Inclusion of Aboriginal Culture and People in Australia’s Education

3007 words (12 pages) Essay in Education

08/02/20 Education Reference this

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We would like to acknowledge the Whadjuk Noongar people whose land we are standing on and recognise the strength, resilience and capacity of the Noongar people where Curtin University is located.

We pay our respect to their vibrant and endless culture and the leadership of the Elders past, present and future. This country (boodja) where Curtin University is situated has belonged to the Whadjuk Noongar people for thousands of years and is a place of learning for all people now and Curtin University is very proud to continue on this very long tradition.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users are advised there may be images, viewings, stories, photos and written materials of people which could be disturbing and/or of persons who are deceased.

 

Throughout Australia we have children who are growing up in a culture that is not theirs, in a society that is not theirs and in traditions and customs that are not theirs. When they grow up, they go and find where they are from and where they belong. However, for Aboriginal people, this country is theirs. There are customs that are absolutely paramount to Aboriginal culture including family, spirituality, beliefs and land (Noongar Culture, 2018). When one of these concepts is removed, there is a breakdown of the wholeness of our beings. This is what happened with our children who were taken, stolen and removed, impacting their placement on their land and where they were told they ‘do not belong’ (Noongar, Culture, 2018). The Stolen Generation impacts all Aboriginal people and as a result of this historic event, there is now a high rate of incarceration for Aboriginal people (Harrison & Sellwood, 2016). This has led onto affecting Aboriginal people in many ways, snowballing through various areas in life including low socio-economic communities, health issues, low or no education, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide (Harrison & Sellwood, 2016). By creating a whole school approach, cohesive, collective and collaborative action in a school community that is strategically constructed, will improve student learning, behaviour and wellbeing, and the conditions that support these (DOET, 2010).

The term Stolen Generation refers to the removal of Aboriginal children from their families by Australian government agencies and church missions (Encycolopedia, 2018). Originally considered child welfare, the practice is perceived by some as having wreaked extensive family and cultural damage (Lloyd, et al, 2015). The nature of the removals, their extent, and its effects on those removed, is a topic of considerable dispute and political debate within Australia (Encyclopedia, 2018). According to the official government report, at least 30,000 to 100 000 children were removed from their parents. Percentage estimates were given that 10-30% of all Aboriginal children born during the seventy-year period were removed. Although children of full Aboriginal descent were removed, in general the children of “mixed descent”, having one or more European ancestors, were the most targeted (Encyclopedia, 2018). Children taken from their parents were taught to reject their Indigenous heritage, and forced to adopt white culture (Wilson-Miller, n.d.). Their names were often changed, and they were forbidden to speak their traditional languages. Some children were adopted by white families, and many were placed in institutions where abuse and neglect were common (Wilson-Miller, n.d.).

This caused placement and displacement for Aboriginal and Torrens Strait students years ago and still has many implications on students today. The affects removed traditions and cultures from being practiced and continued with a European style of living. Publications sought to express the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, families, communities and teaching staff with respect to pedagogy (Lloyd, et al, 2015). The interviews with school staff, students and families at 675 schools throughout Australia revealed major instructional themes deemed important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and families in fostering learning to teach all Australians and Indigenous Australians about their culture (Lloyd, et al, 2015). They included that traditional culture of Australia be taught with special attention to cultural identity, that there are quality teachers who are able to educate, collaborating with assessing the wellbeing of students, who are culturally aware and have high expectations, create personalised lesson plans and develop good relationships with students and families to create the sense of community. Efforts which encourage the participation of Elders and families in school life, health and well-being, predominantly the mitigation of racism; and curriculum and the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives for best practice (Lloyd, et al, 2015).

The Department of Education and Training (DOET, 2010) state that there has always been a gap between students who come from high socio-economic (HSE) backgrounds and those who live in low socio-economic (LSE) communities and in poverty. This gap has reduced over the years, however to increase opportunity for Aboriginal and Torrens Strait students to have equal opportunities, as stated by ACARA (n.d.), educators are required to adapt to better fit the needs of an increasingly diverse student body (DOET, 2010). According to Devlin (2012), each student is individual and comes from a different background, culturally and with varying socio-economic factors. Most students want to be understood and they want the things they recognise in themselves to be recognised by others (Devlin, et, al, 2012). They want the teacher to understand their personal lives and they think a good teacher is someone who understands them and what is important in their lives. An understanding of a student’s personal life will help a teacher to motivate and engage the student (ACARA, n.d.). DOET (2012) states that the institutions themselves create inflexibility and inequality and that it is unfair to expect the burden of change to fall solely on students. Devlin (2012) also states that sociocultural gaps can be bridged by providing an empathic schooling community that values and respects all students, encompasses a wide approach that is comprehensive, integrated and coordinated through the curriculum, incorporates inclusive learning environments and strategies, empowers students by making the implicit, explicit, and focuses on LSE student learning outcomes and success. DOET (2010) states that this can be achieved through taking time to learn about each student, their background and respecting this. Communicating, embracing and integrating the diversity of students will enable contributions of their knowledge to everyone’s learning. Being flexible and offering a variety of choice or teaching and learning strategies, while upholding academic standards, the educator will provide and equal opportunity for LSE students to thrive. The Australian Government2 (2018) states that by embedding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives framework (EATSIPS) in to both the school and classroom communities, a strong school and community culture can be created. This can be achieved by creating pedagogy and practices that impact on student participation and outcomes (Australian Government2, 2018). Along with this, creating a ‘third cultural space’ allows a school community to work towards helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to be stronger and smarter in their journey through lifelong learning (Australian Government2, 2018).  

Many health services are not as accessible and user-friendly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as they are for non-Indigenous people, adding to higher levels of disadvantage (Thomson, Burns, & McLoughlin, 2012). Sometimes this is because more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than non-Indigenous live in remote locations and not all health services are offered outside of cities. Sometimes health services are not culturally appropriate, which means they do not consider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Dudgeon, Milroy & Walker, 2014). Also, some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may not be able to use some services because they are too expensive. Thomson, Burns, & McLoughlin (2012) state that breaking the cycleof Aboriginal poor health and disadvantage requires a strategic national focus on the importance of early child health and development. This is now recognised internationally as the single most effective strategy currently available to governments and communities for reducing the worst effects of poverty and breaking the cycle of inter-generational disadvantage (Kids Matter, 2015). Aboriginal child health is fundamentally linked to social, economic and political factors underpinning human development. This is why progress in Aboriginal health needs the engagement of Aboriginal communities along with concerted, coordinated actions across governments and sectors to develop and implement policies that reflect this fundamental reality (Thomson, Burns, & McLoughlin, 2012).

According to Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples (Health Info Net, 2015): ‘The burden of disease suffered by Indigenous Australians is estimated to be two-and-a-half times greater than the burden of disease in the total Australian population. It is important to acknowledge that most health issues among Indigenous people do not, in most cases, stem from Indigeneity (Health Info Net, 2015). Sometimes it is easy to identify the person with the health issue, but there is a correlation not a causal relationship. Physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, communication skills and general knowledge are many of the benefits that come from a high record of school attendance (Kids Matter, n.d.).

When it comes to schooling specifically, Improving the Educational Experience (2006) explains that unexplained absences are one of the major health factors which affect the education of Aboriginal students. It has been found that students who have more then ten days of unexplained absences are twice more likely to have low academic performance then students who have no unexplained absences (Improving the Educational Experience, 2006). Sarra from Message Stick (2002) strategically congratulates a class which has zero unexplained absences after recording for a school term and explains to the other students that having unexplained absences is not strong and smart, and that his expectations are higher. Alternatively, Message Stick (2002) tells of educators going into the homes of some children and getting them ready, to come to school. The impact that unexplained absences have on education include students having negative attitudes towards learning, the school community and poor emotional health as they do not ‘belong’ (Improving the Educational Experience, 2006). By using the strong and smart motto to build resilience in the students, Sarra teaches the children that if they are strong in their hearts and smart in their heads, no one can belittle them (Message Stick, 2002). By focusing on emotional health and reducing unexplained absences, Cherbourg demonstrates good practice in incorporating health with education (Message Stick, 2002). By having a high attendance record, The Australian Government1 (n.d.) mentions that all students will benefit proactively through establishing relationships of trust with the school community based on shared values, shared decision-making and shared expectations, provide opportunities for carers to obtain positive educational experiences, demonstrate the value and positive culture of schools, actively promote the benefits education can provide to children and respect for Aboriginal people and culture.

Yunkaporta’s eight-way framework (Lowe and Yunkaporta, n.d.) demonstrates ways in which aboriginal processes can be incorporated into the pedagogical setting. This is linked with the methods utilised in Bush School (Duffy and Carro, 2007). Using every opportunity to introduce a learning outcome and taking the time to get to know the students is a key aspect that educators can follow for best practice (Harrison & Sellwood, 2016). This was demonstrated in both the East Kalgoorlie Primary School (Department of Education, WA1, 2013) and the Dijdi Dijdi Aboriginal School (Department of Education, WA2, 2013) as educators took both time and effort to create learning plans and individual solutions for individual students to work together to increase their knowledge, diet, physical and medical health and teach the students and parents the importance of school attendance.

If there is a common thread to optimising teaching success for the maximum benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, it is the ability to ‘look at the big picture’, understand what is significant to individuals and develop genuine relationships with students and families based on taking the time to develop an understanding of the whole person through sustained, authentic and empathetic dialogue to find opportunities for growth and development. If attention is drawn to the imperative of schools and teachers engaging with community in all educational matters. Likewise, a genuine collaboration with community with respect to the Aboriginal studies curriculum provided will result in improved affective and achievement parameters. Boundaries and expectations need to be set, however, for best practice, it has been found that educators should always work towards the bigger picture goals and be flexible in their approach to teaching about the Stolen Generation, Aboriginal culture, traditions and customs, when teaching Indigenous students, and working with families and communities.

 

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