events and policies have had on past, current, and future well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and through saying ‘sorry’, both suggest that there is a desire to make amends.

Yet as we start the new year, it would seem that very little has changed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in any area – health, education, employment, or social justice, just to name a few. While it does appear, at least through social media, that there is increasing public recognition of, and support for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, this does not seem to be translating into changes in public policy, nor actions that will affect real change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

What then does ‘sorry’ mean? Does it mean anything anymore?

I tell my daughter (and anyone else who’ll listen) that ‘sorry’ only means something if you follow it up with appropriate action. That saying ‘sorry’, and then continuing to do the same thing that you’re supposed to be sorry for, means you’re not really sorry at all. In this instance, the only ‘sorrow’ you feel is guilt – either because you know that you should or shouldn’t be doing something, or because you’ve been caught doing it!

‘Sorry’ isn’t about guilt, neither is it about blame. While it could be said that someone saying sorry admits fault, or takes responsibility, for whatever has occurred, this does not always have to be the case. Consider the act of expressing sorrow at someone’s adversity – the loss of a loved one, a traumatic event, or something similar. We may have no part in what has caused the adversity, yet we are still sympathetic to the person who has experienced it. If we have a close association to that person, we most likely also feel that we want to do something about it. We might not be able to alter the event that has already occurred, but we can take actions that can have a direct effect on the person who has experienced them. This isn’t an act of guilt, it’s an act of kindness, consideration, and support, brought about by the desire to effect change.

If the responsibility is ours, then the desire to effect change should be more pronounced, and it would be reasonable to expect that we would then take appropriate action to either make amends, or ensure that the event did not occur again. To do this, there needs to be adequate identification of what the adverse or undesirable event was, so that how and why it occurred can be understood, and appropriate measures taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

This is why when my daughter (or anyone else) tells me they are ‘sorry’ for ‘something’, my usual response is, “what are you sorry for?” If you don’t know what you’re apologising for, you can’t change anything – more than that, you might be trying to apologise for something this is not the crux of the matter, or even something for which you’re not accountable. Without recognising what the apology is for, and whether this is in fact what the apology should be for, ‘sorry’ becomes meaningless – at best it is simply ‘sorry for sorry’s sake’.

This is why then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology had such a profound impact, and was accepted and appreciated by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In his speech, Mr Rudd clearly explained what he, on behalf of the Australian Government, was apologising for, and also expressed his vision of the outcomes that could be achieved following this apology.

At the time there was no question as to the sincerity of the National Apology; many perceived this to be the beginning of real change in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, and the start of moving towards true Reconciliation in this country. Yet with continued gaps in health, education, employment, and social justice, continued experiences of discrimination and racism, and continued denial in some sectors that the atrocities of the past, including the Stolen Generations, ever actually occurred, we must wonder whether this apology had any real meaning or value.

As we move through 2015, and these events are brought to our attention, perhaps Australia needs to ask itself: are we sorry for what has happened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples? And if so, what is it that we’re sorry for, and what are we going to do about it?

What does ‘sorry’ mean to you? Should Australia be sorry for its past (or present) treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples? How do we move forward from here? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have Pen Will Write – Now Accepting Writing Commissions


As a new venture for 2015, I have decided to make my abilities as a writer available for commission work.

I have been commissioned previously for both fiction and non-fiction works, and have both enjoyed working on these projects, and been very satisfied with the end results. These positive experiences have made me consider the possibility of actively seeking commissions for quite sometime, and after careful consideration, I have decided to do so as of today.

If you are interested in commissioning me for a piece of writing – be it a short article or story, a textbook chapter, a full-length piece of work, or anything else – please visit my new ‘Commission Me‘ page for details.

2015 – A New Year or a Used One?


Have you ever felt like Lucy does in the above Peanuts comic strip? I sure have. As 2014 draws to a close, I’ve found myself thinking that I am not where I wanted to be when the year was about to commence. I’m still facing the same challenges, fighting the same battles, and feeling the same frustrations that I was this time last year. Nothing seems to have changed – this year certainly seems like a replay of the year before.

Of course, that isn’t true at all. When I look back at my life plan it becomes very apparent that I have achieved some great things this year, and made huge inroads into getting to where I want to be. I have made real and definite progress in a number of areas of my life, and while I may not have arrived at where I want to be, where last year it seemed so far away, right now it is within reach. In fact, if we could add a thirteenth month I have no doubt I would have achieved what I wanted to within ‘2014’.

It’s very easy to get trapped into believing that nothing ever changes. When things don’t go our way, or we don’t reach the goals we set ourselves, or life doesn’t seem to be improving, it’s easy to feel defeated and believe that things won’t change. Often we are so focussed on our destination that we fail to recognise how far we’ve come, or how close we are. We become so disheartened that we haven’t reached it, that we can’t appreciate where we are.

The world of Peanuts introduced me to another phrase attributed to the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” There are many ways this can be interpreted, however in the current context it tells us that in order to understand and appreciate where we’re going, we must take time to stop and look back at where we’ve been. Doing this can reveal some very important facts that can help us realise our situations are better than what we might otherwise believe.

If you look back and can see that you have put effort into realising your goals, then you can see that change is occurring. Change is seldom instantaneous. It is a process that takes as long as it needs to take. Consider the caterpillar that changes into a butterfly: it is not one moment a caterpillar and the next a butterfly – it must undergo a process of change that takes time and effort. So it is with achieving our goals. Where we are now, and where we want to be, seldom sit side-by-side. There is a process we must undertake to make that change, and as long as we are directing effort into it, then change will be occurring.

When you can see the change occurring, you will also realise that you are making progress. If you look objectively at where you were, to where you are now, you will see how far you’ve come, and all the little victories and successes that have helped you get as far as you have. These are positive things that often get lost when we only look forward, however they should be recognised and celebrated as the achievements they are. These milestones can energize you, and give you the strength and encouragement to keep moving forwards and reach your final goal.

There are only two circumstances when things truly fail to change, or when progress is truly absent: when we do nothing at all, or when we do exactly the same thing we’ve always done. If you are looking for something ‘new’ in the coming year, then you must look at what you want to change, and then put effort into changing it. Part of that might just be realising that what needs to change is what you’re doing, rather than trying to change things by doing the same thing.

For me, I 2014 has definitely been a new year, full of achievements that have brought me closer to where I want to be, and I expect 2015 will be a very new year indeed.

Will it be a new or used year for you?

You tell me.

I would like to take this time to extend a big thanks to all of you who have been reading my articles throughout the year, and an extra special thanks to those of you who subscribe and leave comments. Please feel free to extend my thoughts sharing my articles through the social media links below each article.

I wish you all the best for the New Year, and look forward to continuing to share my thoughts with you throughout 2015.


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