Mapping to Connect to and Caring for Country: How can teacher education be part of a healing and reconciliation process?

  • lisahunter, Lisa Hunter (Primary Chief Investigator (PCI))
  • Elston, Jacinta (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Page, John (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Scull, Janet (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Jeanes, Ruth (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Welch, Rosie (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Brubaker, Nathan (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Summers, Dianne (Chief Investigator (CI))

    Project: Research

    Project Details

    Project Description

    The idea
    For Aboriginal people culture, nature and land are all linked. Aboriginal communities have a cultural connection to the land, which is based on each community's distinct culture, traditions and laws. Given the wealth of curriculum and pedagogical research in education that endorses such connection and care for learning and learners, what if teacher education was to embed such ideas into its practices? Despite national calls for reconciliation of Australia’s history, nascent decolonization literature and attention to decolonial work, the colonial (teacher) education system still pays little attention to Australia’s First Peoples let alone walking in both worlds. How might we change this in our teacher education programs?

    Urgent and significant need/problem you are addressing
    Given current contexts we urgently need to attend to knowledge that has sustained us, knowledge that speaks of connection and care in a holistic notion such as Country. In the past, teacher education has carried the problem of embodying colonized notions of education and education systems, yet a nascent field is developing with emergent solutions such as pedagogical practices for preservice teachers and connecting non-Indigenous students to Indigenous knowledge and People. Earlier mapping and planning projects in MU and initiatives in other institutions internationally can aid us in stimulating and documenting the first stage of a process that can inform future teacher education, paying attention to reconciliation through education.

    The Research Problem
    The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration (2019) sets out the contemporary vision for education in Australia including a commitment to improving educational outcomes for young Australians, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and all those who have come to be part of Australia since colonisation. Universities and teacher education are asked to work together to foster high-quality teaching and leadership, deliver well-prepared pre-service teachers, provide opportunity and resources for ongoing professional learning, and providing educators with high-quality evidence. At the same time, supporting educators to better understand and embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures is vital for this education system to be part of the reconciliation process, for societal healing through to enabling schools with strategies to include the Australian Curriculum cross-curriculum priority in the development of units, lesson plans and resources. To stand in two (or more) worlds is something that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been asked to do for over 200 years in Australia, including through an educational system. How might (largely non-Indigenous) educators (teacher educators and preservice teachers) stand in two worlds and be part of a healing and reconciliation process, to ensure the development of culturally appropriate pedagogy, curriculum and assessment, and to build bridges across boundaries?

    Proposed Research aim and objectives
    From a theoretical point of view, this project aims to embody decolonizing onto-ethic-epistemology, to understand subjugated practices in teacher education, in research on teacher education and towards a teacher education that embodies reconciliation between non-Indigenous people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. The use of Dadirri and Yarning will facilitate this process.
    Practically, through Dadirri and Yarning, we aim to map current Indigenist practices within the Faculty, as policy, relationships, curriculum documents, pedagogies, assessment and broader public pedagogies. This is as a point from which to share knowledge, critique practices and plan for greater engagement by educators and graduates of the Faculty in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues, industry and corporate community partners.

    Objectives include:
    •Identification of Indigenist practices in the Faculty
    •Guidance for a Faculty based Reconciliation Action Plan
    •Guidance for future Faculty-based initiatives for reconciliation practices to be embodied in teaching and by graduates
    •Pilot research that informs a Monash Interfaculty grant application and an ARC Indigenous grant application with national and international partners.

    Innovative approach to the problem
    This project’s innovation is triadic, between people, methodology and resources. The project embodies contemporary relationships, resources, and decolonial methodology. The methodology will include Yarning and Dadirri, the resources to include Narragunnawali and ‘The Journey Cycles of the Boonwurrung: stories with Boonwurrung Language’ (Briggs, 2014) and the partnerships to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples from local related organisations.
    Yarning (Shay, 2019; Sinclair, 2019), a method of knowledge exchange that embodies the oral traditions of Indigenous cultures pays attention to the same outcomes of Dadirri, of respect, and working WITH Indigenous People for improved educational outcomes (The Alice Springs [Mparntwe] Education Declaration, 2019). Respectful relationships are the foundation for ethical education and challenges ongoing racism and colonialism, as well as failing to value Indigenous thinking and worldviews (see, for example, Rigney, 2006; Smith, 2004). Dadirri and Yarning provides a way for respectfully engaging, a way of listening, and a form of interaction with Indigenous people (Pearse, 2015). Dadirri is an Aboriginal method that gathers information through quiet observation and deep listening, building knowledge through sensitivity and awareness, and developing understanding by contemplation and reflection (Atkinson 2000, Ungunmerr-Baumann, 2002). Through mapping our own curriculum documents, reflections on practice, listening to local community Elders or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples representatives, reflecting again on our practices and aspirations and then planning for action we aim to answer the question ‘How can teacher education be part of a reconciliation process?’ Dadirri emphasises the importance of relationships—with self, with others, as well as with environment, ‘the essence of being comes about through relationships, and it is through these relationships that deep listening and deep conversation occur; (Ungunmerr-Baumann, 2002).
    Reconciliation Australia’s educational resource, Narragunnawali, is useful when mapping teacher education and how we ‘connect’ and ‘care’ for ‘Country’. Used metaphorically as well as literally, the resource acts as a point to initially employ Dadirri and Yarning. Other resources, such as Healthy Culture Healthy Country project, will be important reflection tools for sharing, along with the third and arguably most important connection, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
    As part of what will be 5x monthly recorded zoom yarns (at least until COVID19 guidelines allow to rotate between MU and partner spaces), between invited participants (Faculty staff, local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation representatives, guest facilitators) with Dadirri between each, captured in multi-modal epistemes, people and their relationships will form the practice for translation into teacher education.
    Effective start/end date13/08/2028/02/21