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TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS
HISTORY, CULTURE &
EDUCATION
(Heide_Smith_sm, 1997)
By Krystle Turner 14504305 , Gemma Tyack 14603370 &
Joanna Ursino 14893702.
Identity of Torres Strait Islanders
The Torres Strait Islands are
situated between the tip of
Australia and Papua New
Guinea, a country that Torres
Strait Islanders identify with
more easily (Lui, 1996).
(torres_strait_islander_flag, 2011)
Torres Strait Islander people
are often mistaken for
Aboriginal Australians even
though they are of different
origin, history and way of life
(Maximillan, 2001).
The Torres Strait Islander Flag
was created as a symbol of unity
and identity for Torres Strait
Islander peoples
Torres strait islanders class
themselves into three main
groups which is based on
similarities and differences
within their culture on how
they obtain food, perform
ritual practices and the
geographical features of the
islands (Lui, 1996).
Each part of the flag is designed
to represent something about
Torres Strait Island culture.
(Torresmap, 2011)
Green: Represents the land
Blue: Represents the sea
White: Represents peace
Black: Represents the
Indigenous peoples
(Torres-strait-islanders, 2009)
History of Torres Strait Islanders
Torres Strait Islanders
were treated similarly
to the Aboriginal
Australians during the
invasion and
European
Colonisation of
Australia.
In 1982 Koiki Mabo a
Torres Strait Islander
initiated a case in the
high court of Australia
to claim recognition
Australia wide that the
people of Murray
Island are the
traditional owners of
the lands and have
rights to them (Mabo
video & Lui, 1996).
They were treated as
‘non-citizens’ and every
aspect of their lives
were controlled by
Government of
Queensland.
(DSCN3497, 2011)
Torres strait Islanders lived
in small communities on the
islands of the Torres Strait.
There are more than 100
islands with Thursday island
being the main island. The
inhabitants spoke Mabuiag,
Meriam, English, Torres
Kreole languages and their
daily life involved fishing and
growing crops for food as
well as trading artefacts
made of pearl shell, turtle
shell, feathers, canoes and
tools (ABC,2005).
Modern Culture & Education
In modern day many Torres Straight Islanders have taken the opportunity to undertake education that their parents
and grandparents did not have access to. As Shnukal (2001, p. 29) mentions “there are increasingly numbers of
Torres straight Islanders that are undertaking undergraduate and even post graduate degrees to gain valuable skills
that are contributing to the management of their local communities.”
There have been some massive achievements from Torres Straight Islanders who
have taken the opportunity to gain an education. Some famous Islanders include:
Mary Garnier was the first Torres strait Islander to gain a university degree in 1965.
(Martin_N,2008))
Nartin Nakata was the first Torres Strait islander to gain a PhD in education in 1997.
Roy Whittaker was the first Torres Strait Islander to become a doctor.
Catherine Anne Pirie became the first Torres strait islander to become a magistrate in 2000.
Dulcie, Sophie and Heather Pitt, the first Torres Strait Islanders to attend the Parramatta
Primary School in Cairns, formed a singing group, the Harmony Sisters
(Shnukal , 2001, p.29)
(Dr Roy Whittaker, 2011)
(2, 2010)
Cultural Aspects
From the spiritual aspect music and dance are a
fundamental part of their spirituality for it is
how the Torres Strait connects to a notion or a
place.
As Resture (2011) explains “In a
ceremonial context old songs, evoking powerful
Dreaming stories, are said to be created by the
Dreaming beings themselves as they created
the country in its present form.” With these
songs dances are usually accompanied to
provide visual meaning and also allow for a
powerful experience to connect with the story.
LANGUAGE
There are two traditional languages spoken in
the Torres Strait:
•Kalaw Lagaw Ya - This is similar to Aboriginal
languages and is spoken on western, central
and northern islands. Individual dialects are
also found on each of the islands.
•Meriam Mir - This is the language of the
eastern islands and is derived from Papuan
languages. Individual dialects are also found on
each of the islands.
(Charles Stuart university, 2011)
MUSIC &
DANCE
Torres Strait islanders have spirituality,
beliefs and traditions that are based on
nature and how the world functions in a
natural world. The dreaming is a part of their
belief system that involve ceremonies, using
scared sites, using song and dance, body
painting to relay stories of creation, morals,
culture and law. (Resture, 2011). These
stories have been passed down for
thousands of years from their ancestors.
Torres
Strait
Islander
Culture
SPIRITUALITY , BELIEFS &
TRADITIONS
CULTURE &
COMMUNITY
The culture and community of the Torres Strait
islander people as stated by Charles Stuart
University (2011) are “overshadowed by
Aboriginal Australians and their culture and
history is often lumped in with Aboriginal culture
and history.” Despite this the Torres strait
Islanders do have similarities to mainland
Aboriginals but they also have their own cultural
aspects and stories dependant of their location
and experiences.
Teaching Torres Strait Islanders
Quality Educators of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander students have:
• Cultural and cross-cultural understandings,
• High level communication skills
• The ability to work in and within a community
• The ability to work as a member of a team and a
broader collegial network
•A high level of professionalism and integrity
•A high level of self and professional awareness
(Moyle, 2004))
General Strategies in teaching TS Students
• Encourage cultural identity and pride.
• Integration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander perspectives into curriculum programs.
• Implementation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Studies.
• Implementation of localised cultural/language
programs.
• Development of school-community based VET
programs.
• Incorporate use of ESL/ESD teaching
methodologies and practices.
. (Dhinawun Consultancy , 2011)
Elements of Successful Strategies
• Intensive use of effective practices.
• Strong personal/professional commitment to
improved outcomes;
• Holistic approaches;
• Genuine partnerships with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people; and
• Cultural acknowledgement, recognition and
support. .
(Dhinawun Consultancy , 2011)
Issues & Challenges in Teaching Torres Strait
Islanders
Family
obligations
Cultural
clashes
Students
confidence
s, selfesteem
and
identity
Socioecono
mic status
Cultural
attitudes
Issues and
challenges of
teaching these
students
Teacher
attitude
and
behaviour
Family
attitude
Quality of
teaching
Language
Attendanc
e
Classroom strategies and resources you would
use to create an inclusive learning
environment.
• Story Sharing: Approaching learning through narrative.
• Learning Maps: Explicitly mapping/visualising processes.
• Non-verbal: Applying intra-personal and kinaesthetic skills to thinking and learning.
• Symbols and images: Using images and metaphors to understand concepts and content.
• Land Links: Place-based learning, linking content to local land and place.
• Non-linear: Producing innovations and understanding by thinking laterally or combining systems.
• Deconstruct/Reconstruct: Modelling and scaffolding, working from wholes to parts (watch then do).
• Community Links: Centring local viewpoints, applying learning for community benefit.
(Performance, nd)
(Land, 2002)
(Symbols, 1998)
(Map, nd)
Curriculum support - Aboriginal perspectives
curriculum
In educating Torres strait islanders and Aboriginal students the Australia Government has released a vital
resource called ' The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy (AEP)' which brings
major and long term goals into education for Indigenous students. The main goals and some long term
goals include:
MAJOR GOAL 1 - Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Educational DecisionMaking
To establish effective arrangements for the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and
community members in decisions regarding the planning, delivery and evaluation of pre-school, primary and
secondary education services for their children.
MAJOR GOAL 2 – Equality of Access to Education Services
To ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have access to school services and education on a
basis comparable to that available to other Australian children of the same age.
MAJOR GOAL 3 – Equity of Educational Participation
To achieve the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in pre-school education for a period
similar to that for other Australian children.
MAJOR GOAL 4 – Equitable and Appropriate Educational Outcomes
To enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander attainment of skills to the same standard as other Australian
students throughout the compulsory schooling years. (Australian Government, 2011).
References
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ABC (2005). Torres Strait Islands. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/ra/pacific/places/country/torres_strait_islands.htm#facts.
Aboriginal & Torres strait islander Commission (1992). The Torres Strait islander Flag. Retrieved from
http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/fastfacts/tsiFlag.html.
Australian Government (2011) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy. Retrieved from
http://www.dest.gov.au/archive/schools/indigenous/aep.htm.
Charles Stuart University (2011). Social Justice and Human Rights Issues:
A Global Perspective. Retrieved from
http://hsc.csu.edu.au/ab_studies/rights/global/social_justice_global/sjwelcome.responsenew2.html.
Chamarette, C. (2000). Terra Nullius Then and Now: Mabo, Native Title and Reconciliation in 2000. Australian Psychologist, 35 (2), 167172.
Department of Education , employment and Workplace relations (2011). Dr Roy Whittaker. Retrieved from
http://www.deewr.gov.au/Indigenous/Schooling/Programs/Documents/IEAP/DrRoyWhittaker.pdf.
Dhinawun Consultancy (2011). What works: 101 Effective Teaching Strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students .
Retrieved from http://www.ascqld.org.au/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=9eTRh%2FNRbbs%3D&tabid=187.
DSCN3497 [Image]. (2011). Retrieved from
http://intermediaface.golgotha.com.au/webdesign/sites/dreamtime/media/paintings/DSCN3497.jpg.
Graham, T. (Producer). (1997). Mabo – Life of an Island man [DVD]. Retrieved from http://lms.curtin.edu.au.
Harrison, N. (2011) Teaching & learning in Aboriginal Education. Oxford University Press: Melbourne, Victoria.
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References
Land [Image]. (2002). Retrieved from http://www.souvenirsaustralia.com.
Lui, L., (1996) Cultural Identity and Development in the Torres Strait Islands in Sarawasti, B. (Ed) (1996) Interface of Cultural
Development. Retrieved from http://ignca.nic.in/ls 03009 html.
Map [Image]. (2002). Retrieved from http://www. lpma.nsw.gov.au
Martin_N [Image]. (2008). Retrieved from http://www1.aiatsis.gov.au/exhibitions/conference/speakers.htm.
Maximilian, B. (2001). Multicultural Queensland 2001: 100 years, 100 communities, A century of contributions. Brisbane, Queensland:
The State of Queensland (Department of Premier and Cabinet.
MCEETYA. (2010). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education plan. Retrieved from http://www.mceetya.edu.au/verve/_resources/A100945_IEAP_web_version_final2.pdf.
Moyle, D. (2004). Quality Educators Produce Quality Outcomes –
Some thoughts on what this means in the context of teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Southbank, Victoria:
Australian education Union. retrieved from http://www.aeufederal.org.au/Atsi/2004SemOut.pdf.
Ogilvie, F. (1994). Education to Empower: The role of the primary teacher in Aboriginal education. Issues in Educational Research 4, (1), 2730.
Performance [Image]. (nd). Retrieved from http://www.whitecockatoo.com .
Resture, J. (2011). Torres Strait Culture and Music. Retrieved from http://www.ourpacificocean.com/torres_strait_music/index.htm.
Shnukal , A. (2001). Torres Strait Islanders From: Brandle, Maximilian (ed.) Multicultural Queensland 2001: 100 years, 100
communities, A century of contributions, Brisbane, The State of Queensland
(Department of Premier and Cabinet). Retrieved from
http://www.multiculturalaustralia.edu.au/doc/shnukal_torres_strait.pdf.
Symbols [Image]. (1998). Retrieved from http://www.aboriginalartonline.com
References
Torresmap [Image]. (2011). Retrieved from http://hsc.csu.edu.au/ab_studies/rights/global/social_justice_global/torresmap.jpg.
Torres-strait-islanders [Image]. (2009). Retrieved from http://jeanburman.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/torres-strait-islanders.jpg.
Torres_strait_islander_flag [Image]. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/images/torres_strait_islander_flag.gif.

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