Having an opportunity to have a proper education is everyone’s right in this world, and this point is written in the constitution of all nations. In Article 13 number 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), United Nations (1966) states that education should be able to involve all people in an independent society, raise tolerance, understanding and friendship among all countries regardless their socio-cultural backgrounds. As most people in Australia have already been receiving education to improve their life, education for Aboriginal peoples in Australia should also be in a high priority. In the attempts to provide the access to education, many aspects are essential to discuss. However, in this section, there are at least three major related topics will be elaborated. They are the idea of “know yourself” concepts for teachers, the outcomes for First Nation and Settler societies when more Aboriginal people become educators, administrators and leaders in education and vocation studies, as well as barriers in social, cultural, institutional sides.
First and foremost, Respect, Relationships, Reconciliation (3Rs) starts the ideas of educating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with “teachers know themselves (and the world they live in)”. Based on that concept, it is obviously seen that there are several values that they have been building, involving three main views. The first view is related to respect, relationship, and reconciliation. In this category, it is advisable that teachers who prepare new future aboriginal educators understand that they should show respect by having the awareness and willingness to listen to ideas from the elderly and other members of those groups of people. In addition, they should also ensure that all students are aware of maintaining relationships to their vicinity (family, nature and country), and both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples are hopefully able to close the gaps and work together equally. The second view of “knowing themselves” relates to values, culture, and identity. These three aspects mean that in the educational process of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, all sectors should recognise their own personal social, traditional, cultural and life values known as Ethical Understanding so that they can understand one another and build strong connections. The third view which is about combatting racism is expected to be a basis for teachers to construct “inclusive curriculum and anti-racism pedagogies”. Clearly by adapting those values of education, the teaching and learning outcomes can hopefully bring significant determination on future life of indigenous society.
Furthermore, there seem to be many benefits of enabling Aboriginal people to be educators, administrators and leaders in education and vocation studies. Perhaps, the main advantage is about the educational advancement. It is widely believed that the ones who know Aboriginal people’s cultures and identity better are Aboriginal people themselves. Trained aboriginal human resources can help spread the awareness of having basic education among their community members. When more aboriginal groups are well-educated, the quality of their life will gradually improve in all aspects (social, economy, health, etc.). Equally important, according to Buckskin as cited in Earp (2016), the increasing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers in educational institutions will allow indigenous learners to regard that teaching can be a career option. Besides, educational process can also be designed specifically in their environmental community in order to meet their needs and to prevent discrimination which might happen when they learn in other public schools. Another significant positive side is that professional and skilful indigenous people can fulfil national demand of labour forces especially in Australia where they can participate more and better in Australian workplaces. According to Korff (2017), the rates of Aboriginal people’s employment is far lower than those of non-indigenous people in Australia and one of the reason is because the lack of education. According to Council of Australian Government as cited in Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013), “[e]mployment is also a key factor leading towards wellbeing”. That governmental institution further also reinforces that it is also essential for Aboriginal peoples to be employed since it is a part of social participation and the improvement of mental and physical health.
Considering the barriers that might appear in the effort to accessing education experienced by Indigenous children, there are at least three major categories to distinguish, namely social, culture and institution. Australian Human Rights Commission (2001), in Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing Paper, finds that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face many obstacles regarding to the curriculum relevance, discrimination and racism, health problems, parents’ participation, human resources. Similarly, Scrimgeour (2001) also states several barriers including language, community involvement, pedagogy and assessment in the Aboriginal education. Another significant problem, recently discovered by Smith, an ex-pat Victorian who received the Spirit of Catholic Education Award from Queensland Minister for Education, is that teachers between indigenous schools were not networking one another (Quarry, 2017). Thus, Smith started effective collaboration with other schools in order to share some potential skills and tools across multiple sectors. It is clear that despite their attempts to help Aboriginal peoples receive basic education by reviewing and evaluating what they have done, Government and other related sectors still find challenges as aforementioned.
In conclusion, as it has been seen above, some ideas around the education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are already elaborated, and they are also supported by around several related articles or resources. It is obvious that educators are encouraged to build mutual understanding when teaching in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community by firstly recognizing themselves and being aware of their surroundings. Then, there is also evidence that when more Aboriginal people become educators, administrators and leaders in education and vocation studies, they will bring many benefits for the First Nation and Settler societies in socio-economic matter, health, and many other aspects of life. Last but not least, we accepted that providing education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students still faces some challenges. However, new approaches are attempted in order to get to the bottom of the problems.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Labour Force Outcomes (No. 4102.0). Canberra, ACT. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features20Nov+2013#Endnote1
Australian Human Rights Commission (2001). Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing Paper. Retrieved from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/rural-and-remote-education-inquiry-briefing-paper-30#2
Earp, J. (2016) Increasing the number of Indigenous educators in Australian schools. Retrieved from https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/increasing-the-number-of-indigenous-educators-in-australian-schools
Know Yourself (n.d.) retrieved from https://rrr.edu.au/unit/module-1/
Korff, J. (2013). Aboriginal employment, jobs & careers. Retrieved from https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/economy/aboriginal-employment-jobs-careers
Quarry, G. (2017). Smith busy breaking down barriers in Indigenous education. Retrieved from https://au.educationhq.com/news/42359/smith-busy-breaking-down-barriers-in-indigenous-education/\
Scrimgeour, M (2001). Barriers to Indigenous Education and Research Reform in Australia. Victoria. Deakin University Retrieved from http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30023600
United Nations (1966) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Office of the High Commissioner. Retrieved from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx
Note: This essay was written for the discussion of “Contemporary Issues in Education and Training (EED6001)” unit, Master of Education, Victoria University, Melbourne – Victoria, Australia.