Learning through (urban) Country

Year: 2016

Author: Belcher, Fi

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper, I trace the literature regarding the spatial turn in education, and the more recent resurgence of place-based pedagogy. I use space to refer to social relations and narratives as occurring within a container, or on a surface. The most recent iteration of space is seen in a curriculum emphasis on globalization, technological interconnection and generalised climactic interdependence, with an accompanying erasure of the specificity of Indigenous places. In light of this spatial turn and its impact on abstracting knowledge from specific biospheres, there has been a renewed interest in ‘place’, evident in recent momentum around place-based pedagogy and the introduction of ‘sustainability’ as one of the three pillars of the Australian national curriculum. Place in this context refers to ecological systems and an attention to specific topologies. Drawing on Indigenist understanding of place, I contend that place-based education, while offering a return to settler students’ lived ecological and relational realities, fails to acknowledge Aboriginal sovereignty, particularly in urban places. According to settler colonial logic, Aboriginality is positioned ‘elsewhere’, which simultaneously differentiates Australia from the motherland, and legitimates the Australian nation. In an extension of settler colonial logic, I contend that Aboriginal Country is similarly relegated ‘elsewhere’ from urban classroom contexts, via the spatialisation of classroom curriculum and teaching practice.As a non-Indigenous woman researching within a settler colonial state in relation to Kulin Country, I ultimately argue for the application of Tuck et al.’s (2014) Land Education framework as one that potentially recognises urban places as Country (that is, places that are implicitly recognised as Aboriginal sovereign places), which has implication for educational practice. Drawing on Bang et al. (2014), I utilise the ways in which urban Country itself is constantly responding to and resisting human and colonising actions in processes of re-becoming, as a method for the application of Land Education in Kulin Country. In this context, Land Education represents a viable way for Learning on Country processes to be recognized within Kulin Country, in which Indigenous sovereignty and futurity are integral to educational practice. Bang, M., Curley, L., Kessel, A., Marin, A., Suzukovich, E. S., III, & Strack, G. (2014). Muskrat Theories, Tobacco in the Streets, and Living Chicago as Indigenous Land. Environmental Education Research, 20(1), 37–55.Tuck, E., McKenzie, M., & McCoy, K. (2014). Land Education: Indigenous, post-colonial, and decolonizing perspective on place and environmental education research. Environmental Education Research, 20(1), 1–23.