I was talking to a woman at MONA – she and her husband live in Melbourne, Richard got into a conversation with them, and we ended up chatting for a while.
She and her husband have been involved in building houses for Aborigine families in the northern part of the country – but the house designed for what the Western world thinks of as a nuclear family doesn’t necessarily work with Aborigines – because the concept of a nuclear family is different, it doesn’t exist in the same way, a nuclear family includes the entire extended family. And thus a house designed for a family of five ends up housing a family of fifteen or twenty.
I agreed – and said that was one of the issues we seemed to always come up against when I was in Peace Corps. And, in many ways, when I was teaching in St. Thomas – in any of the social, health, and welfare services (and I include teaching in there) we’re working to help people have better lives, not to change their culture. But sometimes the culture is inextricably tied to the values that prevent people from changing their lives.
There really aren’t any answers.
Although I kept thinking, well, maybe they could just build bigger houses to hold the extended family.