Unsettling Country: Reconciliation pedagogies for early childhood education

Year: 2015

Author: Hamm, Catherine, Blaise, Mindy, Jakobi, Mat

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As a settled country, Australia has many layers of colonial inscription that are not always visible to all. These layers create a mash-up of knowledges that have been remapped over a much longer history of Aboriginal knowing. Making these layers visible requires a shift in the way place is thought about; asking questions about how and why particular plants and animals are present in particular places. A number of early childhood scholars have begun to think about place in a different way (Pacini-Ketchabaw & Taylor, 2015; Taylor & Giugni, 2012; Duncan, Dawning &Taylor, 2015). These scholars draw from Latour’s ‘common worlds which bring nature and culture back together’ (2004:91) and refers to the ‘more-than-human’ worlds in which children live, learn and grow. Included in these more-than-human worlds are the plants and animals that constitute multi- species communities in the local places that we inhabit. Within the Australian context, common worlds are geo-historically specific, children share and are implicated in Australia’s past, presents and futures.

This paper is based on a 12-week exploratory study about reconciliation pedagogies in early childhood teacher education. It took place at a zoo located in the outer western suburbs of Melbourne. The zoo is located on WaddaWurrung traditional lands that have been firstly overlaid with a settler homestead and more recently a Zoo for African animals. This mash-up has contributed to de-centering local, specific Aboriginal knowledges and overlaid them with an uncomfortable mix of Colonial-African knowledges. During our weekly visits, we engaged with place by enacting a walking and talking methodology (Pink 2008). We asked pesky questions and engaged in dialogues that scratched at the layers of inscription that are present in the landscape. Data was generated through short videos, photographs and sound recordings of the place as we wondered about the mash-ups. We wondered, how have the WaddaWurrung Grasslands become the African Savannah?

This paper will focus on three mash-ups;

1. Nest-totem-eagle
1. Emu-Cars-roaring lions
2. River-reeds-wind

These mash-ups can be thought of as processes of unsettlement, which involve ‘recognising the traces and layerings in colonized local places, and the process of resurfacing them…(Duncan, Dawning & Taylor , 2015:179). Our initial findings indicate that scratching at layers of inscription make visible some ways early childhood educators begin to enact reconciliation pedagogies that re-cast practice from an Aboriginal and reconciling standpoints.