Australian Principals support First Nations campaign to combat ‘knowledge gap’

A meeting of South Australian principals last week confirmed 93 per cent of schools would access funding to employ a First Nations cultural educator. And 85 per cent of those with Reconciliation Action Plans in their schools said that having a cultural educator would help implementation.

It came as research revealed a gap in Australians’ basic knowledge of First Nations’ culture and heritage, with 60 per cent of Australians not knowing the name of the land where they live, and more than half not knowing how long Australia was inhabited before the arrival of James Cook. Most Australians surveyed said they wished they knew more about First Nations cultures and history.

The Know Your Country campaign survey also showed that most Australians don’t know why prominent First Nations man, David Unaipon features on the $50 note. Only 30 per cent knew that he was a highly respected inventor and writer, with most believing he was a Federal parliamentarian and 4 per cent thinking his claim to fame was AFL football.

President of the South Australian Principals Association Angela Falkenberg said there wasn’t a good understanding of the role that First Nations figures have played in shaping Australia, and there is clearly a ‘knowledge gap’.

“We think enough of a figure like David Unaipon to put him on our $50 note, but it’s disappointing that we haven’t taught people why he deserves to be there.”

Ms Falkenberg was pleased at the overwhelming support of school principals for the Know Your Country campaign, polled last week at the South Australian Primary Principals Association Conference.

“If a program like this was to be funded by government, primary school principals would absolutely support it. We all know that education goes to the heart of social transformation,” Ms Falkenberg said.

“Having First Nations Cultural educators in schools would promote a shared understanding between students. We would elevate the profound wisdom and knowledge held by the world’s oldest living culture – a knowledge we urgently need if we’re to live sustainably on this land.”

Ms Falkenberg said that in addition to deepening the understanding and awareness of Country in non-Indigenous students, the presence of First Nations Cultural Educators would make First Nations students feel culturally safe, understood and accepted in varied school environments – and would be a profound step towards Reconciliation.

“We can build a better Australia through this, with all Australian children aware of the incredible legacy of our first peoples. We can build a deeper curriculum.

“And the Know Your Country poll shows that 70 per cent of young Australians aged 18-24 – those with most recent education about First Nations history and culture – still believe there is a knowledge gap that needs to be filled in schools.”

The principals’ support follows the launch of the Know Your Country campaign last week, calling for cultural educators in every primary school as a gift to all Australian children. A First Nations-led and informed coalition is asking for parties at all levels of Government to commit to funding First Nations cultural educators in every primary school as an election promise and a budget priority.

The nationally representative poll commissioned for the Know Your Country campaign confirmed that more than 60 per cent of Australians agree that every child deserves a better education about First Nations peoples.

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