by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Inside Teaching : April 2011
Multiculturalism is back, but, asks JeannIe HeRbeRt, does it merely seeks to calm the waters in terms of fears about asylum seekers, and how prepared are we in our schools to deliver education programs that address the different learning needs of our First Australians and our most recent Australians? www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org INDIGENOUS INSIGHT 11 Not long ago the media was abuzz with the latest spin: Commonwealth Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen, surrounded by microphones and cameras, was the centre of attention as he delivered his tribute to multiculturalism. As I listened to the flow of words extolling the virtues of multiculturalism as a critical component in nation-building, I allowed myself a moment to step back in time and recall the 1970s, when our schools were first primed as critical drivers of the government’s multicultural policy. Invoking those half- forgotten memories from the ’70s up to the ’90s of what at the time seemed to be an eternal round of school-based multicultural celebrations focusing on the most obvious manifestations of cultural difference – food, clothing, cultural activities – I asked myself what was the point, then or now? Although we appreciated the political agenda behind such policies, we also realised that using highly visible activities designed to ‘celebrate difference’ was possibly the simplest way to respond to the ever-changing, increasingly continuous demands of government ministers intent upon expanding their personal influence, in terms of what should be happening in schools via the implementation of trendy ‘isms.’ Now that multiculturalism is apparently back on the government’s social policy agenda, it’s worth reflecting on the implications of multiculturalism in the context of Indigenous education, then and now. For those of you who may not have been around during the previous life cycle of multiculturalism, let me assure you that there were definitely attempts to sell multiculturalism as an inclusive policy that was applicable to all groups within our society. So before we head off down that road once again, it might be useful to raise teachers’ awareness of some of the issues. It’s critical that we acknowledge that the focus of multicultural policies is migrants: people from other countries who have made the decision to migrate to Australia. With scientific evidence suggesting that Aboriginal peoples have inhabited this country for anything from 40,000 to 120,000 years, it’s fair to say that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not migrants. From such a stance it might be assumed that multiculturalism was of little moment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but the history is not as simple as that because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students were in schools that were expected to take the lead role in implementing the Commonwealth government’s multicultural policy. Consider some of the complexities that surround such a situation. Back in the ’60s, the focus on multiculturalism was driven by migrant groups who were constantly being pressured to conform to what we now term the ‘mainstream.’ Mainstream is, generally, aligned to the notion of the ‘majority’ – the behaviours or desires of the group or groups that constitute the largest numbers in terms of the total population and includes all popular culture usually disseminated through the mass media. Those migrant groups in the ’60s were seeking to highlight their situation, to raise awareness within what was essentially a very monocultural society, as to the differences that did exist between people, in order to increase understanding and engender some tolerance for the diversity of languages and cultures they, as migrants, brought with them to this