Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in a truth telling session hosted by the Art and Culture Exchange on Burramattagal Country. The session was part of the 23rd Sydney Biennale and brought together Darug custodians and the National Committee of the Friends of Myall Creek to yarn about frontier conflict and healing.
We shared stories and reflected on the role of truth in both the history of Australia and also in today’s society. We spoke about the impact of not knowing – both for First Nations communities and the broader Australian community - and the place education has in steering us as a nation towards a better future that focuses on recognition, respect and healing.
It was one of those experiences that affirms why I do what I do. As I soaked in the stories shared, I felt sad about some of the experiences being spoken about; I felt angry at the ongoing policy in this country that denies truth and perpetuates myths that are not good for my mob; and I felt pride, because, gee, First Nations people and our allies are deadly! We get up day after day and continue to fight for truth. We stand up for the recognition of truth and for change in the way Australia works with the custodians of this land. We show up every day to drive a fairer world for our next generations.
One thing was very clear from the yarns at the truth telling session and that is that the time for truth is now. Not surprisingly, education was a big focus of the conversation with resounding agreement that education is key to sharing truth and moving Australia forward in its relationship with its First Nations. Teachers shared their stories of the pushback they had received when bringing content into the classroom – both from parents and the education system. These stories are familiar to me because I hear them every day in my work. They are familiar to me because I heard them every day in my own education.
It is not ok that schools are not embracing truth. Students have a right to be accurately informed, to learn true history, to know the true foundations of this country – the good and the bad - so they can develop an understanding of why Aboriginal policy is where it is, why there is so much work still to be done and how best to work with Aboriginal communities to drive real solutions.
Previous generations did not get truth at school. Aboriginal education has always been patchy and truth has never been the focus. Kids today deserve better. They should know the truth – it is the only way they can support better ways of working. I understand why some people think withholding the truth is better for kids - our history is challenging, it is confronting, it is unpleasant, but it should not be as surprising as it is to so many adults. We don’t need to keep living the same lies. We don’t need policy makers attempting to censor truth under misguided beliefs that children cannot hear truth in an age-appropriate way. We need to embrace truth-telling.
Just after the truth telling session I had a conversation with a friend and her 12-year old, Ms B. I shared my reflections about the truth telling session and in particular shared a discussion that took place about not calling a massacre a massacre (you can read more about that here https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/may/03/not-calling-a-massacre-a-massacre-is-ridiculous-a-model-of-truth-telling-at-myall-creek) and Ms B very matter-of-factly said ‘That’s silly! It already happened and not talking about it doesn’t make it not have happened so why don’t people talk about it? Everyone should know!’
Imagine a world where adults are as accepting of truth as kids. Where all Australians learn true history as children so that the truth is not a shock when discovered as adults, or worse, never known. We can all contribute to that world and the time is now. Embrace truth and Get up! Stand up! Show up!
Getting up and learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, people and culture is important for all Australians. Some of our Challenge Team share why getting up is important to them.
The 2022 NAIDOC Week theme, "Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!", is a call for action for individuals to bring about systemic change and to keep rallying around our mob, our Elders, and our communities. This year's theme is so impactful. With our First Nations brothers and sisters and our non-Indigenous allies rallying together, we have a real opportunity to generate systemic change. When we unpack this year's NAIDOC theme, we understand that through our genuine commitment, we can drive institutional, structural, collaborative, and cooperative reforms.
"Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!" is a theme that is very close to my heart. Working as a teacher within the education sector, I see a demand for an educational reform. Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are significantly less than those of other students in important areas. As a mother, I commit myself wholly to getting up, standing up and showing up. I believe that through taking these actions, we will foster a better future for our children, our children’s children, and so on.
By engaging in the Wingaru NAIDOC Challenge, you have committed to getting up, standing up and showing up. Through investigating First Nations cultures and histories, celebrating First Nations changemakers, and amplifying the need for change, you have the power to educate yourselves and drive systemic change. And for that, on behalf of my family and my community, I am eternally grateful.
As an educator, it is my honour and privilege to ensure education is fair, safe and inclusive for my students. I am the adult, the influence, the loudest and sometimes most influential voice and the one who will shape the ever-growing sponge-like minds of those I teach. I must ensure I am a strong ally for truth telling, systemic change and continuing to celebrate the oldest living culture in the world.
When thinking about this year's NAIDOC theme of "Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!" I see it as a call to all those who are yet to move from the start line within their own journey of teaching First Nations perspectives and may need the extra nudge/support that challenges like this safely and readily offer as well as the wonderful work done by Wingaru Kids. It’s ensuring that I am not a bystander, quiet or content with doing ‘enough’.
Truly educating future generations goes beyond ticking a box for curriculum's sake. It is knowing that concepts and learning should never stop. It is about ensuring I do my duty and exercise our SHARED responsibility as teachers to make sure we move beyond simply acknowledging and start actively doing, discussing, getting uncomfortable, raw and honest with our kids. As educators we need to get loud. Start with conversations, create authentic opportunities that need to be had - not only to embrace culture but to discuss all that has been and occurred - mistreatments and past wrongs that occurred and are occurring within our nation. It is also about celebrating the wonderful work and sacrifice made by those before me, those who my students should know about and see the incredible fight that was put up against racism, for fairness and freedom from those who came long before me. It is recognising spirit and determination and that intentions are no longer enough.
This year's theme, to me, means getting loud with all actions and ensuring First Nations culture has a richness in our classroom, and that it is truly embedded. Through images, through signs, texts, discussions, truth telling and meaningful experiences involving key stakeholders for my area and beyond that will go with my students far beyond our four walls.
Being proactive and visible - for your students, colleagues and within your community through actions that outweigh words. It’s knowing that educators should no longer accept that just looking at NAIDOC Week is ever going to be enough. It is actively introducing and continuing the representation of colour, culture, connection and country within our safe spaces. Ensuring students see diversity, equality and being honest about the past to better shape the future. Supporting belief systems that are made based on the character of a person not a lie and system that has failed for generations.
It is about ensuring that the cogs now turn and we move beyond the start line, no matter how loud the voice will get - the message that needs to be sent - constant, consistent and culturally respectful. As teachers, we must recognise and use our very valuable privilege.
As a half Maori woman, I was never taught about my culture and was denied it from before I was ever born. The link was never made for me and so my cultural chain is broken as it was broken for those before me. I was never immersed into the rich kinship, spiritual and belief systems of my ancestors whose spirits have guided me my whole life without my knowing. I can’t explain the feeling of emptiness that it causes me - forever feeling a disconnect and knowing a part of me is missing. I have no language, no customs and will always grieve for that side of me - the language I never learned but can read so naturally - the words I have no understanding of yet feel at peace when saying and seeing them. In hearing of the blessings given to me and how they relate to my values and actions so perfectly just like it was mapped out and meant to be.
In knowing that I will teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who may also come with this pain, it lights a fire inside of me to always ensure I address and speak on the importance of culture, connection to place and ensure students are represented through a continued acknowledgment of culture. To keep it breathing. The joy I feel when seeing a book character with olive skin like me is indescribable. In seeing a doll with my skin and eyes - unreal!
Knowing the power that representation had for a Noongar student of mine who saw himself represented in books, whose language was heard when we started counting the same way he was learning and who was able to find his true skin colour in crayons, his family on a map and a safe cultural space within our classroom is something I will always take with me. I was denied my Maori culture and I can’t imagine ever having it denied to my students - I will always feel a fire to ensure all students are exposed to and taught the joy of knowing culture.
To me, this year’s NAIDOC theme "Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!" is the ideal theme to move us toward more positive change. As educators, we have the unique and privileged position to teach & learn alongside our students. The future leaders are sitting in our classrooms and it is our opportunity to show them what standing up looks like, sounds like and feels like.
Personally, I am continually learning. This is one reason why Rainbow Sky Creations joins the Wingaru NAIDOC Challenge each year. It is a wonderful way to make connections, listen to the voices of First Nations educators, to learn and grow. We want our community to know that you don’t need to know it all to get up and stand up, in fact showing up is the first step, and we can do it together.
We have the power to create change. Change starts with education, after all “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela.
In preparation for continuing NAIDOC teaching in term 3, I have been reflecting about what the first part of the theme "Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!" means to me.
Firstly, it means guiding my students through an inquiry into First Nations cultures and histories. Having this foundation of understanding is vital, as it builds respect, understanding and empathy. Detailed and engaging lessons, such as those found on the Wingaru Kids platform, allow students to explore and engage with First Nations cultures and history.
Secondly, it means joining my students on their learning journey. Education in this area was severely lacking throughout my own schooling, so as a teacher I now find myself learning right alongside my students. There is also a lot of un-learning taking place as well, as both myself and my students fix misconceptions and misunderstandings.
If we are to stand up and show up beyond NAIDOC Week, we must first build a deep understanding of First Nations cultures and histories. That is what getting up means to me.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.