Putting back on my old “hat” – a tour guide, I traveled around Victoria and across the state to Sydney with my relatives over the last three weeks. In addition to learning about the place I now call home and having ice-cream for breakfast, I came to realise another angle of what the statement,“I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting. I pay my respects to the Elders, past, present and emerging/future”, that I have heard over the last five months, meant to me.
We were stressed for time to catch our flight and when we were at the airport, I sped through the check in machine to print out my bag tag, dropped it off and rushed through the security check. By the time I realised that I wasn’t travelling alone, I stopped, turned around to look for my relatives and saw they were having difficulty with their check in. The queue behind them started to grow and so did unhappy faces. A few days after that we went to buy 6 boxes (yes a lot!) of doughnuts. My relatives carefully selected the mix for each box. Getting half-way I noticed the queue behind us got longer and longer and the staff member who served us started to roll his eyes at my relatives for taking their time picking the product they were paying for. That was the moment I realised how impatient he was and how unfriendly the system is for those who have different needs and lifestyles than mine. Is it because we are in the city and hence only those who could move fast belong here? Consider also when you have to scan your transport card to get in and out of train stations, how quick you have to be! I certainly struggle even with just a small backpack.
So what exactly does it mean “…I pay my respects to the Elders, past, present and emerging/future”, when the existing system doesn’t seem to accommodate different needs? It seems to aim to replace human with more machinery and cater for those who know how to use online systems and who can move fast.
I am not saying I understand exactly what older people are experiencing of the systems we have and what they have to give up. I am not seeking to say I understand their perspectives. However, this experience taught me that without seeking inputs from all type of users, I would likely only design the system for my own current needs. My design probably would not even be necessarily for what I would need when I reach different life stage/conditions. If I were to say:
“I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting. I pay my respects to their and my Elders, past, present and emerging.”
I would only say it if I truly meant it and I know that I will be able to say it truthfully only when I include my present and emerging elders in the decisions I make. Because of them I am here, and because everyone matters whether you are still paying taxes or not!