Today I was asked a question that I have been asked a few times since I started speaking to schools about Wingaru Kids.
Do I really think increasing Aboriginal education can make a difference?
The answer is yes. I 100% believe that if more people had access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture, Australia would be a different place, or at least have a chance of being a different place.
Education means increased empathy, a greater understanding and breaking through misconceptions that permeate Australian communities.
Every week I see or hear conversations questioning why Aboriginal people are so disadvantaged when they get so many free things. I am quick to correct these views but how successful I am is questionable given how ingrained these racist and misinformed views are. Education means that people will be armed with facts to inform their opinions and therefore be less likely to believe the popular misinformation that is everywhere we look. They may also be brave enough to openly challenge these misconceptions, something Aboriginal people have to do every single day.
Every day there are people working hard to address the disadvantage Aboriginal people face. They work tirelessly on programs and initiatives that have the potential to deliver real change but are faced with a number or barriers. With education, these barriers become easier to break through and some even disappear.
Racism is a significant problem for Australia. With education comes understanding and tolerance. Students begin to understand what racism is and the impact it has not only on victims but on society as a whole. This knowledge will make people think twice about their actions and in due course is likely to reduce the incidence of racism.
I am not for a minute suggesting that education alone will fix every issue facing Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people. But I 100% believe it is a part of the solution and that consistent, quality education will make a difference. I don't think it will be easy by any means but every small change contributes to a bigger change. Every school that makes a commitment to Aboriginal Education is a step in the right direction.
Each week I receive at least one email from a teacher wanting to sign up just one or two students to Wingaru Kids. Upon unpacking the reasons why the school is only looking for a single licence, it is often because the teacher is trying to find a way to engage an Aboriginal student who is struggling in the school environment. I love talking to teachers who care enough to find a solution for kids who need the extra support. They are my favourite type of teacher and lucky for me, most teachers I have encountered since starting Wingaru Education are engaged, positive and keen to incorporate more Aboriginal perspectives in their classroom.
Wingaru Kids is only available on a whole school basis and we can't set up a single account. We made this decision for a number of reasons. Firstly thats how the platform works - it is a tool to support teachers deliver lessons on Aboriginal perspectives to the whole class. Secondly, schools will get the most benefit from having all students active on the platform. It will help their school to become a more culturally inclusive place, students will bond over the shared experience and together develop an understanding of culture, issues impacting on Aboriginal people and how working together can make the world a better place for everyone.
Aboriginal kids will benefit more from the whole school becoming culturally aware and engaged in culture. For Aboriginal kids who are struggling, a school who values Aboriginal culture is important. It gives our kids a sense of belonging, the feeling of being valued and an opportunity to share their knowledge. Watching my own child share culture with his peers is one of my favourite things about being a mum. He grows taller, his face glows with pride and it is obvious that he enjoys being able to share knowledge and feels valued for doing so.
So to those teachers who are seeking help for a koori kid who is struggling I say thank you! Thank you for caring enough to spend your time looking for a solution. I encourage you to look at ways to bring culture into your whole school and start to build an inclusive environment for your disengaged kid/s because thats what they need.
It is six months since Wingaru Kids was launched and what a six months it has been! We are now in over 100 schools and the feedback we are getting is overwhelmingly positive. Teachers are embracing our resources and confidently delivering lessons about Aboriginal culture in a way that has not been done before.
Wingaru Education was born out of a desire to fill what I believe is a missing piece in the puzzle that is improving outcomes for Aboriginal people and making real steps towards true reconciliation.
There are many people delivering great programs aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities however, while many of those programs are successfully changing lives for some Aboriginal people, the overall living, health and education outcomes for our First Nations are not improving and in some cases are even declining.
I can’t help but think that part of the problem is that no one is addressing the need for education for wider communities so that a better understanding of Aboriginal people and culture is developed across the country. And what better place to start but with our future leaders.
Today’s students will one day be leading this country and it is my hope that through broader exposure to the issues impacting on Aboriginal people, the culture we hold so dearly and the development of an understanding of the true history of this country, that those future leaders will be in a position to make better, more informed decisions and work more collaboratively with Aboriginal people and by doing so will drive sustainable change for Australia.
We have a long way to go but as time goes on, I am encouraged by the openness that many teachers have to including more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in their classrooms.
I think we ask a lot of our teachers and I am proud of the support that the Wingaru team is providing to make their jobs just a little bit easier.
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