Putting First Nations educators in primary schools

Monday, 30 May, 2022

Putting First Nations educators in primary schools

The new federal government made an election pledge that would see 60 First Nations educators placed in primary schools.

With ‘Be Brave. Make Change’ as the theme of this year’s National Reconciliation Week, a respected Aboriginal elder has said that changes are needed to provide all young Australians and their families with the education they deserve on the path to reconciliation.

Ghunghanghi elder Aunty Flo Watson is on the First Nations Advisory Panel for the Know Your Country campaign, which aims to put First Nations Cultural Educators in all Australian primary schools to teach culture and language.

“Be Brave. Make Change resonates with me because we need change through truth-telling and a sharing of our histories,” she said.

“But also, to be brave in how we go about it. It is about knowing what the Uluru Statement is — reconciliation for all Australians, sharing history and truth-telling.

“It is about education through reconciliation. It is about letting people know that Indigenous Australians defended our country in all major conflicts and that we honour them, and we listen to their stories from their families and friends.

“These brave changes are required by the education system to transform it into a space which situates First Nations knowledge systems alongside western education.”

Parents, carers and their children support the idea, and more than 10,000 Australians have pledged their support since the campaign launched in June 2021.

The 2022 Know Your Country Children’s Voice Survey found 65% of parents thought all Australian schools should be responsible for closing the knowledge gap about First Nations people.

More than half (57%) believed governments should fund local First Nations Cultural Educators in every primary school “to help us heal and unify as a nation” — a key element of reconciliation.

Aunty Flo, who is based on Queensland’s Bribie Island, and whose family was part of the Stolen Generations, said Know Your Country had gained incredible momentum as a brave approach to effectively and authentically enable Australia’s education system to evolve.

Know Your Country co-chair Dr Scott Winch said with the ALP federal government elected on 21 May, the Labor Party’s $14 million pledge for First Nations Educators in 60 schools was a good start.

“It’s a great first step and we can’t wait until all Australian children get the opportunity to learn directly from local First Nations Educators,” Winch said.

“All Aussie kids should learn about the country they’re growing up on from a First Nations educator at their school. A commitment from all political parties is ultimately needed. This will help students forge deeper understandings and stronger relationships.

“These changes are needed to transform the education system and place First Nations knowledge systems alongside western education. Reconciliation should be done together, not separately.”

Know Your Country does not put the burden on First Nations people to independently reconcile. Importantly, it creates an environment for children to build and grow real and enduring relationships with First Nations peoples and communities.

“This strength-based approach celebrates the world’s longest continuing culture, favouring real-world engagement and experiences over books and lectures in spaces without direct First Nations voices,” Winch said.

“This new system would give teachers the skills and confidence they need to be brave in delivering the required First Nations curriculum.”

Know Your Country is a coalition campaign led by a First Nations Advisory Panel and convened by World Vision Australia.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/arliftatoz2205

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