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Aboriginal & Culturally Responsive Pedagogies Student ID: 17464824

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Price (2015) states “the cultural arrogance that has damaged Aboriginal and Torres
Islander peoples in Australia for more than 200 years is unacceptable.” Emphasising
‘white is right’ and that non-Aboriginal people have the solutions to help Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples to close the gap is ineffective and outdated (Price,
2015). The government or welfare has been found to powerfully separate Aboriginal
carers prior to 1966 from their natural family by a mission causing damaging
implications (Zubrick et al., 2005). Affecting Aboriginal carers to be one and a half
times more likely to have had contact with Mental Health Services in Western
Australia prior to the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (Zubrick et
al., 2005). Also, Aboriginal carers are two and a half times as likely to have been
arrested or charged with an offence at some time in their life (Zubrick et al., 2005).
Aboriginal children exposed to the same damaging experience were almost twice as
likely to be at high risk of clinically significant emotional or behavioural difficulties
after adjusting for age, sex, level of relative isolation (LORI) and classifying whether
the primary carer is the birth mother of the child (Zubrick et al., 2005).

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) (2008) has identified that the
achievement of schooling promotes the social inclusion and reduces the educational
disadvantage of children, especially indigenous children as a key to boosting
Australia’s participation and productivity. However, Price (2015) has found that most
schools still have teachers who are uneducated in the culture of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples, which embraced through a whole-school approach
can signify cultural identity, involvement of community leaders and students, safety,
value and respect (Price, 2015). Inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples culture is a main factor that is missing in schools depriving them of their
proud heritage. Employing respect of a student’s culture into a teacher’s pedagogy is
required to promote self-esteem, self-confidence and pride for students to be
effective learners (Price, 2015).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience a health disadvantage from
an early age with higher disease and injury rates than other Australians, adversely
affecting their wellbeing (AIHW, 2011a; Dobia & O’Rourke, 2011). This affliction is
subject to detrimental effects for young Aboriginal people with the association to high
rates of mental disorders (e.g. anxiety, depression), decreased or loss of cultural
identity, family confliction, social exclusion, social and emotional wellbeing, and
crime or imprisonment (AIHW, 2011a). Tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, poor
nutrition, alcohol consumption and illicit drug use are adverse health behaviours
portrayed as more prevalent in populations with a lower socioeconomic status, linked
to Aboriginal people (AIHW, 2011b). There is a relative decrease in these critical
health behaviours, nonetheless Aboriginal people still have much higher rates for
engagement in these negative health behaviours (double the rates for engaging in
tobacco smoking) compared to non-Aboriginal people (AIHW, 2011a; AIHW, 2011b).

Across the nation there has been minimal resourcing of relevant and ongoing
professional development towards building cultural competency among teachers and
education workers, with no declaration that the educational system will include a
meaningful commitment to providing or rewarding this training (Price, 2015).
Addressing this issue, the Aboriginal Girls’ Circle (AGC) identified by Dobia et al.

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Aboriginal & Culturally Responsive Pedagogies Student ID: 17464824

(2013) is an intervention targeted to increase social connection, participation and

self-confidence amongst Aboriginal girls in secondary schools. The AGC intervention
focuses on resilience through the inclusion of cultural behaviours and wellbeing of
Aboriginal women connecting to their identity and community (Dobia et al., 2013).
Improving resilience, connectedness, self-concept and cultural identity is achieved
by the development of culturally appropriate tools and methods, with an evaluation of
the programs and implementation processes to prove their effectiveness (Dobia et
al., 2013). Renewing the understanding of Aboriginal mental health and wellbeing
with an effective improvement of resilience is indicated from the AGC intervention,
establishing culture within schools (Dobia et al., 2013). Developing an effective ‘two-
way’ approach of mutual learning and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander cultures from local communities is required to incorporate culturally
responsive social and emotional learning (SEL), determining needs and involvement
(Dobia & Roffey, 2017).

Teachers achieving literacy with their first language of English creates a barrier in
educating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who have English as their
second language, due to cultural obligations (Price, 2015). Price (2015) has found
most Northern Territory schools to be English-only schools with no improvements of
meeting the literacy needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This
educational disadvantage creates a significant risk for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people’s mental health (Dobia & O’Rourke, 2011). The cumulative effect of
diminishing educational access and performance leads to inequity increasing the
disadvantage to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students (Dobia &
O’Rourke, 2011). For optimal learning to take place social and emotional wellbeing
must be promoted within education settings.

Maintaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student’s confidence as learners

can be achieved by supporting English literacy programs and teacher development
respecting their cultural first language (Price, 2015). Building relationships with
students, parents and caregivers can assist teachers in progressing identity and
better outcomes for Aboriginal students (Price, 2015). Sarra (2014) identifies a
relationship between school and community based on respect and high expectations
sharing diversity is a positive essential relationship. This relationship offers
substantial insights into excelling challenges together with Aboriginal and non-
Aboriginal people forming a valued nation (Sarra, 2014).

Students maintaining disruptive behaviour influencing learning and wellbeing of

others results in action from the school principal to minimise misbehaviour by means
of suspension (NSW Department of Education, 2015). The percentage for short
suspension rates for Aboriginal students has slowly declined over the years (15.6%
in 2010 to 13.1% in 2014) with long suspension rates having an increase then a slow
decrease (5.8% in 2010 to 6.3% in 2012 to 6.1% in 2014) (NSW Department of
Education, 2015). Schools are meant to be a place of safety and security to improve
a student’s wellbeing for engagement in learning. The implementation of the
Wellbeing Framework, holistic, prosocial and strengths based framework, guides
schools supporting students to be strong, confident, achieving contributors to their
communities and to society (NSW Department of Education, 2015). This framework
focuses on developing the cognitive, emotional, social, physical and spiritual

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Aboriginal & Culturally Responsive Pedagogies Student ID: 17464824

wellbeing of all students and may aid in reducing Aboriginal student’s suspension
rates (NSW Department of Education, 2015).

Teaching seeks to attain a culturally competent pedagogy to support and establish

career paths and value learning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
(Price, 2015). The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers establish
professional knowledge, practice and engagement aimed to achieve educational
outcomes of students (AITSL, 2014). The standards 1.4 and 2.4 only together
address understanding and knowledge of the culture, language and history of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (AITSL, 2014). Both standards are not
identified in professional practice or engagement disregarding a culturally
appropriate teacher’s pedagogy. This issue may be associated to the social inequity
and behavioural problems Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students experience
affecting their wellbeing.

Dobia and O’Rourke (2011) found schools to make an important contribution to

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples education and culture through
community/school partnerships providing value, inclusion across the curriculum,
community involvement, application of the anti-racism policy, and celebration of
cultural events. Securing active participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
students in school-based decision making, knowledge, skills and attitudes is required
for building positive relationships within the class (Price, 2015). Constructing positive
relationships with Aboriginal students is associated with a culturally competent
teacher’s pedagogy improving growth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples in schools promoting engagement and participation with their local
communities (Price, 2015).

The KidsMatter initiative is a whole-school approach encompassing a positive school

community, SEL for students, working with parents and carers, and helping children
experiencing mental health difficulties (Dobia & O’Rourke, 2012). This initiative
varied in different schools based on its effectiveness to incorporate Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples culture (Dobia & O’Rourke, 2012). The understanding
of background and culture of the community, family and students is vital to accessing
successful educational achievement when implementing differentiation. The ‘What
Works’ project has been developed to modify teaching practices to vastly increase
the equality of educational achievement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
students (Price, 2015). Prepared guidelines are incorporated for Aboriginal
perspectives of school practices to establish Aboriginal students sense of cultural
identity and pride with increased cultural knowledge and understanding aiding to a
positive self-concept (Price, 2015).

The Aboriginal Education Policy originated to reduce the ongoing disadvantages

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are experiencing, connecting to
inequity and behaviour problems, and provide inclusion of their culture in the
educational system (NSW Department of Education, 2008). Policies, such as this, in
education formed to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are still
undermined with no conclusion to why this is happening (Gray & Beresford, 2008).
The continuation of this discouragement has instigated no solution to closing the gap
due to lack of funding and awareness of the state and territory governments (Price,
2015). The commitments outlined by the NSW Department of Education (2008) are

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Aboriginal & Culturally Responsive Pedagogies Student ID: 17464824

set to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s achievement, success
and education by incorporating their culture. Yet these commitments have not been
met and still advocate a large disadvantage to the diverse communities and people.

Future aims established to close the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples are not going as planned with a relatively slow progress to alleviating the
cultural disadvantage (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017). Success in school
education remains critical for opening opportunities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander student’s lives with school attendance being a key factor leading to better
educational outcomes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017). All governments are
committed to employ strategies supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
students to succeed in pursuit of higher education (Commonwealth of Australia,
2017). Intensive educational interventions have the potential to improve health and
wellbeing of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student’s, positively
impacting future learning outcomes (Buckskin et al. 2008). The student’s
development of learning has been recorded to be affected by their family,
community, cultural and social experiences (Price, 2015).

The Schooling and Children programme concentrates on accomplishing prosperity

and wellbeing by integrating activities that nurture and educate Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples (Price, 2015). The significance of this strategy implemented
as a whole-school approach addresses family and parenting support, early childhood
development, care and education, engagement and transition, and higher education
(Price, 2015). Aimed outcomes of this program are designed to increase school
attendance and education for future employment (Price, 2015). The Preparation for
Tertiary Success (PTS) programme focusses on the development of resilience and
the correlation between achieving and maintaining success in education (Hall et al.,
2015). Cultural capital, acknowledged by PTS, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander students is balanced and valued to become strong, confident and resilient
tertiary learners reducing the restrictions of binary choice between assimilation or
exclusion, initiating inclusion (Hall et al., 2015).

A positive sense of cultural identity, community leadership and high expectations

relationships is inclusively acknowledged and embraced in the Stronger Smarter
approach, a strength-based approach (Sarra, 2014). The success of this approach
can be encouraged into schools to reflect on effective teaching strategies to adopt
the differentiation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students (Sarra, 2014).
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) decision to fund construction of
Children and Family Centres across Australia to deliver integrated services,
consisting of early learning, child care and family support programs, is a long-
awaited initiative for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Price, 2015).
These centres adopting the skills of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are
optimal for the support of children and adhering to components of the Stronger
Smarter philosophy (Price, 2015; Sarra, 2014)

The NSW model of pedagogy involves three dimensions labelled intellectual quality,
quality learning environments, and significance, each containing elements within
(NSW Department of Education and Training, 2003). These three dimensions are
implemented into a teacher’s pedagogy to improve student learning outcomes by the
application of elements in each dimension contributing to success in educational

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Aboriginal & Culturally Responsive Pedagogies Student ID: 17464824

achievement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students (NSW Department of
Education and Training, 2003). To conclude, the implementation of policies,
approaches, strategies and methods are an essential part to resolving the issues of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage, by reducing suspension rates,
and increasing academic educational achievement. Effectively including cultural
differentiation and diversity in a teacher’s pedagogy is essential to provide
successful positive learning experiences of all students.

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Aboriginal & Culturally Responsive Pedagogies Student ID: 17464824


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health and wellbeing 2011. Cat. no. PHE 140. Canberra: AIHW, 173. Retrieved

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). (2011b). The health and welfare of
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no. IHW 42. Canberra: AIHW. Retrieved from

Buckskin, P., Hughes, P., Teasdale, B., Gregory, J., Clarke, C., Morgan, D. L., & St
Clair, J. (2008)

Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s Report 2017.
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Council of Australian Governments (COAG) (2008). National Partnership Agreement

on Low Socio-economic Status School Communities. Canberra:
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Dobia, B., Bodkin-Andrews, G., Parada, R., O’Rourke, V., Gilbert, S., Daley, A., &
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University of Western Sydney

Dobia, B., & O’Rourke, V. G. (2011). Promoting the mental health and wellbeing of
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Dobia, B., & O'Rourke, V. G. (2012). KidsMatter Indigenous adaptation schools

report. Penrith NSW, Australia: University of Western Sydney. Available from

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J. Collie (Eds.) Social and Emotional Learning in Australia and the Asia Pacific.
New York: Springer

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Aboriginal & Culturally Responsive Pedagogies Student ID: 17464824

Gray, J., & Beresford, Q. (2008). "A 'formidable challenge': Australia's quest for
equity in Indigenous education". Australian Journal of Education, 52(2).
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