Tuesday, November 6, 2012

WYP: Incorporating perspectives

A question from FP in Sydney - "how do teachers incorporate Aboriginal perspectives across all KLAs without it appearing wishy washy or tokenistic"
This is a key question to being an effective teacher. If we image that teaching is both being able to interact with and engage with learner, while at the same time knowing your content area critically,  then having a critical knowledge and understanding of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander perspectives is fundamental. At the Critical Classroom we believe that teachers are both facilitators of learners and learners themselves.

So the question really is, how do I (as a learner) increase my knowledge of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander perspectives so that I can facilitate this learning in my students.

Let's start with what not to do:

  • Don't assume you know everything already: you did a few courses at uni, you've done some professional development sessions, and you've read a few books. That's great, but there is no way that you can completely know any content area - there is always something to learn. One of the myths that is perpetuated is that Learning Stops at Graduation - it doesn't. Learning is forever. At this point in time (the moment you're reading this), one thing is certain, you do not know now all that you will ever need to know in the future.
  • Don't be afraid to give it a go - don't be afraid to learn; don't be afraid to admit you don't know; don't be afraid to ask for help; don't be afraid to omit something altogether until you're confident.
  • Don't add images of "boomerangs & didgeridoos" to your worksheet border and assumed that you've covered Indigenous perspectives. You haven't.
What do can do: Take incidental opportunities for learning -

  1. Make your holiday reading Indigenous: are you going away for the holidays? Do you normally take a novel to read? Why not take novels by Indigenous authors? If you're looking for something lighter - why not take Anita Heiss's Mr Right and Dreaming books? These four novels will give you an insight into the political ideas of ordinary characters, as well as will expose you to the work and ideas of real-life Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and intellectuals. And if you're into Australia Women's Fiction (aka. Chick Lit), then you'll have a great time. 
  2. Learn while you're Facebooking - for no cost but time, you can stalk the hundreds of Facebook Pages that are devoted to helping non-Aboriginal people understand and learning about Aboriginal people, community and cultures. 
  3. Learn while you're Tweeting - Follow @IndigenousX. Started by Koori Educator, @LukeLPearson, IndigenousX stands for IndigenousX. It should probably be IndigenousD (D = Diversity) because each week, another ordinary Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person tweets about their lives and their interests. Just following and engaging with IndigenousX can teach you so much.
  4. Learning while you're listening to music - are you a music lover? Why not buy some Indigenous Music, listen to the lyrics and share them with your students.
  5. Learn while you're watching movies - are you going to the video shop to get a video? Rather than a Hollywood Blockbuster, hire out an Indigenous story. You'll be entertained and learn something at the same time. 
  6. Be a reader of Indigenous journals. The Critical Indigenous Studies Journal is freely available. It's an international, peer-reviewed journal from the Indigenous Studies Research Network at QUT and has Indigenous writers from all over the world. 

There is no easy way to become a critical expert in any content area - it requires passion, curiosity, humbleness, patience and resilience. All the characteristics we as educators want our own students to have. We've written previously about the investment required to embed new knowledge, and we reiterate it here. If you want to do the best for your students, if you do not want to be tokenistic and superficial, then you have to be an engaged learner who over time "puts the pieces of knowledge together".

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trevor Nickolls - Dreamtime to Machinetime

Image of From Dreamtime 2 Machinetime (1979) by Trevor Nickolls at 
QAG|GOMA in Brisbane, 2013

This week Aboriginal artist Trevor Nickolls passed away. Most Australians are not aware of this work of Mr Nickolls, and the way he paved a path of possibility for those artists whose work we value and respect so much today.

Take some time out of your week to learn more about his work. Here are some links -

You can also use Google images to see more of his work.

Trevor Nickolls said of his 1979 work:
My life revolves around painting and drawing. I incorporate Aboriginal and Western techniques and symbolism to make contemporary art that relates to both cultures today. My paintings are to share with everyone. I look to bridge the gap between Western art and Aboriginal art. My work is a balancing act, like walking a tightrope between my dreams and my life when I'm awake - from Dreamtime to Machinetime.

Source of quote: Interpretive Panels at QAG|GOMA 14 June 2013.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy Birthday David Unaipon

Today, the 28th of September is the 140th birthday of David Unaipon. He was the first published Aboriginal author. He was a scientist and mathematician, an inventor and a religious educator.

We can only image what his life, as an Aboriginal man must have been like 140 years ago. It is not hard to imagine the hardships and disappointment he would have experienced as a result of society's embedded racism against Aboriginal people. And we can only imagine what he might have achieved had he been given the same opportunities as other men of his age.

Sadly, most Australian's, young and old, will say "who?" when we mention his name. Let's spread the word of him and work and begin to make him the household name he should be.

More information about David Unaipon:
Image credit: A deadly birthday cake for David Unaipon by Annie Ah Kee using Minecraft.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

WYP: Creating effective relationships with families

A question from LB in Brisbane: Do you have any tips or ideas on how best form and nurture 'effective relationships' with Indigenous students and their family?

 Thanks for your question LB. I can only speak from personal experience, but for me, the key to forming and nurturing effective relationships with Indigenous students and their families, is the same for all students with some subtle differences.

What is an effective relationship?
No doubt an academic definition of an “effective relationship‘ exists but a commonsense definition would be a relationship that works. Have you ever heard people say “I don’t need to like you, but we do have to work together”? Well for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, it may be the same thing. At the minimum, I really am not interested if you like my children or me, but you do have to create an environment where my children’s learning needs are met.

Some facets of an effective relationship in a school context include:

Good Communication: 
Be a good communicator, and be available to be a good communicator. The day-to-day to-and-fro of school & home life, is not easy. As an educator take different opportunities to provide incidental as well as intentional communication.
  • Incidental communication are those opportunities for communication that are not planned. A wave or a smile as you’re walking to and from school or across the carpark, or at the local shops. When parents are dropping their children at school. This is particularly relevant for the “be available to be a good communicator” principle. If you’re walking along with your head down, a scowl or a frown on your face, there will not be many parents, except the most insistent ones, who approach you.
  • Intentional communication is where you set out to communicate a specific message to your students and their families. You’ll need to consider the different modes of communication available to you. Some parents will prefer a paper newsletter, an email newsletter, a pre-arranged interview time, etc.
Your core job as a teacher is communication. Just as your students require different modes of communication based on their diverse needs, so too do their parents. Some specific strategies might be:
  • Depending on your school community, perhaps brainstorm with your school leaders, families and community about different communication opportunities. 
  • As a school you may decide to make your weekly assembly a major event with lots of extended family attending - with notices being read out as well as other updates for families. 
  • Create visually attractive newsletter templates that can be easily and quickly reproduced for families.
  • Create a visually attractive yearly calendar so that families know what events are coming up.
  • Encourage families to attend the P&C/School council events. Make them welcome when they do turn up. 
  • As a school community develop appropriate social media spaces for your school. 
Good listening
Another key aspect of being able to nurture an effective relationship is good listening. A part of good listening is opening your mind to what another person is saying.  A few points to remember:
  • Remember that some people “say things” by actually not saying anything. It can be frustrating, but no feedback can be feedback. 
  • Don’t assume that you know what your families are talking about. Carefully re-phrase statements to check that you have heard correctly. 
  • Take time to learn about the history of the community, the school and families. 
Being thoughtful
Think before you speak. Don’t self-censor yourself, but you do need to have a handle on your language and how it impacts on others. Don’t use terms that you know will offend people, for example, “full-blood”, “half-caste” etc.

  • You can’t know everything. You’re not a mind-reader. And if you’re new to a school, then you need time and space to find out what you should know. 
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes. 
  • Acknowledge people for their contributions to your learning. 
  • Treat people respectfully and they’ll respect you back. 
  • Treat community educators as your peers. They may not have a teaching degree, but they have the same degree of knowledge in their fields of expertise and there’s a good chance they’ve been “studying” it longer than the 4 or 5 years it took you to get your degree.Really think about how much time you've invested in getting to know about your school.
Other hints and tips: 
  • Don’t assume that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will want to be your cultural educator. Some will offer to lend a hand, but make sure you’re putting in effort to find information yourself. 
  • Say sorry when you need to - say it as soon as you realise you’ve messed up. If people know you’re genuine, they’ll move past. 
  • Give people time to get to know you. And give yourself time to get to know others. 
  • Follow the work of Dr Chris Sarra and understand and know what your expectations are. 
  • Think about the link between your relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families and what you're teaching in your classroom. Is your curriculum respectful and acknowledging? 
Effective relationships are not rocket science, it takes patience, time, and plenty of respect building.

"You can't have a partnership without a relationship, and you can't have a relationship without a conversation" What Works

What other aspects of effective relationships are there? Are their any other specific things that we can do to foster positive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families?

I look forward to your feedback.

Some online resources:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012 Deadly Singles of the Year - some class ideas

One of the categories at the 2012 Deadly Awards is Single of the Year. Each song in this category is very different and spans a range of different styles and genres. Each artist expresses different ideas in their music - some sing about identity, some sing about music, and others love. We have found links to each of the nominated 2012 singles for you.

Class activity ideas:
1. Listen to each of the songs
2. Go online and find out more about each artist
3. What are the different styles of music in this year's singles?
4. What styles do you like or don't like?
5. What other artists are in each of the different categories? Eg. Troy Cassar-Daley is a country music artist, who are some other country music artists you know of
6. What are these Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists singing about in their music?
7. The artists nominated in 2012 are at different stages in their careers. Some have a very strong web presence, while others are still developing theirs. What kinds of technology and mediums can an artist use to generate an audience.

Yabu Band - Petrol, Paint and Glue


Troy Cassar-Daley - Country Is

Yung Warriors - Standing Strong

Busby Marou - I Still Don't Believe

Jessica Mauboy - Galaxy

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Deadlys

It's time to celebrate The Deadlys. Created in 1997, The Deadlys celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians, artists, sports people and community leaders. In 2012 the Deadly Awards will be held on the 25th of September at the Sydney Opera House.

The Deadlys, like the NAIDOC awards, provide a positive affirmation of identity and achievement. In the face of overwhelming negative depictions in the mainstream imagination for over 200 years, affirmation is important.

Best of luck to all the nominees. The Critical Classroom team will not be in Sydney, but we'll definitely be watching the social media feed as well looking for the broadcast.

Will you be following The Deadlys? 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Blak History Month 2012

It's been pretty quiet here on The Critical Classroom front for July. We did get our first 2012 E-News finished and sent out*. But we've been pretty much consumed with getting the 2012 Blak History Month fact sheets completed. 

You can download your own copies of 31 Great Moments in Blakhistory from the Blak History Month Facebook page. I'll update our Blak History Month for Teachers website when I have some free time.

*If you would like to download a copy, you'll find it here. You can subscribe to upcoming monthly E-News by subscribing here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

You have no customers in your Cafe? Do you blame them for not coming or do work harder to make your Cafe better?

This is the analogy that Ian Mackie from the Department of Education in Queensland raised today at the Dare to Lead’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Conference. His paper raised a number of questions: Can we continue to blame parents and communities who are unable to support our industrial education system? Is that the best solution? Or is it just the simplest?

The theme for the conference was '2025 Building Strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students for their Future' and for me Ian Mackiés presentation best summed up my concerns about the direction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and how we need to come up with new solutions that really do listen to community.

The conference began with a Welcome to Country by Aunty Agnes Shea accompanied by Mr Duncan Smith and his two sons who entertained participants with three songs. The sound of language, Didj, boomerangs and clapsticks echoed through the large meeting room. It was then followed by an award ceremony with awards for Excellence in Leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education for 2011 presented by the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, the Honourable Peter Garrett.

I was able to attend a number of sessions. The first keynote "Yes you do make a difference!", Associate Professor Robert Somerville from Western Australia, outlined a practical research-based approach of the work of Vic Zbar (2009). His work, "Punching above their weight", presented a very useful discussion about the preconditions for success which he argued are:
  1. Strong Leadership - stable, skilled at resource allocation and can draw out staff expertise 
  2. High Expectations - of students and high efficacy between teachers and students
  3. Orderly Environment - consistent message not petty rules but consequences
  4. Focus on core priorities - no more than 5 
He also argues that there should not be a focus on achieving regular attendance rates above 90 per cent, rather about increasing “average” attendance.

As I mentioned above, I also attended the keynote “From Attendance Crisis to Participation Crisis:  Reframing the Indigenous Attendance Problem” by Ian Mackie, the Assistant Director-General Indigenous Education and Training Futures - Education Queensland and it really got me thinking.

He argued that poor attendance at schools can be attributed to three reasons:
  1. Poor or hostile parental and carer attitudes towards school. From his experience, we continue to blame the victim. But taking the cafe analogy, parents and students are our customers. If we were running a cafe for example and people were not coming would we blame the customers or the chef for serving bad food.  Do we go to those customers and say you should eat this food because it is good for you?  Of course, it sounds ridiculous, but we continue to do this to our students. 
  2. Poor societal support or insufficient valuing of education. Here he argued that we need to be careful that we don’t continue to say “attend school, do well and you will get a good job”. Because this is not an accurate picture of how various job markets work in the new century. 
  3. Poor teaching and inconsistent attitudes and policies towards attendance. He proposed that instead of saying to a child that is late “why are you late? get to the office”, why not say “we’re glad to see you at school today”. Most schools will send students who arrived late to the office where they are confronted with an old cranky (usually) lady, stand around for 10 minutes fill in a form why late, then walk to class, making them even later, missed instruction, struggle, and sit through stuff it didn’t want to be here anyway. 
I also listened to Rory O’Connor’s presentation. I’m afraid I took very few notes at his session, as I was too busy watching the slideshow of Rory’s images. He and I are from the same country - Yugambeh - and his images featured many of my family. Oops. I’ll have to make a point of getting along to another of his sessions so that I can stay on the key messages.

Overall, an excellent day in Canberra, and I look forward to attending more in the future.

Yours in Unity, Lisa M Buxton.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Aboriginal diggers fighting for recognition of their service

Our nation have fallen short on all accounts when it comes to our treatment of our Indigenous servicemen and women. Pastor Denis Atkinson
In our previous posts about an Indigenous perspective of ANZAC Day, we wrote about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women being discriminated against.

Here is a link to Uncle John Lovett who is seeking to have his father's, grandfather's and uncles service recognised and a recognition by the state that those men were not given the same recognition as other service men and women on their return from military duty.

What must be remembered in talking about compensation claims for previous wrongs, and I think it's something that is rarely thought about when determining the amount of compensation to award, is that when you do not allow people to take advantage of a wage or benefit you not only discriminate against that person at the point in time, but you also impact on the economic and social condition of the next generations.

Benefits (like privilege) advantage the present, AND the future.
Likewise denying benefits to a whole generation disadvantages present and future generations.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

ANZAC Day from an Indigenous perspective - online resources

I posted recently three conceptualisations of ANZAC Day from an Indigenous perspective. This post provides a number of useful online resources based on these ideas.

The War of Colonisation
The war of colonisation has not been recognised as a "war" despite the devastation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and cultures.

Some useful resources: 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were diggers too
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women have given their lives in every official military operation since Federation.

Some useful resources:
Social Media resources
Leesa Watego

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Exploring ANZAC Day from an Indigenous perspective

[Note: This post contains images, words and works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are now deceased]


We can understand ANZAC Day in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in a number of different ways. Here are three ways of conceptualising Indigenous responses -

1) Challenge the authority of ANZAC Day
ANZAC Day as a commemoration remembers the sacrifices of Australian men and women in Australian wars since World War 1. It is a recognition of those who "wore a uniform" in official battles. From an Indigenous perspective, this day is flawed as it fails to acknowledge the thousands of Australians - men, women and children - who fought and lost their lives in the War that was/is Colonisation. The above National Gallery of Australia exhibition created in 1988 is a recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have died since colonisation.

2) There were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers too
This perspective acknowledges ANZAC Day but recognises that there have been Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers in every Australian conflict since Federation. These men and women fought proudly beside their comrades. That there has been little acknowledgement of the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers is linked to the third concept.

3) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers were treated as second-class citizens
This perspective is about a recognition that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers, despite their sacrifice and contribution in wars overseas, were treated as second-class citizens when they returned home. When they returned home they were subject to the same individual and systemic racism from White individuals and institutions as they were when they left.

William Cooper, Secretary of the Australian Aborigines’ League, argued in 1939
that Aborigines should not fight for White Australia. Cooper had lost his son in the First World War and was bitter that Aboriginal sacrifice had not brought any improvement in rights and conditions. He likened conditions in White-administered Aboriginal settlements to those suffered by Jews under Hitler. Cooper demanded improvements at home before taking up "‘the privilege of defending the land which was taken from him by the White race without compensation or even kindness'. Quote source
There are multiple ways of conceptualising ANZAC Day, these are just three. The key is to be considerate and understanding of these different perspectives (and the many others you will encounter) as you approach your investigations of this annual event.

Leesa Watego

Monday, March 26, 2012

Koori Radio: great for your classroom

Just had a spot of Koori Radio talking about The Critical Classroom. Talking on radio & tv isn't my thing but Lola Forester was fabulous, she even gave me some hints on exercising while blogging. 

Please make sure you check out the Gadigal Web Site and other community radio stations in your area. Community media is so important and programmes like this help to circulate information & ideas. It's the type of programme you could easily run in the background of your classroom during silent reading.

Go to the National Indigenous Radio Service for information about and links to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander radio stations. 

Leesa Watego

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top ten Indigenous resources for business studies

There has been a lot of emphasis over the last decade on the creation of vocational and educational opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and rightly so. Emphasis on inspiring and increasing access to career opportunities definitely plays a part in redressing inequity. Programmes to date have tended to focus on increasimg Indigenous students participation in apprenticeships & trades, ín sport, in education, health, the arts and law.

One area that is not discussed at great length as an option for Indigenous students is business and commerce. This may be as as a result of few visible Indigenous role models in the business arena. Lucky for young people today however, there are quite a few business role models out there.

Here are our top ten (so far) -

1) Aboriginal Business Magazine is published by Willmett Group in Brisbane. Coming out each month, it is a very reasonably price, well designed publication featuring a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in business.

2) Indigenous Business Council of Australia (IBCA) is a national body seeking to represent the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities in business.

3) Mandurah Hunter Indigenous Chamber was the first Australian Indigenous chamber of commerce. It supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business people in the Hunter region.

5) South East Queensland Indigenous Chamber of Commerce was established five years ago to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business people in South East Queensland.

6) Victorian Indigenous Business Directory by the Koori Business Network is a directory of over 100 businesses and organisations in Victoria.

7) Yulkuum Jerrang, Victorian Indigenous Economic Development Conference is a major annual conference held in Melbourne each year for the past three years. Speakers and participants from all around Australia attend.

8) Kinaway Victorian Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce is an active chamber of commerce based in Victoria.

9) Aboriginal Enterprises in Mining, Exploration and Energy Ltd (AEMEE) is a not-for-profit organisations created to support Indigenous businesses in mining and allied industries.

10) Inguides is an independent classifieds and directory created by Cairns based media company Blackvine Media for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, organisations and events.

I look forward to writing a second top ten list of business resources and organisations over the next month.

Leesa Watego

Some Aboriginal People Are More Aboriginal Than Others

Last September (2011) I attended the annual Oodgeroo Noonuccal public lecture at QUT by scholar Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson. Her lecture was titled Race Matters: Representations of Aboriginality in the Media. In it she explored the racialised history of private media in Australia, particularly it's coverage of Aboriginal Peoples and 'issues'. It was a very timely lecture given the judgement of the Pat Eatcock v Andrew Bolt case due at the time.

Last night fellow edu-tweet Luke Pearson sent out the a link to a shortened version of that paper given at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney (October) for the panel session: Some Aboriginal People Are More Aboriginal Than Others. The description for this session:
White Australia has always had a view on what makes a 'real' Aboriginal person. Andrew Bolt is the merely the latest in a long line of commentators who have put forward their views about 'black' and 'white' Aboriginals. Spread across a continent after 200 years of colonisation, Aboriginal people are diverse in a way that is at odds with media stereotypes of 'traditional' Aboriginal people living in troubled remote communities. At a crucial time for recognition and reconciliation, does 'white' or 'black' matter? Who speaks for Aboriginal people and defines who they are? 
Also on the panel was Associate Professor Bronwyn Fredericks who powerfully explored the politics of naming and identity.

When watching the lectures, take time to consider your (Indigenous or non-Indigenous) understanding of identity within Australia. Consider the ways in which you and those around you use language to define others according to criteria you decide. What is the impact of that on other people and the way they're represented?

Image below from someone on Twitter late 2011 during the post-Bolt flurry. You need to watch the video to understand the relevance of the slide below.
Leesa Watego

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Participation of Indigenous People in the 2012 Queensland Election

Last year I created a post about how to explore Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander perspectives of democracy, politics and civics in your classroom. Like other Australians, one of the ways that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can contribute to Australian democracy is by being active voters. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can also participate by standing for election.

Queensland does not have a great history of electing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with only Mr Eric Deeral representing the seat of Cook in 1974 - 1977 for the National Party.

The business of politics is not easy, but the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in all levels of government - local, state and federal, and across all the divides - left, centre and right - is something we should be aiming for in order to improve the representation of Indigenous voices and ideas.

This year's election sees three Indigenous candidates competing for the seat of Inala in Brisbane's south-west, on behalf of The Greens, the LNP and the Australia Party. Michael Quall, the Greens candidate for Inala pointed out yesterday -
Putting aside our individual politics for a moment, it's worth pausing to acknowledge how significant it is to have three Indigenous candidates running in the Inala electorate - win, lose or draw, this is a positive development for the community in this region.
I personally would like to wish all the candidates a great few weeks of campaigning.

Cheers, Leesa

The presentation below is a compilation of candidates standing for the 2012 Queensland election. They're listed in alphabetical order.

So far I only have three candidates, if you know of others please let me know. Is the information correct? Am I missing something? Please email me: lwatego [@] gmail.com

More information:
Leesa Watego

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