Agency and Privilege: An analysis of counter-stories in Aboriginal education

Year: 2012

Author: Hitchcock, Amber, Miller, Wendy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Discussions of white privilege are often framed negatively. Either exploitations of white privilege are being examined (e.g., Akintunde, 1999; Elise, 2004; Foley, 2008), the existence of white privilege is being questioned (e.g., Campbell, 2010), or the messy distinctions between charity, good intentions and whiteness are being further blurred (Bush, 2004). As Clark and O'Donnell (1999) acknowledge, often discussions of white privilege serve to advance whiteness, despite their best intentions, simply by privileging white experience and perspectives and making these the centre of analysis.

In this paper, we report research in which we used narrative inquiry to juxtapose counter-stories of Aboriginal community members and non-Aboriginal educators, to gain an understanding of how the wisdoms, presuppositions and myths present in the participants' cultures saturated their stories. We draw on interview transcripts that were analysed as part of the Stronger Smarter Learning Communities project in NSW to destabilise dominant constructions of white privilege, and analyse the power of a collaboration of Aboriginal agency and white privilege to achieve shared goals of Aboriginal education.

Our analyses highlighted ways in which agency, speaking up and community were common features of the Aboriginal community members' stories, and in which colour blindness, interest convergence and notions of equity were taken up by non-Aboriginal educators. In presenting these findings, we shift the focus of discussions of white privilege from one of negativity to possibility, and the focus of discussions of Aboriginal education from schools to communities.


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