Indigenous voices can change Australian education for the better – Charles Darwin University
31 August 2020
The job of an Indigenous academic is exhausting. The fact that there are so few of us, yet we are asked to comment on everything relating to Indigenous Australia, or to participate on every committee regarding Indigenous Australia is an unreasonable expectation especially when asked to do it for free, and on top of your existing workload. As you can imagine, our time is in demand and precious. However, the most stressful aspect of our role as Indigenous educators and researchers is the mental strain of seeing and understanding a glaring problem that does not seem to change.
The problem that I am talking about is not Indigenous education, because that would put the blame in the wrong place, on Indigenous people. I am talking about the inflexibility and lack of inclusion that is so much a part of our Australian education system. In this positioning I am utilising my Indigenous standpoint and providing an insight that is often overlooked or minimised.
Indigenous voices could easily assist with analysis and reflections on our Australian education system to change it for the better. Coming at the issue from the position of the minority exposes the gaps that seem glaring to us and invisible to others. This is the value of Indigenous voice. Indigenous people engaging and discussing their perspectives provide a different insight into education, and a different way of understanding the world.
My research findings suggest that a cultural shift is required to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students. These findings were recently published in AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples exploring enhanced Indigenous student outcomes through improved teacher education. The views of Indigenous educators have the potential to improve Indigenous education outcomes by informing insight into the link between Western expectations and Indigenous knowledge.
As a research active lecturer in the College of Indigenous Futures, Arts and Society at Charles Darwin University, I conduct research with a specific emphasis on Indigenous education issues. My current research includes projects about teacher education and utilising Indigenous educator voice to build cultural competence and capacity, exploring Indigenous engagement in higher education through a dual academy approach honouring both Indigenous and Western knowledge systems, and investigating the development of small learning hub platforms for remote group learning contexts as a way to develop the North. Each project that I lead or participate in may seem different, but they all contribute to one thing. They all contribute to improving Indigenous student outcomes.
I pay respect to each of my Indigenous colleagues who have also had the same focus and paved the way for more Indigenous academics to continue the important work.
Article by Dr Tracy Woodroffe, Charles Darwin University
*Campus Morning Mail (CMM) – from a special series featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s perspectives.