Teach Starter Learns: Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives

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Tania Thomas at Teach Starter running a professional learning workshop

Written by Cassie (Teach Starter)

While the Australian Curriculum gives us two very succinct and important reasons why embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in the classroom are such a crucial part of every students’ education, the impetus for turning these expectations into practice is a personal one. As members of the post-colonial Australian community, it is imperative that we do our part to increase the visibility and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and knowledges wherever possible in order to make real headway towards conciliation, respect and healing. With that in mind, yesterday the Teach Starter team welcomed Tania Thomas from Dirrabou Consultancy who ran a full day workshop with our staff, helping to clarify and increase our own awareness and understanding of how to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into the resources that we make for you.

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Tania is a Kamilaroi woman, originally from southwestern Queensland. Her professional experience is extensive, crossing the early years, primary, secondary and tertiary sectors in teaching, curriculum and policy development as well as in research and advisory roles.

However, it was at the intersection of her professional and personal experiences that we met Tania and were each taken on our own learning journey.

Tania Thomas from Dirrabou Consultancy visiting Teach Starter

Tania Thomas from Dirrabou Consultancy at Teach Starter HQ.

Where Professional Meets Personal Development

Infused with poetry, story and reference to song, Tania shared a wealth of information with us. Not only about the professional practices and protocols that can inform and improve our work, but also about her family’s language, culture, history and experiences. The impact of her holistic approach to professional learning was profound and is best articulated by the members of the Teach Starter team:

“I found yesterday’s PD very insightful. It was interesting to hear Tania’s story and listen to the ways of daily life from another perspective, as well as how events from many years ago can still have a major emotional impact (mostly negatively) on present-day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The PD gave me to confidence to create quality educational resources about the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples so that students have a better understanding of these cultures and are aware of the impact British Colonisation has had on the history of these cultures.” – Victoria (Teacher)

“I found the PD we had yesterday eye-opening. Whilst in the classroom, I was always afraid to even mention the term Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. I felt like it was a taboo subject, especially if you had no real in-depth knowledge of the histories. I always just skimmed the surface of this subject. After yesterday’s PD, I now feel enlightened and inspired to make sure that we are providing teachers with the expertise, teaching resources and information that will give this extremely important subject the credit it deserves.” – Holly (Teacher/Marketing)

The Teach Starter team learns about embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into their work.

Members of the Teach Starter team learn about embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into their work.

The Power of Images and Words

Not only did we engage with the ideas and processes involved in producing teaching resources in a culturally appropriate way, but we also examined how crucial the selection of words and the composition of images are.

“I really enjoyed the session. After learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, I have more confidence in creating resources that are accurate and respectful.” – John (Designer)

“I will be extremely conscious in future of always using the plural form of the word ‘culture’ when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To assume that these diverse peoples had only one culture is similar to assuming that only one culture exists across the continent of Europe. It was enlightening to have the inaccuracies of this common assumption explained so simply to me.” – Steph (Teacher)

Shared Learning

We’ve lots to share with you after our fantastic workshop with Tania from Dirrabou Consultancy. You’ll notice the influence our learning will have on the teaching resources that we produce to help you teach about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, histories and knowledges.

“Tania not only helped us to understand the appropriate language and images that we should be using in our resources, but also helped to bring us together as a team. We all feel empowered to create more resources that highlight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and are looking forward to collaborating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members in this work.’ – Jill (Founder)

“The main message I took from yesterday was that doing nothing is worse than doing the wrong thing because at least we learn from our mistakes. Sometimes teachers are scared to do or say the wrong thing or offend and, instead, do nothing.” – Nikki (Teacher)

The Teach Starter team with Tania from Dirrabou Consultancy

Tanya Thomas from Dirrabou Consultancy with members of the Teach Starter team. (L-R: Victoria, Fleur, Cassie, John, Jill, Scott, Tania, Ali and Karen.)

Tell us, what would you like to see here on the Teach Starter website to help you embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in your classroom?

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Comments & feedback

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It would be wonderful to have a resource about the seasons that covers the local Aboriginal seasons, which for my local area would be Noongar seasons.

Candice Wilson · May 27th, 2018

Thanks, Candice! If you’d like to also share your resource idea in our Request a Resource section of the website, please feel free to check it out here https://www.teachstarter.com/request-a-resource/

Cassie (Teach Starter) · May 28th, 2018

I would love to be able to use Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language when I am creating handwriting sheets for my class. This is something I have found very hard to source, especially when we are focusing on a particular letter.

Kristie Pope · Mar 18th, 2018

That’s a wonderful initiative, Kristie! I’m sure you can understand that the vast number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages makes it challenging for us here at Teach Starter to create language-specific resources like the one you have described.

I would suggest it’s best for you to find out the language group of the country that your school is located on. Then see if you can connect with local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community members and elders (through local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education centres – if there is one near you, or through your local community health service). They may be able to teach you and your students some local language that you can then incorporate into handwriting sheets and other activities.

You may also like to check out Wingaru Kids – they provide wonderful Aboriginal Studies teaching resources, created by Aboriginal people.

I hope this helps!

Cassie (Teach Starter) · Mar 19th, 2018

AIATSIS also have some wonderful language resources too! You can check them out here https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/indigenous-australian-languages

Cassie (Teach Starter) · Mar 19th, 2018

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