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EEB419: Assessment item 1

Emily Gooley | 11517187

Indigenous education history cannot be considered in


isolationit is deeply embedded within the totality of
Australias colonial history, it is a complex nexus of
social and educational policy
(Herbert, 2012, p.95).
Executive summary
The histories, current circumstance, culture and beliefs of Indigenous Australians
are important concepts, which all Australians, particularly teachers, should
understand, in order to foster and achieve reconciliation and social justice. In
considering Herberts quote, the emphasis is placed on the importance of
understanding Colonial history in its entirety when considering Indigenous
educational history. Therefore it is crucial to understand the cultural concepts,
which inform Indigenous worldviews, such as The Dreaming, kinship and
relations to the land. Recognising and appreciating the historical practices and
policies, such as dispossession, protection, and assimilation that make up
Australias shared history is just as important. Understanding of this knowledge
in its entirety will promote great improvements in the opportunities for social
justice and reconciliation.

Cultural context
Understanding the Aboriginal culture is a challenging concept due to the gaps in
what is understood about the Aboriginal worldview that are evident today
(Magin, 2005, p.49). There are different cultural concepts, which need to be
understood as they are recognised as the foundations of the Indigenous
Australian culture. The Dreaming is an integral component of Indigenous
Australian culture, and therefore essential for all Australians to understand. The
Dreaming is an English term that describes the complex and all-encompassing
Aboriginal creative epoch (Edwards, 1998, p. 79), which is closely tied to the
land. The Dreaming incorporates the rules, taboos and punishments (Edwards,
1998, p. 85) that Aboriginal peoples abide by, along with their Spiritual identity
through parallel layers of events and characters that are both internally
generated and heterogeneous (Magin, 2005, p.51). Dreaming, as conceived in
Aboriginal thought is difficult to describe, due to non-Aboriginal concepts of
time prevailing in Western thought

(Edwards,

1998, p.

79).

Western

understanding of time is perceived as moving through a sequence of discreet


events, whereas Aboriginal concepts of time are referred to as a cyclic concept
due to the activities of the past still being referred to as present ideas. (Edwards,

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EEB419: Assessment item 1

Emily Gooley | 11517187

1998). An understanding of this spiritual connection by all Australians will


undoubtedly build understanding and tolerance.
The Indigenous Peoples connection to the land and country is an important idea,
which is vital for Australians to understand. The Dreaming and the connection to
land are closely linked with Dreaming stories that outline the whole landscape of
Australia, being formed from the activities of the Spirit Beings (Edwards, 1998,
p. 81). One Dreamtime story that is closely interconnected to the land is The
Rainbow Snake, which reflect the significance that Aboriginal people maintain
their responsibilities to the land and its inhabitants, so that the cosmos remains
peaceful (Flood, 1983, p.84). Land and country holds a deep cultural and spiritual
connection to Indigenous peoples through the belief that their spiritual essence
is shared with the land they inhabit (Edwards, 1998). In a study with Aboriginal
people by Rose (1996), a definition of country has been developed. It is stated
that the land and country has a consciousness, a living entity that gives and
receives life. Not just imagined or represented, it is lived in and lived with (Rose,
1996, p. 7). Therefore it is noted that Country is much more than geographic
land for Aboriginal People. It is the home of the Ancestors, all living creatures as
well as its surroundings. Aboriginal people see the land and Country to be
holding great meaning. Consequently, Aboriginal people feel a sense of duty and
respect to the land. They see that spiritual existence is not divorced from the
material world but embedded in it people must walk with care over the earth
in an awareness that spiritual forces surround them carrying out rituals at
sacred sites and managing the resources in their country (Edwards, 1998, p. 82).
An understanding of this connection is crucial if we are to cultivate better
relationships and empathy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
A third cultural concept key essential for teachers to understand is the notion of
kinship. Kinship is a very unique and complex structure, which dictates relations
to ancestral beings, sites, and being (Northern Land Council, n.d.) along with
societal structure. In comparisons to European societies, a kinship organisation in
Aboriginal societies differs greatly. Aboriginal kinship identifies a relationship
amongst each person within a specific language group, which is often a group of
500 people or more (Edwards, 2004). Another principle underpinning the kinship
system is the equivalence of sibling of the same sex (Edwards, 2004, p.58).
From this concept, it is meant that siblings who are of same sex are considered
to share an identity with one another. This further progresses to relationships

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EEB419: Assessment item 1

Emily Gooley | 11517187

amongst fathers. Amongst non-Aboriginal kinships, a child would have a father,


and if this father were to have a brother, they would be considered as uncles.
However within the Aboriginal kinship system as fathers and uncles are siblings
of the same sex they are considered to share an identity. Therefore for a person
to recognise a biological father will also acknowledge his male siblings as fathers
too. This system is further extended to mothers as well as grandparents
(Edwards, 2004). This kinship and totemism implies responsibilities and
obligations, on which to relate to one another, but also provides a great sense of
social identity (Edwards, 2004).

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