Stories Of Coexistence In The City: Sponsoring Engagements Between Aboriginal People And Preservice Teachers

Year: 2015

Author: Harrison, Neil

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

James Donald (1999) pursues questions around our being-together in the modern western city, in the context of an inevitability of conflict. That conflict has, at times overwhelmed the historical and geographical landscapes of Sydney to the point where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations have perhaps moved further apart since 1788. While many are aware of the colonial legacy that divides the urban landscape, there is less understanding of what can bring people together.
The Australian Professional Standards requires teachers to ‘understand’ and ‘promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians’. The key aim of this project is to develop stories of cultural coexistence in the city for pre-service teachers in the Sydney region.
I argue that we need new stories of common existence that have been produced together on Country, and focus on mutual engagement and connection. We need these new stories in order to produce historical and geographical connections in a city otherwise moribund by memories of conflict and disempowerment.
The project draws on the theoretical frame of Bruno Latour (2004, 1999) to explore other ontological methods which have the capacity to tell stories of ‘coexistence’ on country. He argues that our task is not to change opinions and attitudes, nor even make [students] conscious of what they do not know. Rather, our brief is to sponsor engagements, in a place where everyone is thrown together, often with unexpected neighbours. A second outcome is to demonstrate other ways in which students learn to be affected by Country.
A series of elaborations of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working together on Country for use in Teacher Education have been developed. The focus is on the complex negotiations of how we can live together in enormous cities, to posit more of an ontological shift rather than an epistemological change. The project investigates an approach to learning that moves beyond intellectualisation and cognitive function, to focus on the lived experience of learning.