Reconciliation needs brave approach to First Nations education

World Vision

May 26, 2022 – Governments and schools must be brave about making the changes needed to provide all young Australians and their families with the education they deserve on the path to reconciliation, a respected Aboriginal elder says.

The call comes as Be Brave. Make Change is the theme of National Reconciliation Week, and following an ALP Federal Government election pledge that will put 60 First Nations Educators in primary schools.

Ghunghanghi elder Aunty Flo Watson OAM is on the First Nations Advisory Panel for the Know Your Country campaign, which aims to put First Nations Cultural Educators in all Australian primary schools to teach culture and language.

Parents, carers and their children support the idea and more than 10,000 Australians have pledged their support since the campaign launched in June 2021.

The 2022 Know Your Country Children’s Voice Survey found 65 per cent of parents thought all Australian schools should be responsible for closing the knowledge gap about First Nations people.

More than half (57 per cent) believed governments should fund local First Nations Cultural Educators in every primary school ‘to help us heal and unify as a nation’ – a key element of reconciliation.

Aunty Flo, who is based on Queensland’s Bribie Island and whose family was part of the Stolen Generations, said Know Your Country had gained incredible momentum as a brave approach to effectively and authentically enable our education system to evolve.

“Be Brave. Make Change, resonates with me because we need change through truthtelling and a sharing of our histories,” Aunty Flo said. “But also, to be brave in how we go about it. It is about knowing what the Uluru Statement is – Reconciliation for all Australians, sharing history and truthtelling.

“It is about education through Reconciliation. It is about letting people know that Indigenous Australians defended our country in all major conflicts and that we honour them, and we listen to their stories from their families and friends.

“These brave changes are required by the education system to transform it into a space which situates First Nations knowledge systems alongside western education.”

Know Your Country co-chair Dr Scott Winch said with the ALP Federal Government elected on 21 May, the Labor Party’s $14 million pledge for First Nations Educators in 60 schools was a good start.

“It’s a great first step and we can’t wait until all Australian children get the opportunity to learn directly from local First Nations Educators,” Dr Winch said.

“All Aussie kids should learn about the Country they’re growing up on from A First Nations Educator at their school. A commitment from all political parties is ultimately needed. This will help students forge deeper understandings and stronger relationships.

“These changes are needed to transform the education system and place First Nations knowledge systems alongside western education. Reconciliation should be done together, not separately.”

Know Your Country does not put the burden on First Nations people to independently reconcile. Importantly, it creates an environment for children to build and grow real and enduring relationships with First Nations peoples and communities.

“This strength-based approach celebrates the world’s longest continuing culture, favouring real world engagement and experiences over books and lectures in spaces without direct First Nations voices,” Dr Winch says.

“This new system would give teachers the skills and confidence they need to be brave in delivering the required First Nations curriculum.”

Know Your Country is a coalition campaign led by a First Nations Advisory Panel and convened by World Vision Australia.

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