Sometimes we think we are doing the right thing in online communities and real life networks but are we? The first thing I thought of when I saw this article about an Aboriginal Elder’s face being placed on the side of, or into, a highrise was… “but I thought depiction of the deceased was a no-no”? I’m pretty sure SBS TV starts some programs with a caution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

highrise elder online communities

This is what Uncle Google served up:

Should you name a dead Aboriginal person?

Many Aboriginal films, books or websites warn Aboriginal people that they might show images of Indigenous people who have passed away. But some don’t. Why is this so?

The tradition not to depict dead people or voice their (first) names is very old [11]. Traditional law across Australia said that a dead person’s name could not be said because you would recall and disturb their spirit. After the invasion this law was adapted to images as well.

Today these strict laws are generally not followed where colonisation first happened, like on Australia’s east coast and in the southern parts of the country.

Naming the dead in the media. While The Australian newspaper published the full name of a deceased Aboriginal person (top) the National Indigenous Times newspaper followed traditional protocol and withheld the name (below) [13,14]. Naming protocols. Before media uses the first name of a deceased Indigenous person they have to seek permission from the family [22].

In the Northern Territory, where traditional Aboriginal life is stronger and left more intact, the tradition of not naming the dead is still more prevalent.

Today naming protocols differ from place to place, community to community [12] and it is often a personal decision if names and images of a deceased Aboriginal person can be spoken or published. Even in places where, traditionally, the names of deceased people are not spoken or written, families and communities may sometimes decide that circumstances permit the names of their deceased loved ones to be used.

In some areas, families may determine that a substitute name such as ‘Kumantjayi’ or ‘Kunmanara’ may be used instead of a deceased person’s first name for a period. For example, ‘Kumantjayi Perkins’ is now increasingly referred to once again as the late ‘Charles Perkins’ [12]. from CreativeSpirits

What do you think?

Time and time again I see people approach online communities with their own value systems and the best will in the world only to be rejected.  People outside of the online community will sometimes approach with a different value system, wanting to make friends, yet simply fail on many levels to understand the complexity of what happens when many people come together. Others seem to waltz in and “get” the rituals and rites of each social network very quickly.