By Arlene of Heart & Earth Ceremonies, from Birpai Country (Port Macquarie);
Arlene became an authorised Marriage Celebrant in 2018 with intentions to decolonise the industry and “mix things up”. The majority of her clients are First Nations peoples, where she works closely with families who want culture as an integral part of the ceremony.
Before becoming a Celebrant, she has been working in cultural capability education for 12 years in her community, and built skills facilitating ceremonies based on sacred ecology using her own Aboriginal language.
Wiyabu djiyagan, hey sister,
Based on my experiences to become a better ally in this industry, I would encourage people to explore;
Do you hold any assumptions? When working with First Nation’s people, its really important to explore what story you have about First Nation’s peoples. Is this a deficit story or is it strength based? Who is a First Nations person? What do they look like? Sometimes assumptions can limit our options when working in the industry for example you may think; “this person doesn’t look Aboriginal so they don’t practice culture, and wouldn’t want it in their ceremony” or “this person looks Aboriginal so it’s likely they would want a Welcome to Country organised”. It’s important to meet people where they are at. Remember that there is a rich diversity and intersectionality with First Nations cultures.
Do you have a set idea about how ceremonies should look? There could be an opportunity to dismantle our own beliefs on the way things should be. Of course, we have legal requirements, but also, I feel like there is an important requirement to give clients transparency and let them know that the ceremony doesn’t have to look a certain way, so they would think more broadly about how the ceremony can be meaningful for them, not just reinforcing what they see on TV. Continual colonisation happens, and if we work with increasing the visibility of First Nations cultures, we support the decolonisation process.
Finally, it’s not appropriate to tell people what their culture is or how they should do it. A suggestion here would be to connect on the common value of land and family. You can ask permission to suggest some options here, for example, if they are considering having a Welcome to Country by an Traditional Owner/ Elder or an Acknowledgement of Country. If someone isn’t sure what to do to honour family through culture, I suggest that in the ceremony they gift each other something that represents their family and marrying into that family group. For example gifting a feather from a cockatoo that is the family totem, or a woven basket woven by an Aunty, or even a necklace of shells from a beach that is sacred to that family.
You can contact Arly HERE.