Born and bred in Shepparton, Victoria, Uncle Shane Charles, a proud Yorta Yorta, Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung man, has worked in the education, justice and cultural heritage sectors, an academic, government advisor and most recently with the City of Melbourne. He also Co-Chairs the Aboriginal Studies and Indigenous Strategies Committee at La Trobe University and is the Co-Chair of Victoria Reconciliation.
He is the first incumbent of a new Cultural Residency at Armagh (Toorak, Melbourne) within the Initiatives of Change (IofC) Australia-Pacific Centre, his home for a while.
His presence at Armagh supports the work that IofC is doing to build relationships and bridges for reconciliation and healing with First Nations communities. IofC is about Peace and Trust building. Building trust amongst the world’s divides.
He is known for his work in cultural intelligence, teaching about the traditional wisdom and diversity of Australia’s First Peoples.
This knowledge came from his own upbringing, in a family that valued both traditional and Western learning. ‘My mum was 47 years in education, and she made sure I went off and got an education—learned white ways but more importantly, learned my own cultural knowledge. I had that responsibility to learn it and share it,’ he said.
Top of mind while he is at Armagh, he said, is offering training and awareness raising in cultural intelligence. ‘We’re all very different. In the Victorian context, there are 38 different tribes, then under that sit layers of clans and language,’ he explained. ‘We need to be connected, and we need to continue learning: to be part of Country, because Country is a part of me.
Uncle Shane’s own life experience includes surviving not one, not two, but three heart attacks. Moving on, he learned ‘to shed the worries that attach themselves to my spirit. By connecting to Country, there can be so much healing for anybody… To learn through sitting around the fire, because fire is so healing. There are so many different ways. I’ve seen the light come on in people’s eyes when they’re out on Country and they see it and feel it.
‘The more places and spaces we can create with the narrative of healing and learning, the better. For the generations to come—peel back the colonial layers, the rich culture is there, the footprint is there.
‘By connecting to Country, we look at what we’re doing to Country. Not seeing it as just a commodity. Our thinking wasn’t for tomorrow, it was for all generations that come. We need our culture and Country to survive.’ – Delia Paul
All artwork by Shane Charles
More about the events/activities he is involved with at IofC here