In Indigenous Education - 8ways

In Indigenous Education
A digital
reflection on
Culture in the
Image sourced from:
Where is my place in Indigenous
“Be grounded in your own cultural identity with integrity.”
(Cultural Interface Protocols for Engaging with Aboriginal Knowledge retrieved from: )
To begin a reflection on my place in Indigenous
education, I must first begin to reflect on my place in
my own education.....
The void in a hegemonic history
Being schooled during the 1980s, by teachers who were
schooled 10-20 years earlier, my formal education about
Aboriginal history must have been lacking much depth
or diversity. Cavanagh (1999) methodically examines the
contents of history books prior to the 1980s and
concludes that there is an obvious lack of Aboriginal
What was I not taught?
Was I taught that European Civilisation brought with it technology, culture,
decency, manners, disease, bloodshed and racism?
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Was I taught that
Aboriginal women
and children were
killed simply for
being, or was I
taught that
revenge was
discipline to the
hard working
settlers who made
this land what it is
Retrieved from:
When I was taught that 26th January is celebrated as Australia
Day, what type of Australia was being celebrated?
Retrieved from:
Was I taught that the
same country who were
world leaders in giving
women the vote did not
extend this liberty to
Aboriginal citizens until
1967 (seven years
before I was born)?
Retrieved from:
Was I ever taught of the battles that were proudly won on
our own soil without the shedding of blood?
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When learning about democracy, was I ever taught how I,
as a citizen, could make a difference?
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When being taught morals, was I taught that stealing is always
wrong or is it sometimes okay?
Retrieved from:
“Aboriginal history is Australia’s history”
Singleton (2006 p28)
Australia’s history, our history, has typically been taught as an ethnocentric
history where the dominant culture of winners has been responsible for
documenting, and disseminating the history to perpetuate the myth that theirs
is the voice of truth (Cavanagah, 1999; Iseke-Barnes, 2005; Maynard, 2007;
Mooney & Craven, 2007 and Wilson-Miller 2003).
The fundamental importance of teaching a balanced and comprehensive
shared Australian history can not be overstated. The most important reason for
this is that understanding our past helps us analyse our present which
subsequently helps us shape the future (Wilson-Miller, 2003).
“Since 1788 ours is a shared history”
Cavanagh (1999 p157)
“Bring your highest self to the knowledge and settle
your fears and issues”
(Cultural Interface Protocols for Engaging with Aboriginal Knowledge retrieved from: )
I have been made aware of the notable inequity of history traditionally taught in
schools (Craven, 1999) and have reflected upon the impact this has had on
Australian society over time. The void in our national history has distorted our
national identity.
After much thought and personal questioning I am becoming more comfortable
with my place in a less than perfect education system. I have been grappling
with the issue of Aboriginal and Anglo difference but am now focusing my
efforts on identifying the similarities. The differences are to be valued and
celebrated, but it is in the similarities that I see the way forward to genuine
cross cultural teaching within the classroom.
Finding the common ground
The 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning ( provides an
innovative way to apply common ground knowledge in the classroom. Teachers
are able to use this framework to teach core curriculum subjects using
Aboriginal perspectives and learning techniques.
8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning
On a personal level, the introduction to the 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning was
revolutionary for my pedagogical thinking. So many of these explicit techniques
have been crucial to my own learning and are teaching methods I naturally
In the classroom
The Aboriginal culture is often
described using past tense . Whist
the traditions and historical
aspects of the culture can be
referred to in this way, teachers
must ensure that students
understand that the Aboriginal
culture is a contemporary living
culture, not an ‘exotic’ way of life
dead in the past (Phillips &
Lampert, 2005).
Schools contribute to our identity,
our connection with other
individuals and to Australian
society in general (Phillips &
Lampert, 2005). Conceptions and
experiences which shape our
learning early in life affect our
perception throughout our later
lives also. These intuitive
understandings are very difficult to
change (Leonard, 2002).
Aboriginal students need to feel comfortable in their classrooms.
“….The ability to be comfortable in schooling and home cultural contexts, through the
affirmation of Indigenous identity in schools, is crucial if one desires to participate in
the competitive economic climate we have today” (Duncan as cited in Phillips and
Lampert, 2005 p135).
“If we are serious about addressing the needs of Aboriginal students, then
we must look at our own practices in the classroom…”
(Harrison, 2008)
Harrison (2008) suggests that Indigenous children are more likely to work for the
teacher if they like them. Whether or not this statement is particularly true for
Indigenous students, I don’t pretend to know, but I believe it to be true for students
regardless of cultural background. If the relationship with the teacher is positive, the
classroom environment will be more encouraging and thus more enjoyable.
My role as the class teacher doesn’t stop at the school gate. As a teacher of
Indigenous students I must build and foster respectful and mutual relationships with
the Aboriginal community and/or their representatives.
The interesting thing about this, that I would like to do that for all my students….
After all, relationships are the ‘stuff’ of life!
8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning. (2009). Retrieved May 17 2010, from
Cavanagh, P. (1999). Australian History: A new understanding. In R. G. Craven (Ed.), Teaching Aboriginal Studies. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen &
Craven, R. G. (Ed.). (1999). Teaching Aboriginal Studies. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
Harrison, N. (2008). Teaching and learning in Indigenous education. South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.
Iseke-Barnes, J. (2005). Misrepresentations of indigenous history and science : public broadcasting, the internet, and education. Discourse,
26(2), 149-165.
Maynard, J. (2007). Circles in the sand : an Indigenous framework of historical practice. Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 36(2007),
Mooney, J., Craven, R. G., Self-concept, E., & Learning Facilitation Research Centre. International, C. (2007). Teaching Aboriginal studies :
improving professional practice in NSW schools. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 4th International Biennial SELF research
conference : self-concept, motivation, social and personal identity for the 21st Century. from*/
Phillips, J., & Lampert, J. (2005). Introductory Indigenous Studies in Education. Frenches Forest, NSW: Person Education Australia.
Wheatley, N. & Rawlins, D. (1987). My Place: The story from now to then. Blackburn, Vic: Collins Dove.
Wilson-Miller, J., Australian Association for Research in Education, C., New Zealand Association for Research in Education, C., & Conference,
N. A. (2003). Re-thinking Aboriginal history : self-concept for a nation. from

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