I know I say this every year – but I love this year’s NAIDOC theme!
This year’s theme – Heal Country! – provides an opportunity for all of us to seek a greater understanding of Country and how we can all better embrace and recognise First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country and how we can better contribute to the healing that is so very much needed.
For many, this year’s theme will be the first time they consider Country as more than a place and begin to understand that it is inherent to our identity. Country sustains our lives in every aspect - spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially and culturally. We are elements of Country – part of a larger system that is built on interconnected relationships that promote sustainability for all of its elements.
Aboriginal people have for generations been calling for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of our culture and heritage. There are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are working tirelessly to contribute the knowledge that is crucial to drive education about why this is so important and how we might go about it and I think the reason I am so excited about this year’s theme is because it provides a focus on that important role and the potential that education has when it comes to healing.
I very strongly believe that education is key to the healing that needs to happen and the sooner this education journey starts for all Australians the better. Sharing knowledge and information that develops the wider understanding of our communities and cultures is, in my opinion, the only way we can really start the type of healing our mobs need. That Australia needs. That Country needs.
Reading about the theme on the NAIDOC website, it really resonated with me and the reasons why I started Wingaru. I can see the impact that education has in the schools we work with - the confidence of teachers as they gain understanding of their role in healing and develop confidence in better ways of working; the confidence of kids as they thrive in culturally competent environments as schools tweak approaches that make the environment so much more accessible for Aboriginal kids; the understanding that is creeping, ever so slowly into mainstream Australia as people ask questions and take the time to become informed.
One thought particularly stuck with me:
‘We cannot afford to let pass the very real opportunity that now presents itself for reform based on a fundamental change in the relationship Australia has with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’
Education is such an important part of this reform and without it change is difficult. But we need to make sure that education is strong and this means considering education at all stages of life from early childhood through to adulthood. We need education to be Aboriginal led, culturally safe and accessible for all.
I have been thinking a lot about healing Country and how Wingaru can contribute. It’s a big task but if we all do our bit, it does get easier. The daily frustration of teachers who are looking for support with Aboriginal education but are impeded by barriers around resourcing is something that I can help address. NAIDOC is something that many schools observe and this year more than ever, NAIDOC should be the start of continued action and continued learning to support healing.
To support this Wingaru is offering our Wingaru Kids package at considerably reduced prices. Wingaru Kids bundles professional development and classroom resources to support teachers to bring Aboriginal voices into the classroom as students learn information and skills that promote an understanding and life-long appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
We have also teamed up with the amazing Mr J for another challenge to support you to play a role in healing Country by bringing more Aboriginal content into your classroom. The Challenge details will be announced on social media in coming weeks so make sure you are following Wingaru Education (Facebook, Instagram) and Mr J’s Learning Space (Facebook, Instagram) for all the details.
Request a trial now to access this special pricing for individual teachers or whole school subscriptions.
When I was in my first year of Uni I found myself in a conversation about Aboriginal people and all the things wrong with them. It was a conversation fuelled by misconceptions and stereotypes perpetuated by mainstream media. I wondered if anyone present had actually ever met an Aboriginal person. It was awkward. When should I speak up and tell them that the people they were talking about were my people? That I was one of these Aboriginal people they spoke so negatively about. My opportunity came when one of the group stated that he had never met “a good one”.
‘What about me?’ I said.
The group stared back at me, unsure what to say. They were quiet for a minute, clearly confused and not really sure what to think. My awkwardness became theirs as they realised that they had been caught in their racism, not that they would identify it as that. Finally, one of them spoke “Are you really Aboriginal? You don’t look it”.
Now this is a conversation I had had a thousand times, and have had a million more times since. I explained that Aboriginal people are diverse, not cookie cut outs of the stereotypical black person that mainstream media would have the world believe and it inevitably leads to the person declaring that I am somehow different, because I don’t meet their stereotype of an Aboriginal person – that somehow by doing well I have overcome the deficit that is associated with being Aboriginal. It is a conversation that most Aboriginal people are well versed in.
The deficit perception, the view that Aboriginal people are not capable, is something that still persists and Aboriginal people are still forced to prove themselves when other people don’t have to. Even when we have done something that shows we are capable, a question lingers about how we manage to achieve it. The fact that we achieved something overshadows what we have actually done and many people think we were only able to achieve because of a loop hole or handout.
As children, people often don’t expect us to achieve much. Our kids are often not pushed to their full potential because it is assumed that we are excelling just by scraping by. We go to Uni and people assume we got there on a hand-out, a mystical free pass. As adults many of us find ourselves in jobs where we are not utilised to our full potential.
I believe that the deficit perception is left over from the years when Government policy portrayed us as inferior in order to justify the way it treated us. They under-estimated our abilities and worth then and that has unfortunately continued and become part of the unconscious bias against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that permeates today’s world.
This year I would like to actively and directly start to change the deficit perception. If you are a teacher, I encourage you to get to know your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, see their strengths and let them know you see their potential and expect them to achieve it. Encourage and support them to do this – work with them and their community to make sure they don’t get lost in the assumption that good enough is all they can achieve. Opportunity rather than ability is the barrier we face.
If you are an employer, talk to your Aboriginal staff – do they feel you are utilising their skills as well as you can be? Are there growth opportunities they would like to undertake?
This year, Wingaru will be sharing the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who counter the deficit perception. Whose everyday life shows that our First Nations people are strong, determined and capable. That the deficit perception is the biggest myth of all.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.