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Inside Teaching : June 2011
www.atra.edu.au | email@example.com INDIGENOUS INSIGHT 17 In reflecting on the re- emergence of multiculturalism in this country, in my column in the previous edition of Inside Teaching, I wanted to provide an Aboriginal insight into the way in which this policy has previously been used to encourage somewhat inane celebrations of difference. I wanted teachers to understand the importance of developing a deep appreciation of the diversity they encounter within the groups of students with whom they engage on a daily basis. My own research in this area tells me that, regardless of the level of education, student numbers or school location, quality education is achieved by teachers who desire, and develop the capacity, to build meaningful, respectful relationships with every one of their students. Regular readers of this column will know that my aim has been to highlight the significance of identity in enabling learners to effectively engage within the learning process, but I think we need to give deeper consideration to an issue that continually emerges in studies I’ve undertaken concerning Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples’ participation in education: racism. In addition to my own experience, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff I’ve interviewed over the years have admitted that racism is alive and well in our education institutions. When pushed, most say it’s evident in people’s body language. To paraphrase Marcia Langton, ‘We hear it in your voices and we see it in your eyes.’ Why is racism such a critical issue for educators to address? A growing body of educational research evidence clearly demonstrates that: • some school staff, including teachers, have a limited awareness of or commitment to equity principles and some students as a result are subjected to discriminatory treatment by other students or staff within our educational institutions • racism is the major cause of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students feeling devalued and excluded within their learning environments • Australian learning institutions consistently favour Western cultural traditions that ensure the maintenance of Western cultural values and beliefs, and