The importance of local perspectives is one of the key messages associated with Aboriginal education. Every teacher is familiar with the call for local perspectives and ultimately the challenges associated with finding appropriate content.
There is no single Aboriginal culture. There were upward of 250 language groups in Australia at the time of colonisation and each group has its own culture and lore. The information that we learn about one, may not apply to another. In an ideal world we want people to be acknowledging and observing local practices, beliefs and protocols. This is where local perspectives in schools help – it is an opportunity for kids to understand that each mob is different and to understand the approach of their local community. It builds cultural competence by supporting kids to go into the world knowing that they will encounter Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures that are different to the one that they have learned about and it arms them with enough awareness to support a respectful navigation of these differences.
But have local perspectives become a barrier to better Aboriginal education? More precisely, is the interpretation of local perspectives becoming a barrier? So many teachers I have spoken with are stuck because they fear that including anything that is not directly related to their local area will be seen as wrong or worse, offensive. Schools are opting to limit the inclusion of Aboriginal content and I don’t believe this was ever the intent of the call for local perspectives.
I can hear the frustration in teachers’ voices as they try to meet a goal that seems impossible because there are no resources and the school doesn’t yet have the connections it needs in the local community or the local community doesn’t currently have the capacity to provide the support the school needs. I understand how Aboriginal education ends up in the too hard basket, I really do. But that doesn’t make it ok. By reframing what we are trying to achieve with local perspectives we can eliminate the barrier, reduce your frustration and deliver better Aboriginal education outcomes.
Let’s look at the bigger picture. What are we trying to achieve? For me a focus on local perspectives does three things:
We can achieve these goals more easily without taking a “local perspectives or nothing” approach. By looking more broadly at how you can include Aboriginal content into your program you will find the task of including regular inclusions less daunting and open up opportunities for students to investigate the local approach.
Let’s use bush tucker as an example. You don’t need a resource that tells you exactly the food sources eaten by your local community pre-invasion. You can look at broader resources (like the ones we have on Wingaru Kids) to consider what factors influence food availability, what techniques were often used to obtain and prepare food and introduce the types of food sources that were available Australia wide. This gives kids the knowledge they need to start investigating what food sources may have been available in the local area, what food sources are still widely available in the area and how the availability has changed.
This approach also supports Aboriginal kids who are living off Country to apply concepts to their own mob as well as the local community they currently live in. Looking at an additional mob can lead to great discussions giving students the opportunity to compare and contrast between the local community and another mob.
It’s a simple change in approach that can make all the difference to how you are able to bring Aboriginal content into your classroom. If you are a Wingaru Kids user, you will find local perspectives worksheets in each of our lessons to support kids to apply their new knowledge to their local area.
I would love to hear about your approaches to local perspectives and the things that you are doing in your classroom.
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