Author: Bishop, Michelle, Vass, Greg, Thompson, Katherine
Type of paper: Abstract refereed
“Schools don’t open their doors enough. They need to open their doors more. Not just because it’s NAIDOC Day. Not just because it’s Sorry Day. That’s only two days in how many? Fifty-two weeks, or whatever it is? You know? That’s only two days. Where’s the other fifty?” (Aunty Agnes)
The underlying point being made by Aunty Agnes (above) is not new, nor is it particular to Indigenous education in Australia. There have long been calls like this that have directed attention to concerns with power, tokenism, and the reproduction of patterns of privilege and discrimination in and through schooling. These are issues that are central concerns of the Culture, Community and Curriculum Project (CCCP) that we will be reporting on in this presentation. The CCCP is a three-year ‘pilot’ study that accepted from the outset that Aboriginal parents and community members can and should have a genuine and meaningful role in decision making in schools. Importantly, this has been a collaborative action research study involving Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal academics, Aboriginal community members, Aboriginal Education Officers, and non-Aboriginal teachers working together to investigate and enact the embedding of Indigenous perspectives in schools in ways that interrupt dominant practices. By extension, a further aim of the CCCP was thus to overturn deficit assumptions such as the perceived lack of support Aboriginal students receive at home and lack of interest in schooling by Aboriginal parents, which all too often result in paternalistic decisions being made on behalf of Aboriginal students. The CCCP placed emphasis on establishing strong relationships between community members and teachers to acknowledge understandings of axiology and ontology, and support respectful knowledge exchange. In this presentation we report on the processes and experiences of community members and teachers as they jointly developed and delivered sequences of teaching and learning in mainstream classrooms across a cluster of Sydney schools (including primary and secondary settings). The participants drew on local expertise to embed contextually responsive perspectives, knowledges, and ways of teaching that met the national curriculum requirements, while concurrently fostering critical social consciousness and participation in social justice service learning activities. While we aim to illustrate how and why the embedding of local Aboriginal perspectives has enriched the learning experiences for all involved, the project also reveals some of the challenges that lay ahead if this is to be genuinely taken up more widely by the education sector in Australia.