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Education unit dispels myths about Indigenous Australians

A new Swinburne Online unit designed for education students is helping to build awareness of Indigenous cultures and contemporary issues that exist and impact on Indigenous societies today.

Unit Coordinator and eLearning Advisor (eLA) Kristina Stanton for the new unit, Indigenous Education and Perspectives, said it is important for new teachers to receive training in Indigenous education.

“It is not easy for new teachers to teach Indigenous studies if they do not have specific training, as there are many cultural protocols to be observed when doing any activities such as teaching about Dreamtime stories or Indigenous art.

“New teachers can feel a little hesitant to teach art and cultural activities with children in early childhood in case of causing any offence through a breach of protocol.”

Ms Stanton said the unit gives education students the tools to navigate cultural protocols and an understanding between the difference of Authentic Indigenous lessons and activities as opposed to tokenism, which does not define the meaning or significance of the specific culture.

“There are many forms of regional Indigenous art and Dreamtime stories dating back thousands of years and practiced in various locations but it is not generic across all regions.

“The Elders in particular are the Custodians of Traditional Knowledge and I have urged students that it is always good practice to respect this and make contact with Elders of the local Indigenous community to discuss protocols before proceeding with art and cultural Dreamtime activities.

“One of the best things teachers can do is invite local Elders from their region to attend and present authentic cultural information, tell their stories to the class and interact with the students.”

Ms Stanton, who majored in Australian Indigenous studies, has significant experience teaching in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and was able to give a professional insight into Indigenous education.

“I included photographs and personal stories in my discussions about my experiences. Most students had no idea how disadvantaged and under resourced the communities are.

“Teaching this subject is highly important for anyone studying education, studying even one unit can make a considerable difference to understanding Indigenous cultures and history,” said Ms Stanton.

“The History of the Stolen Generations explains why Indigenous Australians still face disadvantage and serious issues in their lives today. It helps to dispel myths about Indigenous Australians and reveals the struggle and survival of an ancient culture that all Australians should be proud of.”

Bachelor of Education (Primary) student Deborah Cutajar who undertook the unit said the learning material was both challenging and enlightening.

“I was excited to study the Indigenous Studies unit as I was exposed to only a small amount of history lessons at school. The content was confrontational at times but was informational and not biased. It was an eye opener to say the least for me,” Deborah said.

“There were a lot of myths that I had about the Indigenous culture that were dismissed when I started studying. I can only hope that one day I can spend some time in an Indigenous school setting to really take in the culture and apply my learning.”

Feedback from the new unit has been very positive and both Ms Stanton and Janelle McDonald, who was also an eLA for the unit, said many of the students indicated that the course was ‘life-changing’ and it gave them a clearer understanding of Indigenous cultures and history.

Indigenous Education and Perspectives is currently offered as a core unit for all online students studying the Bachelor of Education Primary and Early Childhood.

Media contact: Meghan Lodwick | T: 03 9214 4973 | M: 0404 613 889 | E: mlodwick@swin.edu.au