Reconciling Indigenous and Western Knowing

Year: 2000

Author: HOOLEY, N

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Indigenous communities in Australia desiring access to western culture and knowledge have a major contradiction to resolve in the field of education. It is unlikely that social institutions supported by the state within the hegemonic culture will adopt policies and practices that undermine its own authority, or at least, not to any substantial extent. Minority cultures participating in mainstream life must therefore accept that they will be impacted upon by majority viewpoints and come under some pressure to change. The perspectives of Indigenous mathematics and science for example, will inevitably be influenced by contact with the corresponding western perspectives. Nyerna Studies, the Bachelor of Education program being implemented in partnership between the Koori people of Echuca-Moama and Victoria University of Technology, is attempting to come to grips with this contradiction, essentially by a respectful, democratic and cultural two-way teaching and learning. The program has completed its third year in 2000, is open to Koori and non-Koori students and involves studies of Education, Koori Culture and Knowledge, Sport and Recreation and Youth and Community.

Considerable success in the investigation of educational, cultural and research ideas through a process of integrated, holistic enquiry, can be reported. The complex notion of culture is central to the understanding of two-way learning and whether culture is to be merely enjoyed or explained, has been subject to ongoing study. Discussion of the principles and practices on which Nyerna Studies is based will indicate that progress is being made in reconciling Indigenous and western knowing and that collaboration and critique is being transformed into critical dialogue and possibility.