Can the new national teacher registration criteria contribute to decolonised Australian classrooms?

Year: 2013

Author: Kelly, Claire

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The new national Teacher Registration requirements approved by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs for implementation from 2013 place specific expectations on teachers to respond to the needs of Indigenous students and also to provide opportunities for all students to develop understanding of and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages. However, there are reasons to be cautious in raising expectations that this can be achieved.  The purpose of this paper is to share evidence from a longitudinal study of pre-service teachers' (PSTs) engagement with Indigenous issues and Indigenous education. Despite expectations for more than two decades in Territory, State and Commonwealth education policies, this study shows that many PSTs and graduate teachers are not including Indigenous perspectives in the curricula they offer to their students.
This paper explores the experiences of two years of fourth year PSTs, through twice yearly surveys regarding the inclusion of Indigenous experience and knowledge in their own schooling and their school placements. The PSTs came through their own schooling without widespread exposure to Indigenous knowledge and experience. They face a crowded curriculum with epistemological perspectives learned from the paradigms of continuing colonialism. Self-study reflections of Indigenous and non-Indigenous lecturers working with those same PSTs to develop decolonised classrooms are also presented, illuminating a range of barriers and lack of knowledge as key issues in the continuing exclusion of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives.
The new Australian Curriculum continues this exclusion of Indigenous themes by not engaging with Indigenous demands for recognition of sovereignty, by continuing to crowd the curriculum and by expecting teachers to deal with their lack of knowledge without appropriate professional development and Indigenous involvement in curriculum planning. Once immersed in Indigenous knowledges, PSTs who work with Indigenous and non-Indigenous teacher educators in partnership, show willingness to take risks and build their knowledge base such that there is some ground for hope of changing the current exclusionary curriculum approach.
I have learnt from a team of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators how to appropriately and successfully incorporate understanding of the history and roles played by Indigenous people in our country. Also how we can move forward as a united Australia through mutual understanding and respect (2009 PST survey response).