". . . if the child is suitable. . .": The racialisation and de- racialisation of indigenous students

Year: 1994

Author: Reid, Carol

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper presents the results of a research project into pedagogy for Aboriginal students, carried out in Metropolitan South-West Sydney and the North-West region of New South Wales. The study involved semi-structured interviews with 25 people including teachers, Aboriginal education assistants, principals and school aides across both regions. The study aimed to document the practices and programs that were useful in teaching Aboriginal students. As the project proceeded it became clear that it was important to understand the way in which practice might relate to understandings of "race" in the context of rural and urban areas. This analysis concentrates on the "sites" over which understandings of "race" slide.

Talking about students invariably draws out a positioning of the subject as "other" which is the central problem for research focusing on minority groups. Yet, there are valuable insights to be learned about this positioning. Teachers' work includes making decisions related to moral, cognitive and attitudinal development. Where indigenous students are concerned, these procedures are at times racialised and at other times individualised. The curriculum, classroom interaction, behaviour and "culture" are the prisms through which these racialisation and de-racialisation processes occur. The paper will conclude by commenting upon the implications of understanding these processes for educational strategies for indigenous students.

In this paper the terms "Aboriginal" and "indigenous" are interchangeable due to the formulation of the project using the term "Aboriginal". Since this time, "indigenous" has become a term which is more inclusive of a number of different groups of people who may be Kooris, Murris or Gooris.