The fallacy of cultural inclusion in mainstream education discourses

Year: 2021

Author: Weuffen, Sara, Willis, Kym

Type of paper: Individual Paper

In this presentation, we employ a social justice informed poststructuralist framework to interrogate how teachers from a Victorian case-study include First Nations perspectives in studies of Australian history. It has been well established that monocultural Anglocentric onto-epistemologies have influenced the settler-colonial ideology of an inclusive Australian education system. This has resulted in the construction of a national curriculum that promotes European supremacy while silencing and/or relegating Indigenous voices to the margins via cross-curricula studies. The lack of concrete framework for teachers to employ the curriculum puts onus on individual schools and teachers to interpret and implement Indigenous content appropriately and responsively. Yet, given that over 96% of the Victorian teaching workforce identifies as non-Indigenous, there is limited mandatory cross-cultural education in pre-service teacher programs, and there exists limited formal ongoing professional development requirements associated with developing pedagogical knowledge and skills, the question remains about the realities of coal-face teaching practices.In order to explore the process of curriculum inclusion, we present stories from n=6 non-Indigenous teachers and n=4 Koorie peoples, collected from semi-structured interviews and yarning as part of a Ph.D. study in 2017. Given the focus of this study was on the Year 9 Australian History curriculum, the intersection of knowledge between static resources (textbooks), teachers knowledge, and Koorie peoples stories, have been moderated through a selection of key dates of the time period under examination (1750-1918). The voices of participants are foregrounded in multi-modal ways to deliver an oral and visual exhibition, centralised in the practice of portraiture, to illuminate the onto-epistemological influences of each participant group. As will be illuminated through this presentation, knowledge contained in resources and professionally by teachers tended to reflect the dominant white-settler colonial views of imperialism. Whereas, stories from Koorie peoples highlighted a nuanced depth and intersection of shared-history at the centre of each event. Despite increasing social and political pressure of reconciliation, constitutional recognition, treaty, and sovereignty, this presentation questions whether interest in Australia’s shared-history has gained momentum from educators wanting to enact deep change, or, whether the inclusion of Indigenous content is an Anglocentric approach to reconciliation, albeit, via a pedagogical strategy assuming unquestioningly the supremacy of Western / Anglocentric onto-epistemologies.