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30 October 2020

First Nations views on tackling racism and bias in education

Deakin’s Inclusive Education Community of Practice and the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Innovation hosted a panel discussion that shared First Nations views on tackling racism and bias in learning and teaching. More than 100 Deakin staff came together via Zoom to learn effective ways to address these issues, moderated by Professor Mark Rose, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Strategy and Innovation, with a panel of Wadawarrung regional educational leaders. 

The panel addressed the uncomfortable subject of whether racism exists in Australia, and in our education system, with a ‘truth-telling’ but ultimately positive approach. The statistics speak for themselves: 432 Aboriginal deaths in custody since 1991, a suicide rate twice that of non-Aboriginal Australians, and surveys showing widespread negative bias towards Aboriginal Australians. The panellists also shared moving personal stories of the long-term human impact of racism, not least by teachers in schools. 

With only 2% of school teachers in Australia being Aboriginal, panellists reasoned the wider non-Aboriginal community needed to work with Aboriginal people to achieve significant change. They urged teachers to go beyond a symbolic, ‘cultural Contiki tour’ approach to Aboriginal history and culture to educate themselves more deeply about our shared Australian history, build relationships with community members, reflect on assumptions and bias, and engage in difficult conversations to tackle racism when issues arose. 

The panel emphasised the importance of taking a systemic approach to developing students’ (and teachers’) knowledge and respect for Aboriginal history and culture, including embedding this knowledge in curriculum. The panellists have been doing this work for some time in regional schools, and have shared some links to useful resources on the event page on the Inclusive Education Community of Practice website. 

Professor Rose outlined the program being undertaken by the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Innovation at Deakin, in partnership with local Aboriginal elders, to embed Australian Indigenous Knowledge and perspectives in curriculum throughout the University. Deakin staff can visit the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Innovation SharePoint site or contact Tom Molyneux, Indigenous Inclusion Coordinator, for more information. 

View the recording of the First Nations views on tackling racism and bias in learning and teaching panel event on the Inclusive Education Community of Practice web page.  

The panellists are: 

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