Reconciliation needs a brave approach to First Nations education

27 May, 2022

This year’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW) theme of Be Brave. Make Change is a timely one, given Australians have elected a new federal government committed to making change for First Nations Peoples.

In addition to committing to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and holding a referendum for constitutional inclusion of First Nations Peoples, the new federal government has pledged $14 million towards hiring First Nations Cultural Educators in 60 schools across Australia.

Be Brave, Make Change

Our union supports the Know Your Country campaign, which aims to have a First Nations Cultural Educator in every Australian primary school.

Ghunghanghi elder Aunty Flo Watson OAM, who is on the First Nations Advisory Panel for the Know Your Country campaign, said Australian students should have the opportunity to learn about local First Nations histories and cultures.

Be Brave. Make Change, resonates with me because we need change through truth telling and a sharing of our histories,” Aunty Flo said.

“But also, to be brave in how we go about it.

“It is about knowing what the Uluru Statement is – Reconciliation for all Australians, sharing history and truth telling.

“It is about education through Reconciliation, it is about letting people know that Indigenous Australians defended our country in all major conflicts and that we honour them, and we listen to their stories from their families and friends.

“These brave changes are required by the education system to transform it into a space which situates First Nations knowledge systems alongside western education,” she said.

Know Your Country campaign

Know Your Country co-chair Dr Scott Winch said the new federal government’s pledge was a great start and he can’t wait until all Australian children can learn directly from local First Nations Educators.

“All Aussie kids should learn about the Country they’re growing up on from a First Nations Educator at their school,” Dr Winch said.

“A commitment from all political parties is ultimately needed and this will help students forge deeper understandings and stronger relationships.

“Reconciliation should be done together, not separately.”

Dr Winch emphasised that Know Your Country does not put the burden on First Nations people to independently reconcile; rather, it creates an environment for children to build and grow meaningful relationships with First Nations peoples and communities.

“This strength-based approach celebrates the world’s longest continuing culture, favouring real world engagement and experiences over books and lectures in spaces without direct First Nations voices,” Dr Winch said.

“This new system would give teachers the skills and confidence they need to be brave in delivering the required First Nations curriculum.”

The recent Know Your Country Children’s Voice Survey found 65 per cent of parents thought all Australian schools should be responsible for closing the knowledge gap about First Nations people.

More than half (57 per cent) believed governments should fund local First Nations Cultural Educators in every primary school ‘to help us heal and unify as a nation’ – a key element of reconciliation.

IEU Chapters are urged to take action during NRW 2022 because as education professionals, we all have an important role to play in helping First Nations Peoples to heal through authentic reconciliation.

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