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Incorporating Indigenous perspective into teaching practice - Christian College

Icon APST Professional Knowledge

Engaged students in learning
Nick Hogan – Teacher, Grade One
Christian College, Surf Coast Campus

Schools and early childhood services across Victoria continue to provide quality learning experiences across all levels. The VIT’s Professional Practice team is privileged to see this work first hand on visits to workplaces around the State. Here is just one example spotlighting the great work happening in a Victorian school.

Nick Hogan is a grade one teacher at Christian College along Victoria’s surf coast. We spoke to Nick about his passion for Indigenous education and how he incorporates this into his teaching practice to engage students in learning.

We also spoke with Angela Tutty, Director of Teaching and Learning at Christian College, who provided insight into the school’s commitment to Indigenous education in the curriculum.

Q: Can you give some background to the development of your approach to the initiative including any research or established models / strategies that your approach is based upon?

At Christian College, it is our strong belief that incorporating an Indigenous perspective across many areas of our curriculum and acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we are on is particularly important. We are extremely lucky that our campus is in Torquay, and we are on the land of the Wadawurrung.

More than 18 months ago, the College formed a Committee for Indigenous Understanding to raise awareness of our First Nations Peoples in our community and the need for truth telling in our classrooms. The Committee’s objective was to ensure we were not tokenistic, but instead authentic, about reconciliation.

Throughout this year, the grade one students have investigated how to develop our own respect and knowledge about our local area, and show an appreciation for the First People of this area.

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During Literacy lessons, Indigenous texts were used as our weekly mentor texts. We read the text together, unpacked the language, vocabulary and the message, and wondered about the illustrations. To develop a greater understanding of the language, we used the Wadawurrung language app to assist in translating the words used.

Indigenous perspectives are also a part of learning in other areas of the curriculum, such as Integrated Studies and Christian Education. Because we are a Christian school, each term focuses on a different area of faith; this term we focused on creation.

This was the perfect opportunity to look at the Indigenous creation story of the Wadawurrung peoples. We read stories and watched videos of Bunjil the Creator, and the students created a piece of art depicting their imagery about creation using colour and texture.

During Integrated Studies, students were fortunate to frequently visit Spring Creek Reserve, where discussions were centred around how the land was used, cared for and treated by the First Nation Peoples. Our students also spent time recording changes to the landscape during the different seasons and discussed how seasonal changes would have affected the First Nations People when living in the area.

Since the Committee was formed, the College has seen positive change and real conversations happen regarding Indigenous education in our community.

Q: What structural things are in place to ensure that the initiative has its best chance at success?

Each year, our students take part in school camp and the destinations are chosen to incorporate an Indigenous perspective into the experience.

This year our Year 1 students went to Anglesea and met a group of local Indigenous people who spent time building on their prior knowledge of what it was like to live in the area as a First Nations People.

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The experience helped further develop their Indigenous understanding through the introduction of different types of bush tucker, exploring local animals and painting Indigenous symbols using paint made from rocks in the area.

On the Surf Coast, we are fortunate to frequently access a well-resourced Indigenous centre called Narana, where our students can learn from locals who have a deeper appreciation for our local area.

The leading teachers at the College regularly aid our knowledge, and encourage us to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum and our teaching practice. My mentor is enthusiastic and passionate about Indigenous culture, and is a part of the team that leads our College in understanding our First Nations Peoples.

Q: What are the greatest benefits to staff development of this approach?

Through the work of the Committee, staff benefit from a better understanding, appreciation and overall knowledge of what is appropriate and not appropriate when instructing our students.

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Staff discovered it was okay to say they were unsure or afraid of making mistakes. As teachers, we want to make sure that what we are teaching is respectful and honouring to our First Nation People.

We have learnt, and are continuing to learn, so much about how to teach various aspects of the Indigenous culture, while acknowledging that it is not our culture, but that of our First Nations Peoples.

Q: What have been the benefits of this approach to learner outcomes?

Our students have learnt more about Indigenous culture and gained a greater consideration and respect of our First Nations People. They have a greater understanding of the different perspectives that are prevalent today.

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Students are also growing an appreciation for our local area and a deeper respect for the local Indigenous culture.

They can question and wonder about different areas of learning, such as the creation story. A frequently asked question while teaching the creation story was “if God created the universe, how did Bunjil create it too?” Their answers were reflective and thoughtful, and they came to the conclusion that maybe God and Bunjil worked together to create the beautiful world that we live in today.

Q: What plans does your workplace have to take this approach forward?

The Committee ran for 18 months, with each member focussing on a different project depending on their job within the school. The Committee celebrated many achievements including

  • implementing Acknowledgement of Country
  • applying for grants to install flag poles to fly all three flags
  • implementing staff professional development by Australians Together
  • commencing a curriculum audit to investigate where First Nations Australia is not being taught
  • developing new curriculum that teaches the truth telling of First Nations history and a variety of perspectives in core subjects
  • displaying Wadawurrung language in junior and middle year classrooms
  • displaying AIATSIS language maps in the library and in prep - year nine homeroom classes
  • compiling a wakelet of digital resources to form part of a resource bank for staff
  • compiling devotion resources for staff to use at all levels
  • encouraging Highton library to implement a Wadawurrung word of the week
  • adding to the range of First Nations books in the library
  • removing all inappropriate books from the library.

Earlier this year, the College formed a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) working party consisting of 12 members, of which four are First Nations Peoples, including an advisor, a parent, two board members, our principal, three students and four staff.

The RAP working party required stakeholders from more sections of our community, so this group took precedence over the Committee. The Committee no longer meets as a group, but provides a support network for the RAP and is the advocate for our First Nations voices on each campus.

The RAP priorities focus on celebration days and the curriculum, and through this work, a celebration days sub-group and curriculum sub-group have been formed. The staff have also just completed a cultural competency workshop with Shelley Ware.

Our work in incorporating Indigenous perspective in the curriculum and teaching practice now runs through the RAP and Reconciliation Australia.

Q: Can you detail any references or citations applicable?

  • Wadawurrung language app - an introduction to the Wadawurrung language of region that encompasses Geelong and Ballarat areas of Victoria, Australia.
  • Narana - a not-for-profit organisation which provides an educational and tourism focussed destination committed to offering a welcoming introduction to today's’ Indigenous culture.
  • Australians Together - courses designed for individuals and groups to help build the confidence of teachers
  • Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies - Australia's only national institution focused exclusively on the diverse history, culture and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia
  • Reconciliation Australia - Reconciliation Australia is the lead body for reconciliation in Australia. We inspire and build relationships, respect and trust between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.
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Do you have an example of outstanding work in your school or early childhood service? We’d like to consider showcasing it the Excellence in Teaching section of our website. Send your example and contact details to vitcomms@vit.vic.edu.au.

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