Teachers’ understanding of Aboriginal programs in Australian NSW schools

Year: 2021

Author: Weuffen, Sara, Lowe, Kevin, Maxwell, Jacinta

Type of paper: Symposium

This presentation examines interviews with n=22 teachers to understand the value of Aboriginal student-focused programs and how discourses of Indigeneity appear to influence those views. Utilising Moodie’s Decolonising Race Theory (DRT) framework, teachers’ juxtaposing beliefs appear to resonate with existing decolonising education research which indicates a performativity of cultural inclusion through adherence to settler-colonial practices, while at the same time, an intellectual desire to move away from the legacy of Australia’s contentious colonial past. Typically, conversations around Aboriginal students’ educational success (or not) focus on the high levels of underachievement and disengagement, while, ignoring the critical impacting factors of inclusive learning environments. Interviews with teachers illuminated a tendency to view the value of Aboriginal programs as contributing to students’ behavioural and academic improvement primarily. While they spoke positively about students’ current academic achievements and prospects for their bright futures as graduates, this tended to occur from within deficit and colour-blind discourses. Far from demonising teaching practices, this presentation, speaks to the power of settler-colonial ideologies of education in creating the foundational space in which pedagogies occur.