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Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education

Assessment 2: Essay
Tia Langston

Discuss ways of incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies into
classroom curriculum. In your essay you should develop your ideas using the Australian
Curriculum conceptual framework for embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Studies. You also need to engage with historical and contemporary issues such as self-
determination, community engagement and racism.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history is one that should be well
known to any Australian, it should be taught in schools and be apart of the every day
knowledge. To help continue this ideal it is important for teachers to educate
themselves into the culture, history and land of the Aboriginal People before integrating
it into their teaching classrooms. There are a few considerations that need to take place
to prevent any negativities coming from the topic, the teacher needs to be made aware
of any chance of racism towards any student, Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal due to the
topic and also any concerns parents may have with what may be taught to their
children. Once this has all taken place the teacher can use their knowledge and
understandings in the classroom to teach students about Australia’s history and the
Aboriginal culture, as an individual subject or through integrating it into other subjects.
In this essay, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander will be spoke of in an inclusive
manner but will be referred to as Aboriginal People.

Though incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies into the classroom
is important, it is crucial for the teacher to have great knowledge into Aboriginal People
and their culture. Aboriginal People make one of the oldest surviving cultures known to
man, though their culture depends on the area they are from, depending on the location
can depend on different languages, beliefs, tools and more. Aboriginal culture has a
large belief in their love of the land and through the land came stories known as ‘dream
time stories’, which created the laws that they live by. There was a mutual law that
recognised the importance of the land, to not exploit the land or its produce for the
passing of the land to future generations. Aboriginal culture is one of the most
importance things to learn before teaching it to others, it is important to understand
this way of life and how this culture has not disappeared since the colonization of
Australia (Behrendt, L 1995).

Following on from the Aboriginal Culture is the important history of Aboriginal People,
in particular the horrors they were faced with after the arrival of the European settlers.
Aboriginal People are the original owners of the Australian land, though this was taken
away from them at one point after the Federation of Australia. During 1788, the
European People first came to Australia, this was when Aboriginal People began to
loose their human rights and were treated as less than. The European People began to
act on their beliefs of Aboriginal People being inhuman due to their inability to speak
English, this later led to Aboriginal People being used as workers, workers without pay.
Though the truth was that the Aboriginal People were being abused and hated, the
Europeans took every opportunity they could to promote fake stories to the world
about the Aboriginal People having opportunities to assimilate into the European
culture and integrate into modern society. This was not true, Aboriginal children were
being taken from their families and forced into work for white families and then given
to European men to have children in order to help ‘Fade out’ the Aboriginal race, as the
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Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
Assessment 2: Essay
Tia Langston

government referred to it as (Carter, DJ 2006). As horrible as this was, it did change

many years later and the need for Aboriginal rights became stronger, although some
children that were part of this movement, now known as the Stolen Generation, some
were never reunited with their families. This is part of the true Australian History, the
horrible history that no one wants to discuss, though when the word ‘Australian
History’ is brought to mind it brings only one single thought, the thought of Australia
after the European settlers. There is a great history unknown to many about the
Aboriginal People in Australia before the federation, yet that history is never told nor
spoken of. Australian history is a crucial element for any teacher to have as it is
important to teach students as much detail about the country in which they live in, even
if some of the history is sad and awful (Carter, DJ 2006).

Aboriginal History, the part we know and talk about, involved some horrific actions
against the Aboriginal People for no good reason, due to them already owning the
Australian land when the European settlers came to this country. The cruel actions
against Aboriginal people, as stated above, are the history but now the history is in the
past and there are still no equal rights or land fully returned to those it was taken from.
During the mid 1800’s some of Australia’s land was given back to the Aboriginal People
in hope that they would build homes and communities along side of the British but
because they did not do this and continued to occupy the land as they had previously
the government took the land back from them. To this day a majority of Australia has
not been given back to the Aboriginal People, though it is recognised that certain parts
of the land belong to certain communities, such as Adelaide belonging to the Kaurna
people, it does not mean it is theirs to do with as they please. Although it is not the
current way, there has been much progress in the sharing of this land, it is important to
recognise what has previously happened and work together to ensure no further
negative actions take place. It is crucial to share this country together and ensure it is
fairly shared in an equal way just as each person in the country of Australia should be
seen as equal too (Obrien, L 2007).

Aboriginal People are known as true Australian’s as they were the original people on
this land, this is something that all Australian People of today would know, but many
may not be aware of the day to day racism that is happening towards this culture.
Racism is a very serious matter that can happen everywhere, it can happen in young
children such as those in schools, it is important to try prevent this from happening
through knowledge and understanding of what Aboriginal racism really is. An extract
from a book by Marcia Langton, explores racism towards Aboriginal People through
film and the media, it speaks of how some films explore the racist history of the past in
so much detail that there is no room to speak of how times have changed but just of how
people treated others. She finds that when the media speaks of Aboriginal People they
solely focus on the few negativities some people posses, one being of a drunken
Aboriginal Man in a public shop, this leads others to draw the negativities to the race
rather than the person (Langton, M 1993). (Gunstone, A 2008).

Teaching Aboriginal culture and history is important for every student to experience,
though it is crucial to firstly look at some considerations to Aboriginal students in
school. Firstly there are some statistical concerns of Aboriginal Students, from the 2011
census, that need to be acknowledged in order to make a change. In the census of 2006

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Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
Assessment 2: Essay
Tia Langston

it was recorded that 54.1 percent of Aboriginal Males and 50.7 percent of Aboriginal
Females, between the ages of 20 – 24, had not completed high school or equivalent
(Biddle, N 2011). This statistic is one that needs to be recognised by teachers all over
Australia in hope that they will look at this and try to change these statistics, otherwise
more students and parents will continue to fear their incompletion of high school and
may contribute to that percentage through lack of motivation, given their statistical
odds. Secondly teachers need to consider the concerns some Aboriginal parents and
non-Aboriginal parents may have towards their child’s schooling and study of
Aboriginal culture in the classroom. In an extract from a book, by Quentin Beresford, a
mother writes a concerned letter to her child’s future teacher. This expresses her
concerns of the child loosing their knowledge and background into their Aboriginal
culture, scared that they will only be taught basic education created by the European
people. She urges the teacher to educate their self in Aboriginal history and culture
before teaching her child and to build a relationship with her family and community to
assist her teaching and ensuring it is inclusive of all cultures. The overall importance of
this letter was the need and hope that this mother had for her teacher to embrace and
celebrate his culture and race as they have raised him to do the same rather than
disadvantaging him due to it. This is something many Aboriginal families face when
sending their children to school, hoping their children will be seen for their strengths
not their weaknesses. From this letter, there is great emphasis needed on teaching
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in an inclusive way, a way which incorporates
all cultures and is not set as a European only type of education (Beresford, Q 2012).

Incorporating Aboriginal education into an Australian classroom is crucial; it should be

ranked higher than other histories and cultural education as it is apart of the country
that you are in. It is important to firstly look for any and all of the considerations you
must take before continuing into teaching this as a subject, it is important to have a
great deal of background knowledge into the history and the culture before deciding to
teach it. As a starting point, a book written by Neil Harrison describes a teachers first
experience teaching in a predominantly Aboriginal area in a school that had a large
amount of Aboriginal children. He had to learn on the job as he was given his job and
began it with very little prior knowledge. He speaks of incorporating it into the
education system through using the community, the Aboriginal community to seek
more information, become more familiar to them and also use their knowledge to share
with the students. He speaks of the importance of incorporating Aboriginal and non-
Aboriginal students together so they can be seen and see themselves as one class, one
community. One implication to really interest the students into teaching About the
Aboriginal culture was to take students on an excursion so that they can not only learn
but also experience the culture first hand (Harrison, N 2011). This is just one of the
many ideas to help develop students understanding of their countries past and also
incorporate the many cultures together in an equal way.

Teachers will need to look for new and different ways to incorporate Aboriginal
education into their classrooms, ways that do not show the explicit horrors of the past
but still allow student to understand the history. They will be focussing on developing
their students knowledge and understanding of both the Aboriginal past and their
culture, as well as how it has changed over time. A book by Kaye Price, gives a great
example of using Aboriginal written and illustrated books, which every ones are

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Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
Assessment 2: Essay
Tia Langston

relevant to the particular year level as there are novels as well as picture books. They
then have the opportunity to read the books filled with very important and relevant
information while studying the author and their own personal story or reasoning for
writing the book. One specific author mentioned was Jeannie Baker who has created
some books that focus on the Australian land and its many uses. Children are able to
read these books while searching for the materials that the book speaks of, such as bark,
leaves and dirt to then discover the type of material they are and its many uses. This is a
very good activity to use with younger children as it gives them the opportunity to learn
through literature and through physical materials. They can also challenge themselves
through researching some of the Aboriginal language used within the book to gather a
larger understanding of what it all means and where the language came from. Using
books to help teach the Aboriginal subject can be a very informative material to use in
the classroom and it can be used for many different ages as there are many relative
authors to focus on during this subject (ed. Price 2012).

Teaching an integrated mathematics and Aboriginal class can be one that interests
children, it has the ability to make mathematics more creative. Students can have the
chance to tell a story through mathematics, such as a story of addition while using
Aboriginal characters. An example of this is found in Price, K 2012 which shows a
student writing ‘4+2+6’ using Aboriginal numeracy, which is the images of 4 seed
looking objects, a vortex looking object, then another 2 seeds, a cloud and then the final
6 seed answer. The child explained how the vortex object was pulling the two sets of
seeds together as one, then the cloud helped place them together in one single pile
which gave the answer of 6. This not only focuses on numeracy but also the story telling
technique involving joining and transformation in Aboriginal culture, this is one of the
ways algebra is used in Aboriginal language. Using images or symbols during
mathematics, with an Aboriginal focus, is one of the ways that the two subjects cab be
integrated for a more rewarding and interesting experience for the students (ed. Price

Aboriginal education should be one crucial aspect of an Australian Curriculum, it is

important because it is the basic history of Australia. Teachers will need to further their
knowledge into the Aboriginal culture and history, learning about the Aboriginal way of
life and the horror they have faced in the past. It is important to ensure one is fully
educated into this topic before teaching it to others to ensure all the information is
politically correct, students need to be aware of some of the considerations and the
implications the past has had on todays society, in relation to racism and equality. In
conclusion, the importance of incorporating Aboriginal Education into the Australian
educative system, as shown above, is very important for students now and in the future.

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Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
Assessment 2: Essay
Tia Langston

Behrendt, L 1995, Aboriginal Dispute Resolution, Federation Press, Maryborough,
Beresford, Q 2012, Separate and Unequal: An Outline of Aboriginal Education 1900-1996:
Reform and Resistance in Aboriginal Education, UWA Publishing, Crawley, Western
Biddle, N 2011, CAEPR Indigenous Population Project 2011 census Papers: School
Education, Last Viewed: September 10 2017,
Carter, D 2006, Aboriginal History and Australian History: Issues in Australian Studies,
Pearson Education, Frenchs Forest, New South Wales.
Gunstone, A 2008, History, Politics & Knowledge: An Indigenous Standpoint Theory,
Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, Victoria.
Harrison, N 2011, Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education: Starting out as a
teacher in Aboriginal education, Oxford University Press, Australia.
Langton, M 1993, Well I Heard it on the Radio and I saw it on the Television: The Politics
of Aboriginal Representation, Australian Film Commission, North Sydney, New South
O’Brien, L 2007, Sharing Our Space: And the Clock Structure Thirteen, Wakefield Press,
Adelaide, South Australia.
Price, K (ed.) 2012, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education: An Introduction for
the teaching profession, Cambridge University Press, Sydney, NSW.

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