Teach the children well.

I was recently asked “Do you think all Australian school children should be taught about their local Indigenous mob and if so, what would be the best way to implement this?”
 
This is my response posted earlier onto the Q & A site ask/fm.
 
On education, I think all Australian school children should have the best quality education possible, and that includes learning about Australian history from prior to colonial times up to the present day Indigenous policies, and supplemented by learning from local people about the Indigenous culture in their region.

 

Meeting a group of elderly people who share their stories over a day or so, would be more meaningful if participants also understood the history and impact of 200+ years of colonialism and government policy. 

Without that perspective it’s an interesting day with charming people but it wont automatically lead to cultural appreciation or meaningful respect. Participants will never know why the elders they met (for lunch; for their ILUA mandated induction training; in NAIDOC Week) live in poverty in the black suburb for example, or more broadly why Indigenous disadvantage exists.

 

Cultural awareness built into every school curriculum means that Indigenous kids are not ‘other people’.

 

Even with the extraordinary jump in achievement of many Indigenous scholars, professionals, businesses etc, the interface between black and white is dominated by nonIndigenous advocates. Media and the wider community will continue to prefer the Indigenous world to be filtered – through activists, lawyers, anthropologists, doctors, sporting teams – because it avoids discomfort arising from the presumption that discussions with an Indigenous person are based around ‘anger, guilt and compensation claims’. 
In this equation Indigenous people continue to be ‘other’, and can be cut out of the picture altogether, never enjoying the social status, career success or personal satisfaction of achieving outcomes that the advocates experience on their behalf.

 

School children today wont labour quite so detrimentally under these archaic social divisions because they are familiar with each other, and recognise their cultural differences because it was just part of growing up. 

They share the school community, even if they are not best friends and go to each others’ birthday parties.

 

The relationship building wasn’t from court cases and mining leases, and reported on with degrees of bias by the media to a community divided on commercial, uninformed and prejudicial interests.

 

I support Indigenous kids having access to the very best schools available to them, to provide not only opportunities for themselves but because their school mates rather than growing up to be their advocates and employers, will have a future as their peers.

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