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How to respectfully embed First Nations perspectives into your teaching programs.

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Today, I would like to acknowledge the Yuggera people as the Traditional Custodians of the beautiful land I am standing on today. From the mountains to the river, I open my heart and my eyes as I walk this land, listening, learning and caring for Country. I want to extend this respect to Elders; past, present and emerging and to all First Nations peoples listening or reading this post today. We are all remembered here.

* Please know that this post is not sponsored. Each blog post is based on my own experiences, opinions, and what I have been taught, and does not represent all First Nations peoples. Connecting with your local First Nations Community is always the most respectful way for you to embed First Nations content specific to your area.

"How do I respectfully embed First Nations perspectives into my teaching program?" seems to be a question that a lot of Australian teachers ask and want more clarity on. So, the aim of today's post is to share with you a few quality resources that I have found over the years to answer this question.

Some of you may know of the incredible Reconciliation NSW; a not - for - profit organisation with the vision to "create a reconciled, just and equitable community for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians in NSW." Reconciliation NSW; Support, Educate and Inspire Australian businesses, schools, and people as a whole, all around the country, to actively engage in reconciliation.

Today, I want to share with you just one page from the highly educational Reconciliation NSW website, however, I really do encourage you to look beyond this page and discover all of the quality teaching resources that Reconciliation NSW have to offer.

Now, I just want to point out that this is obviously a NSW document and because of this, it does relate directly to NSW, however in saying that, this is an absolutely INCREDIBLE resource and I think, a great starting point for teachers. As always, connecting with your local First Nations Community is always the most respectful way for you to embed First Nations content specific to your area.

Alright, so here it is... let's 'Walk The Talk' with the NSW Reconciliation's page on 'Culturally Competent Teaching'.

The NSW Reconciliation's 'Culturally Competent Teaching' resource is just so thorough and clear, and acts a fantastic guide for teachers who are just beginning their journey of embedding First Nations perspectives into their daily teaching. I will not be discussing all of the information in this incredible guide, because I think it is really important that you go and read it in full for yourself. Today, I will simply be quoting some of the areas that I think would be great for further reading.

Alright... so lets get into it!

First and foremost:

"Please do speak with, and actively listen to, local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations if you are unsure if a resource or prospective classroom activity is appropriate, and seek their advice around which resources and learning experiences would be most relevant and meaningful to your local context."

I really wanted to share this quote with you at the beginning of this post because for me, connecting with Community is the most respectful way of delivering quality teaching programs that celebrate and embrace First Nations people, cultures, languages and histories. It adds so much value for our students, us as teachers and the school community at large but also demonstrates the school's and the teacher's commitment to reconciliation and shows respect towards Elders and Community and the knowledge kept by First Nations peoples from the land on which your school is on.

AITSL has a good short clip, which also identifies the importance of connecting with Community and links to the specific Teaching Standards for related to Culturally competent teaching. To see these Teaching Standards in more detail I will include the link to the AITSL website here.

© 2021 the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Limited (AITSL). The Content was created by AITSL. AITSL was formed to provide national leadership for the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments in promoting excellence in the profession of teaching and school leadership with funding provided by the Australian Government.

"Unless relevant permissions have been obtained, discourage students from copying or using Aboriginal signs or symbols in their own art-making."

The reason I think this quote is so valuable and is a great lead-in for further reading for teachers, is because, I have noticed some confusion around the teaching of First Nations art and I think this quote and the Reconciliation NSW - 'Culturally Competent Teaching' guide sets a very clear standard for culturally competent teaching, especially within creative and visual arts.

For teachers, children's books are a great way to embed First Nations perspectives and the illustrations are such a special teaching tool in and of themselves. One way that I like to personally teach students how to create their own artwork based around the book and the illustrations of the book, is to come from a place of common ground. Identifying how and why the illustrator came to creating their artwork and working from there. I find this approach works really well not just with First Nations art but with all artworks and illustrations, because not only do you end up having really good discussions and conversations with your students about how and why the artist came to feeling drawn to create their artwork but this also gives students a really great lead-in for creating their own artwork, that represents something that is true to them and respects the artist and the laws associated with the artwork.

"Wherever possible employ Aboriginal artists and local community members, to work with the students in the classroom."

This would have to be one of my favourite quotes from the Reconciliation NSW - 'Culturally Competent Teaching' guide. I truly adore this quote because in my opinion, this is the most genuine and should be a school's and a teacher's starting point for embedding First Nations perspectives into your teaching.

One of my most favourite parts of teaching is working with the wider community to give my students a true understanding of what life outside of school is like, how school is preparing them for life, and celebrating the gifts, talents and knowledge that our wider community hold. Our parents and Community have a wide range of skills and talents that are just waiting to be shared with our students and it gives them such pride when their family are a part of this teaching and learning.

I remember when I was working at the high school, we created a program where families and Community would come into the school to do a workshop with the students. They would share their knowledge with our students and their children through a range of different workshops based on their skills and knowledge. This really empowered our students and brought the community together, through education and we could really see changes in the students because they knew that they belonged and their families knew that they belonged and that we valued their knowledge and experience as Community members and Elders.

Underneath this, I have included a reasonably short clip from Reconciliation Australia, which I think, really embodies the essence of the Reconciliation NSW quote and I wanted to share it with you to highlight and give an example of what other schools have done and their experiences with employing Aboriginal Community members and Elders, and the positive impact this has had on their students, their own teaching and learning, and the school community at large.

© 2021 Reconciliation Australia.

The last quote I would like to share for further reading with you today from the 'Culturally Competent Teaching' resource by Reconciliation NSW is;

"If in doubt, consult with Aboriginal people/advisors in your local community"

Unfortunately, you might see quite a few resources out there that are labelled as First Nations teaching resources, Aboriginal teaching resources or Indigenous teaching resources, even though they may not have been made by or in consultation with First Nations people. This makes it very difficult for teachers to decipher what resources you should use in the classroom and also invest your money in. Which is a real shame because not only is this incredibly confusing for teachers to embed First Nations perspectives in your teaching but these resources are incredibly disrespectful.

So, how do you know which First Nations resources you should use in your classroom and your teaching?

Just like we have read in the Reconciliation NSW 'Culturally Competent Teaching' guide "If in doubt, consult with Aboriginal people/ advisors in your local Community".

In the near future, I am hoping to collate and share with you all some of the resources I have gathered over the years on building strong relationships and working with Community but for the meantime, I would really like to encourage you and your school begin this journey of working with your local First Nations community to respectfully embed First Nations perspectives in a way that naturally compliments your students and every day classroom activities.

If you are able to build these strong relationships; schools, teachers, classes, students and your local First Nations Community can all work together to create a wide range of teaching resources that are specific to your area and hold far more meaning than any printed worksheet from the internet. These resources may take a little more time to create than a quick download, but by working with Elders and Community in your local area to create these extremely meaningful school based resources, you are creating a learning environment for your students that celebrates First Nations peoples, cultures, histories and languages in the most respectful way and shows respect to the knowledge and gifts of First Nations people in your local area.

I really hope that today's post has shared some resources, new ideas and knowledge that will be helpful to your teaching and has made embedding First Nations perspectives into your daily teaching a little bit easier.

Please remember to head over to the Reconciliation NSW page on 'Culturally Competent Teaching' to read the full guide and search around their incredible website to learn and answer a tonne of questions you might be asking yourself.

A massive thank you to Reconciliation NSW, Reconciliation Australia and AITSL for creating and sharing your incredible work with us all! I am personally so grateful for your time and dedication to creating such positive resources for teachers. Thank you!

I love seeing and sharing all of the new First Nations resources that are coming out, so if you know and use a great First Nations website or resource that I haven't mentioned or featured in a blog post before, then I would love for you to send it through to my email so I can share it with everyone else.

On the flip side, if you are a First Nations business or organisation who is interested in being featured on my blog please pop over to my contact page and send me an email, I would love to hear from you.

If you found today's post useful, please like this post and share it with your colleagues and I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below on what areas of embedding First Nations perspectives this post helped you with and what parts of the Reconciliation NSW page on 'Culturally Competent Teaching' were most interesting and helpful to you.

Remember, to keep up to date with all of the new and exciting First Nations teaching resources, books and freebies I want to share with you, don't forget to join the Community email at the bottom of this page to get these updates sent straight to your email.Finally

I have loved sharing these resources with you today and as always... Happy embedding!


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