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Inside Teaching : June 2011
Inside Teaching | June 2011 INDIGENOUS INSIGHT 20 This is not a pie-in-the-sky suggestion. All of the students I’ve interviewed over the past two decades have emphasised the importance of having good teachers who are interested in them as people, who value them for what they bring to the learning situation and who make them feel they belong. Such teachers create learning places for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students where: • the social and emotional wellbeing of students is paramount • all stakeholders, regardless of their racial, cultural or social differences, are able to come together in a spirit of co- operation and goodwill • diversity is highly regarded and seen as contributing balance to the learning community, and • learning is valued for its relevance within an inclusive curriculum. It’s in such learning environments that collaborative practices thrive. Embedding attitudes of respect and reciprocity within the collaboration enables healing for the diversity of families that make up the modern Australian school. This healing is the vital first step in building stronger, more effective communities both within and beyond the learning institution. Major research in Indigenous education over the past decade clearly shows the success of the strategies implemented through the 1990 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy. Add the ongoing commitment of successive governments to implementing policies and resourcing systems and schools, and it would seem obvious that there’s no justification for the failure of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to acquire successful educational outcomes. There has to be another cause. We know that people, especially teachers, are the key to success in Indigenous education. We also know that it’s their willingness to engage with the diversity of this nation’s first peoples that determines the outcomes achieved. The research evidence indicates that acknowledging the very real presence of racism in our education systems is the critical link we must make in order to build the educational democracy this nation needs in order to deliver the human rights of freedom and equality to all of its citizens. Together we can do this, we can overcome the challenge of the R-word. Let’s do it. Professor Jeannie Herbert holds the Chair of Indigenous Studies at Charles Sturt University. WE KNOW THAT PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY TEACHERS, ARE THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN INDIGENOUS EDUCATION.