Educating ourselves about the histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of cultural diversity and why it plays such a big part in our lives.
Inclusion is a fundamental requirement for positive communication, and it starts with a learning—and often unlearning—process.
Aboriginal Cultural Education in the National Curriculum
One of the challenges for Australian educators is that many adults attended school when Indigenous history was excluded from the curriculum—skipping over a story that makes up 50,000 years of heritage.
There may be conflicting political opinions about the content of the national history curriculum, but the reality is that no education is complete without understanding the very beginnings of our communities.
Colonial mythologies abound, creating an alternate version of Australian histories that are not factually correct or respectful of the truth.Tackling these misconceptions is vital to a healthy, engaged, and inclusive Australia. Perpetuated myths produce a vast array of harmful attitudes, prompting racist stereotyping and discrimination.
Marginalising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is damaging to every aspect of our society and disassociates Indigenous Australian citizens from the national identity.
Cultural Awareness Learning as a Pathway to True Reconciliation
There are considerable benefits to embracing learning and striving towards reconciliation for future generations.
Deconstructing stereotypes about the human past of our country may be challenging, but is essential to fostering a greater appreciation for the achievements and unique cultures of First Nations peoples.
Even a cursory glance at global history tells us that empathy for others, regardless of cultural differences, is one of the most meaningful skills we can have.
This learning process offers:
Harmony through diversity, engaging with the rich contributions Aboriginal peoples have made to our society and economy.
- Effective communication, knowledge of disrespectful phrases often embedded in general parlance, and improving confidence and positive outcomes of dialogues.
- Apprehending the legal and political issues related to land claims, rights, titles, and treaties, and what each of these elements means to local communities.
- Consideration of cultural protocols, contrasts, and belief systems—particularly essential for businesses, organisations, and public sector bodies.
- Opportunities to work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, forming recognised leadership roles, and better meeting the needs of the families and individuals we work with.
The first step towards achieving these objectives is to build awareness of values and traditions, and address learning gaps in knowledge of Australian history.
Uncovering Cultures Invisible to the Mainstream
Culture is a somewhat new idea for many of us, particularly for Australian citizens who haven’t needed to challenge their worldview or recognise the significance of respect and compassion.
There are five interconnected elements of the Indigenous culture that feed into many of the ways we dress, celebrate, eat, and converse today:
Grasping the intricacy of the crossovers between these elements enables us to acknowledge the severe damage of colonisation and ensure communities are reconnected with the culture around them.
A lack of inclusion can impact everything from life expectancy to a sense of identity; from career opportunities to the feeling of belonging within a society.
Regardless of our own heritage or cultures, these five factors play a more crucial role in shaping our lives than we may know.
Identifying our own approaches and differences is a building block to start better relating to one another in every way.
The Values of Empathy and Understanding
It isn’t easy to genuinely relate to another person if we know little about their culture.
If Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians are to forge a better future, everybody must learn about Indigenous culture and become more aware of their own.
Celebrating cultures in mainstream society and valuing them helps us recognize Australian cultural history and comprehend the rich legacy of all who came before.
The benefits are profound—strengthening national identity and character, dispelling myths and misunderstandings, and refusing to accept a future that perpetuates disadvantage.