Establishing a critically informed model for a culturally nourishing approach to schooling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Year: 2019

Author: Lowe, Kevin, Vass, Greg

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The voices of Aboriginal students, families and their communities have long been largely silenced in debates on the purpose and function of schooling. Even though, as recently conceded by Prime Minister in the 2019 ‘closing the gap’ report, current educational strategies have failed to have any meaningful impact on Indigenous student academic outcomes. The appalling, yet sustained, failure of schools to effectively address the needs of Indigenous Australians is yet to prompt national debate about challenging the foundations of schooling, the preparation of teachers, the place of local culture and language, nor its cumulative impact on student well-being and identities.

This presentation outlines the overarching principles that will underpin the establishment of a whole-of-community model of culturally nourishing schooling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. This work has emanated from the three-year Aboriginal Voices project, a wide-ranging systematic review of Indigenous education in Australia, and relatedly, four further interlinked case study style investigations focused on identifying a theoretical model of culturally nourishing schooling. The systematic review revealed an evidence base that reiterates the import of genuinely involving parents and community in educational decision-making and practices. While the case studies considers the centrality of ‘Country’ in designing school curriculum and pedagogies, cultural inclusion in the everyday business of schooling, the role of mentoring by Aboriginal teachers and community educators, and the complexities underpinning robust and successful teacher professional learning. The new model of culturally nourishing schooling for Indigenous students being outlined is urgently required, we argue, if education in is to genuinely work with and for the needs and aspirations of the diverse Indigenous communities around the nation, and beyond this, to close the so-called education achievement gap for experienced by Indigenous students.