NAIDOC Week is fast approaching and Aboriginal communities are buzzing with excitement about the opportunity to come together and celebrate our culture and recognise the work people in our communities are doing to promote, protect and preserve our culture.
Each year our celebrations seem to get bigger. It is a busy week and I love it!
It is an opportunity to acknowledge the work people have been doing, check out community initiatives and come together to celebrate our people. It is about connecting and reconnecting with people. It is about pride. It is about looking around and seeing all the great things our communities are doing and taking a moment to breathe that in, appreciate who we are and our place in the world. It is a time when, just for a moment, we can move the focus from the negativity and struggles that our people face day in and day out and move the attention to all the great things we are doing to overcome the adversity.
It is an opportunity to show the wider community our resilience and the great things we have achieved because, let’s be honest, our great work is often lost in the overwhelming negative voice of mainstream media and misinformed public opinion. And it is an opportunity to invite non-Aboriginal communities into our world, to experience some culture and witness firsthand the deadly people we are.
For schools, NAIDOC provides a great platform to introduce students to Aboriginal people, issues and education. It is an important week for all students and offers lessons in respect, self-respect, leadership and acceptance as well as Aboriginal education.
For some students, NAIDOC is the only exposure they get, the only opportunity to see through the misconceptions that permeate Australian society. It is an opportunity for Aboriginal students to stand tall and be proud of who they are and show their friends and peers the great things about being Aboriginal. It was at school, many years ago now, that NAIDOC became a key date on my calendar. I loved the activities and the fact that my parents and community came to school. The sports days, the BBQs, the art projects, the performances and the interest and respect that non-Aboriginal students showed that week.
NAIDOC will look different for every school – the most important thing is to enjoy your celebrations! We'd love to see your pictures and hear about your activities so please share on our social media.
Download our free NAIDOC poster and colouring sheets below.
One of the things that quickly became glaringly obvious to me when I started Wingaru Education is how hard teachers work, and how often this goes unnoticed. I regularly get emails at 11pm or even 5am, from teachers who are still working for the best outcomes for their students. The dedication is inspiring and I think we should be acknowledging this commitment more. It is for this reason that we have introduced Wingaru Teacher of the Month - a small token of our appreciation of the teachers who are working above and beyond for Aboriginal education in their school.
I am very excited to announce that Wingaru Education's Teacher of the Month for June is Ashwyn Karan from Cartwright Public School.
Ashwyn is an amazing woman and a truly inspiring teacher who works hard to support both her colleagues and students with Aboriginal perspectives. Ashwyn has lead Aboriginal education at two schools and we have been lucky enough to work with her both in 2017 at Busby West Public School and 2018 at Cartwright Public School. Because of the Ashwyn's hard work over 700 students have had access to quality Aboriginal education resources, increasing the awareness of Aboriginal education and contributing to the cultural competency of two great schools.
I take this opportunity to thank Ashwyn not only for her contribution to Aboriginal education but also for her respectful and humble approach.
As the June Teacher of the Month, Ashwyn receives a gorgeous gift hamper valued at over $100 from Bespoke Bow-Tique.
As the mum of a kindy kid, I spent a lot of time in parent forums and groups during the first term of this year. I gained some valuable insight into school life and how best to support my child in his first year of school. But there was one thing that bothered me – so many parents were quick to criticise teachers and complain about the job they were doing and often this criticism seemed unfair.
It often seems teachers can’t win – we expect them to play key roles in the development of our children, but only when it suits us. We send our smalls off 5 days a week, their teacher in charge of their learning, their behaviour and supporting the development of their values. We hope that the teacher has an approach we like and when it is, we often say nothing, but the minute we disagree we are quick to criticise, to get on social media demanding support as we complain about the chocolate cake that got sent home as inappropriate lunch food or that our child was reprimanded again for talking in class or that our child wasn’t given an award that we feel they deserved. We are quick to dismiss the skills of the teacher, ignore their experience and often fail to look at the bigger picture.
The bigger picture is that your child’s teacher is invested in his or her learning. Teachers want our smalls to succeed, they want to support their development academically, emotionally and socially. They know that the skills we get from school are not just about reading and numbers. We develop knowledge; confidence; an understanding of others; negotiation skills and an appreciation of team work plus more. The lessons we learn contribute to our sense of self and our view of the world. Our time at school supports our development of empathy and understanding and gives us the room we need to explore approaches to the challenges life throws at us. We won’t always get it right but that’s ok, our teachers are there to support and guide us. The impact of a teacher is often underestimated.
I think of my teachers and the support I received during my school years. Some resonate more than others – from Katoomba Primary School, Mr Colin Semmler (librarian); from Orara High School, Mr Keith Jervis (librarian), Ms Christine Robinson (AEO) and Ms Noelene Usher (my roll call and humanities teacher). Each of these people and their influence has stuck with me for life. I probably didn’t say thank you enough. If any of you are reading this, thank you.
It is likely that most teachers don’t get the appreciation they deserve. We don’t consider the hours they spend outside of school hours planning, marking, or considering out of the box approaches to support their students. Wouldn’t it be great if we started recognising this effort?
The importance of Aboriginal education is often overlooked by teachers, parents and students. But there are many teachers who are working every day to make Aboriginal perspectives an everyday part of school life, advocating for a better future for all our kids through a reconciled Australia; for culturally inclusive schools; more comprehensive education; and recognition of Australia’s real history.
Wingaru Education is honoured to get to work with many of these teachers and we think these teachers deserve more recognition so we are introducing Teacher of the Month!
Each month the Wingaru team will choose a teacher based on their contribution to Aboriginal Education. We will consider how they are using the Platform; their interactions with the Wingaru team including our social media accounts; and feedback from their school community. The selected teacher will receive a special gift just for them as well as having their good work recognised publicly.
Our first Teacher of the Month will be revealed on the blog next week.
We all have a list of teachers we remember fondly for the influence they have had. Your child’s current teacher could be one of their life long influencers – have you thanked them lately?
This week we acknowledge World Environment Day and World Oceans Day. Both of these events focus on raising awareness and encouraging action to support a healthy planet. Modern society does not treat the environment well and the impact is starting to be seen. We are losing species; the land is struggling; our oceans are plastic wastelands; and climate change is out of control. We must start taking steps to look after our land.
Aboriginal people have inhabited Australia for over 60,000 years, living off the land and managing resources to ensure that they were sustained for future use. That Aboriginal culture survived for so long before invasion is a testament to the sustainable lifestyle once enjoyed. Today, we can learn a lot from the practices Aboriginal people employed before invasion.
Traditional and cultural practices dictated how natural resources were used. Strategies such as fire-stick burning were used to regenerate the vegetation, encouraging re-growth and attracting animals and insects to the area. Animals were used in their entirety – the meat was a food source, the fur and skin became clothing and bones and teeth were used to make tools. Nothing was wasted. Food sources were selected based on availability and hunters and gatherers were careful to ensure that enough was left so that stocks replenished. Mobs moved strategically throughout their country to give land time to recover from use. Totems played a part in sustainability with individuals not eating their totems. In this way totems were protected from over consumption while they in turn provided spiritual guidance to the people.
While these techniques can inspire us to look after this amazing world better, I think we can learn the most from the relationship that Aboriginal people have with the land. It is this relationship that is at the core of the sustainable approach that Aboriginal people so naturally adopt to look after their environment.
Aboriginal people do not view land as an asset, something to be owned. Land is part of us and we a part of it. The land and its resources do not only physically nourish us, they are also central to our spirituality. Our Dreaming tells our creation stories as well as the lore that should be observed to keep our land and people safe and healthy. Our totems guide us spiritually. Being on country heals our souls and helps to bring us back to center.
Long-term dispossession and displacement has meant that many Aboriginal people have lost some of this natural environmental knowledge but the spiritual connection remains and Aboriginal approaches to land management and land care can continue to contribute to a healthier, sustainable environment for all Australians. Wider Australia is starting to pay attention and incorporate this knowledge for the better of our world.
This week as you reach for your reusable shopping bag and decline the plastic straw, take a minute to think about connection to land and why it is so important that we look after it.
Wingaru Education believes that all children should have access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture.