Education is everybody’s business or is it? : An analysis of education academics attitudes and preconceptions about Indigenous content

Year: 2019

Author: Hogarth, Melitta

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It is not appropriate to look at the implementation of Indigenous peoples’ knowledges in higher education without acknowledging the importance of the historical and social context of colonial Australia on current education practices. From 1788 and the invasion of Australia by the British Empire, a dominant ideology was imagined and imposed by colonialists that the First Nations people of Australia were inferior. European countries held this shared belief, as competing colonialists who invaded countries since the 1500s, to expand their respective empire, exploiting natural resources to amplify the might of the Mother Country (Ferreira, 2013).

The imagined inferiority of Indigenous peoples was maintained in colonial Australia as evidenced through the decimation and alienation of Indigenous peoples (Australia Government, 2015). It was not until the 1960s that Indigenous school-aged children were allowed in the Westernised school classroom (Beresford, 2012). The role of school, as was education offered within the missions, was to assimilate Indigenous students “to attain the same manner of living as other Australians” (Hasluck, 1961, p.1). As a result, the historical and social context within Australian society was not conducive of embracing Indigenous peoples’ histories, cultures and languages.

Over the past 20 odd years, there has been effort made within primary and secondary classrooms and curriculum to include Indigenous peoples’ perspectives which has been met with mixed reactions from classroom teachers (Harrison & Greenfield, 2011). This is explained in the Australian Directions in Indigenous Education 2005-2008 (MCEETYA, 2006) where it highlights that “most non-Indigenous educators have a limited understanding of, and qualifications in, Indigenous education” (p. 21). With these attitudes and beliefs evident within contemporary Australian society, there is risk when embedding Indigenous peoples’ perspectives within the teaching and learning of academia. That is, Indigenous peoples’ knowledges may be translated within the dominant Westernised frameworks found within University culture further perpetuating deficit discourses, stereotypes and so forth (Williamson & Dalal, 2007). Validating this, Shipp (2013) highlights the fears of non-Indigenous educators of embedding Indigenous peoples’ perspectives within the classroom. That is, non-Indigenous educators fear their attempts to be perceived as tokenistic. This presentation provides an insight to the attitudes and preconceptions held and maintained by education academics in one School of Education in Queensland.