New media, ancient culture: the power and potential of social media in Indigenous education

Year: 2019

Author: Thunig, Amy, Pearson, Luke

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The sovereign people of Australia are often referred to collectively as Indigenous or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. However, these blanket terms are applied to a variety of rich and unique people groups, each with complex social, political, ecological, and educational systems. Whilst now acknowledged collectively as the oldest continuous cultures in the world, since British invasion of Australia in 1788 it has been common for the knowledges, lives and histories of Indigenous peoples to be erased, excluded, or only acknowledged in very limited capacities within formal systems imposed within this settler-colonial state.

Whilst Indigenous peoples are no longer legislatively denied access to formal education, the limitations of Eurocentric, outsider-based epistemologies, which have been utilised to develop and implement policies and practices within formal education have for Indigenous peoples perpetuated the very inequalities which it is often said they would address. In this way the system itself continues to perpetuate inadequate recognition of Indigenous cultures, history, and ways of knowing within what remains assimilationist curricula.

With minuscule numbers of Indigenous people working within academia, and/or holding formally recognised positions of power and influence within politics, media, research, and formal education, the burden carried by those identifiable and positioned as ‘representative’ is significant. However, with the increase in innovative technology, accessible platforms such as social media, and the emergence of Indigenous owned and run media and websites, how knowledge is accessed, shared, and legitimised in Australia is beginning to change.

This presentation focuses on the website and social media presence of IndigenousX, arguing that online media, and social media are challenging what constitutes ‘legitimate’ information, communication, cultural expression, and education in Australia. As an online platform created and curated by Indigenous people, IndigenousX is a community-led innovation in digital media, bringing together and amplifying Indigenous voices through online publications and social media posts. Responding to and commenting on a myriad of issues, from education, politics, media, community, health, and more, this platform has become a central meeting point for Indigenous people online, but also for non-indigenous people who seek to learn more about us, by engaging in the powerful practice of listening to us. As Gamilaroi people, and formal educators, we make the case that traditionally framed ‘non academic’ publications need to be reconsidered and better recognised within formal education in order to better meet the needs and hear the voices of communities and individuals positioned outside of privileged identities.