In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, family is one of the most important things in a person’s life.
The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is very true, while your parents have the final say in your life your Aunties, Uncles and Elders all play a key role in raising you. It is normal to see an Aunt or Elder discipline a child in place of a parent or to spend long periods of time at their house.
A few key things to understand and remember about family dynamics and family life are:
- Always greet your Elders.
No matter where you are, whether its work, a meeting, school or on the street it is expected that you will greet your Elders. This is to show that despite the setting your respect for them is still there. If they are in a conversation with someone, just wait patiently and they will usually pause to say hello to you. It is equally as important to say goodbye to them when you leave.
- Who is your cousin and who is your brother/sister.
Something that is very common and can be confusing at first is how we refer to people as brother, sister and cousin even if we aren’t related. The general idea is that anyone who is not related to you or you are not close with is cuz/cousin and that those who are related or are close to u are bruz/sis’ or brother /sister. However this is interchangeable and depends on the individual preferences. The same goes for Aunty and Uncle. Anyone who is older than you or is an Elder is referred to as Aunty or Uncle (similar as to how you would call a teacher Miss/Mrs or Mr instead of their name). Those who are younger than you will typically refer to you as Aunty or Uncle and possibly cousin depending on the closeness of the relationship between.
- Refer to family by their titles.
It is a sign of respect to refer to those older than you as Aunty or Uncle especially if they are family. This includes extended family. By using Aunty or Uncle you show that you respect them, their leadership and their lived experience which typically outweighs those who are younger.