Aboriginal perceptions of the impact and influences of western education at 'Moola Bulla Native Station', 1910-1955: Lessons learnt from the past.

Year: 2018

Author: Povey, Rhonda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The centring of Indigenous oral history is becoming an integral and powerful aspect of critical methodologies underpinning decolonisation, increasingly unsettling or dismantling what has been remembered, by whom and for what purpose. The focus of this paper is centre the lived experiences and perceptions of western education held by Aboriginal people who lived at Moola Bulla, Western Australia’s largest and most profitable ‘Native Cattle Station’, between 1910-1955. Of interest is an investigation into how government legislations and policies influenced these experiences and perceptions. In this way, the paper will honour the residents and families of those who once lived on Moola Bulla, many who are speaking back through the telling of their story. The research from which this paper is drawn moves away from colonial, paternalistic and racist interpretations of history; it is designed to decolonise the narrative of Aboriginal education in remote Western Australia. The research uses the wide and deep angle lens of qualitative historical research, filtered by decolonising methodologies (Kovach 2018; Smith 2012) and standpoint theory (Herbert 2017; Land 2015; Nakata 2007), exposing privileged and ‘othered’ positions (Nakata 2007; Sprague 2001; Walter and Anderson 2013). Preliminary findings from my PhD research suggest the narrative told by the residents who were educated at Moola Bulla, and by their children and their grandchildren, support a reframing of previous deficit misrepresentations of Indigeneity (Nakata 2006; Torres 1994) into strength-based narratives. These narratives, or ‘counter stories’, articulate resistance to colonial master narratives (Denzin 2008). This paper argues that by listening to Aboriginal lived experiences and perceptions of western education from the past we can learn lessons to better inform our engagement with the delivery of equitable educational opportunities for Aboriginal students in remote contexts in the future. Furthermore, the paper will support educators to be more responsive to the Aboriginal Cultural Standards Framework (Western Australian Department of Education, 2015) and other policy requirements.