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"Education and Aborigines-National Aborigines Week - 1979"



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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

27/79 29 June 1979

"EDUCATION AND ABORIGINES-NATIONAL ABORIGINES WEEK - 1979"

by Stephen A l b e r t , Chairman, N a tio n a l

■ A borigines E ducation

Committee. * ( see footnote.)

This i s the t w e n t y - t h i r d y e a r in which a s p e c i a l day

f o r A b o rig in a l A u s tr a l ia n s has been o rg a n is e d . P a s to r ,

Doug N ichols (now S i r Douglas N ic h o ls) he ld the f i r s t ·'■

1 A b o rig in a l Sunday1 a t h is sm all chapel in F i t z r o y ,

Melbourne in 1957. .

His o r i g i n a l i n t e n t i o n was to p u b l i c i s e , and aim· f o r

r e c o g n i t i o n of the p rio r-o w n e rs h ip by A borigines of

A u s t r a l i a .

Today, 1 A b o rig in a l Sunday1 has become 'N a t io n a l A borigines Week' (J u l y 9-15) w ith F rid a y 15 J u l y , d e s ig n a te d N a tio n a l

A borigines Day. A N a tio n a l A borigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC) c o - o r d i n a t e s , from Melbourne, events ra n g in g from a B a ll a t the Lakeside I n t e r n a t i o n a l Hotel

in, Canberra on F r id a y , to d i s p l a y s by l o c a l schools ·

around t h i s y e a r ' s theme, "What About Our Kids?"

This a r t i c l e looks a t changes in the e d u c a ti o n a l a re a ,

and asks the q u e s tio n "where to now?". Twenty-three

ft

y e a r s a g o , f i g u r e s on A b o r i g i n e s i n t h e f o r m a l e d u c a t i o n

s y s t e m were p o o r l y k e p t and i n a c c u r a t e , and a s s e s s m e n t s *

o f t h e s i t u a t i o n were g e n e r a l l y n e g a t i v e . F o r ex ample,

Dr R u t h F i n k ? then L e c t u r e r i n A n t h r o p o l o g y a t t h e

A u s t r a l i a n S c h o o l of P a c i f i c A d m i n i s t r a t i o n , s a i d i n

1 962 a t a Summer S c h o o l i n Sydney:

. . . / 2

2

"There i s m ounting e v id e n c e to show t h a t A b o r i g i n a l

. c h i l d r e n a r e n o t d e r i v i n g much from th e s c h o o l i n g

which t h e y r e c e i v e . "

I n a d d i t i o n , th o u g h some changes had o c c u r r e d by 1957,

t h e 1948 s t a t e m e n t of one o f t h e e a r l i e s t r e s e a r c h e r s

i n t h e a r e a , P.W. Beckenham c o u ld be t a k e n as s t i l l

g e n e r a l l y t r u e :

. " I t may be s a i d s a f e l y t h a t s c a t t e r e d t h r o u g h o u t

t h e Commonwealth t h e r e a r e l a r g e numbers of

A b o r i g i n e s and a l e s s e r number of p a r t - A b o r i g i n e s

whose c h i l d r e n r e c e i v e no e d u c a t i o n w h a t e v e r from

t h e w h i t e m a s t e r s of t h e i r l a n d " , ( A u s t r a l i a n C o u n c il

o f E d u c a t i o n a l R e s e a r c h Monograph)

I n i t s d r a f t document " R a t i o n a l e , Aims and O b j e c t i v e s of

A b o r i g i n a l E d u c a t i o n " , th e r e c e n t l y formed N a t i o n a l

A b o r i g i n a l E d u c a t i o n Committee (NAEC) s t a t e d : .

. S in c e 1788 t h e A b o r i g i n e s of A u s t r a l i a have been

s u b j e c t e d i n v a r y i n g d e g r e e s to an e d u c a t i o n system

which has aimed t o r a t i o n a l i s e t h e i r d i s p o s s e s s i o n

from t h e l a n d , d e p r e c a t e t h e i r c u l t u r e and, i n g e n e r a l ,

e n d ea v o u r to make th e i n d ig e n o u s p e o p le of t h i s c o u n t r y

l o s e t h e i r own r i c h c u l t u r a l background and t h i n k , a c t

and h o ld t h e same v a l u e s as m i d d l e - c l a s s E u r o p e a n s . . .

A f t e r more t h a n 180 y e a r s o f t h i s t y p e o f e d u c a t i o n

we have now r e a c h e d a p o s i t i o n where n o n - A b o r i g i n e s

have become a', l i t t l e more aware of some of th e

problem s t h a t have been f e s t e r i n g i n th e' A b o r i g i n a l

Community. The N a t i o n a l P o v e r t y I n q u i r y R e p o rt of

1975 s t a t e s t h a t i n every c o n c e i v a b l e com parison

t h e A b o r i g i n e s and I s l a n d e r s . . . ,

*'. . s t a n d i n s t a r k c o n t r a s t to t h e g e n e r a l A u s t r a l i a n

s o c i e t y , and a l s o to o t h e r e t h n i c g roups w h e th e r

d e f i n e d on th e b a s i s of r a c e , n a t i o n a l i t y , b i r t h p l a c e ,

l a n g u a g e , o r r e l i g i o n . They p r o b a b l y have th e

h i g h e s t d e a t h r a t e , th e w o r s t h e a l t h and h o u s in g and

t h e w o r s t l e g a l s t a t u s of any i d e n t i f i a b l e s e c t i o n

of t h e A u s t r a l i a n p o p u l a t i o n .

. . . / 3

3

1 The A u s t r a l i a n S c h o o ls Commission R e p o rt 1976 a d d s : - "They a l s o have t h e l e a s t s c h o o l i n g " . 1

Has n o t h i n g t h e n been a c h i e v e d i n r e c e n t tim e s d e s p i t e

t h e g r e a t 1 i n c r e a s e i n p u b l i c a t t e n t i o n to th e p o s i t i o n

o f A b o r i g i n a l s ? F u n d in g , as r e f l e c t e d i n t h e f o l l o w i n g

f i g u r e s , has c e r t a i n l y i n c r e a s e d , b u t many q u e s t i o n the

v a r i o u s i n i t i a t i v e s and r e f e r to them as mere p a l l i a t i v e s .

In 1978, t h e l a t e s t y e a r f o r which f i g u r e s a r e a v a i l a b l e ,

15,500 A b o r i g i n a l s t u d e n t s were a s s i s t e d i n t h e i r

s e c o n d a r y s t u d i e s by a G r a n ts Scheme i n t r o d u c e d i n 1970;

4300 r e c e i v e d a s s i s t a n c e i n t h e i r p o s t - s e c o n d a r y s t u d i e s

u n d e r a Stu d y G-rants Scheme ( i n t r o d u c e d i n 1968); and

t e n a p p l i c a n t s were awarded O v e rse as Stu d y Awards i n 1978.

Some b e l a t e d r e c o g n i t i o n has been g iv en to th e u n i q u e n e s s

o f A b o r i g i n a l c u l t u r e and t h e need f o r l e a r n i n g s i t u a t i o n s

t o r e f l e c t t h i s r e c o g n i t i o n . 'Community' has become th e

b a s i s of f u n d i n g by t h e D epartment of A b o r i g i n a l A f f a i r s

i n a l l a r e a s , and i n e d u c a t i o n t h e emphasis has s h i f t e d

t o th e u se of i n d i g e n o u s t e a c h e r s and a i d e s , encouragement

o f b i l i n g u a l programs and t h e l o c a t i o n of s c h o o l s in a r e a s

w i t h which th e s t u d e n t s f e e l a f f i n i t y . In 1977, f o r example,

more t h a n 600 A b o r i g i n a l t e a c h e r - a i d s were employed in

t h e m a in la n d S t a t e s and t h e N o r t h e r n T e r r i t o r y .

The r e s u l t of t h i s s h i f t i n emphasis has been th e

encouragem ent of t h e A b o r i g i n a l p e o p le th e m s e lv e s to

d e c i d e e d u c a t i o n a l p ro g ram s. An i m p o r t a n t development

i n t h i s a r e a i s t h e HAEC a l r e a d y r e f e r r e d t o . '

This month, t h e NAEC i s h o l d i n g a N a t i o n a l Workshop f o r

A b o r i g i n a l T ea ch e rs and T e a c h e r - A id e s in Sydney, as p a r t *

o f t h e i r e n q u i r y i n t o e x i s t i n g t e a c h e r - t r a i n i n g programs

c a t e r i n g s p e c i f i c a l l y f o r A b o r i g i n e s and T o r r e s S t r a i t

I s l a n d e r s . The c o - o r d i n a t o r of t h e S t e e r i n g Committee

t o t h i s r e s e a r c h p r o j e c t i s Mr P a u l Hughes, A b o r i g i n a l

E d u c a t i o n C o n s u l t a n t from. So u th A u s t r a l i a .

. . . / 4

- 4 -

While r e - d i s c o v e r i n g t h e i r h e r i t a g e and r e n e w i n g t h e i r

l i n k s w i t h i t , A b o r i g i n a l p e o p l e a r e n o t t u r n i n g t h e i r

b a c k s on E u r o p e a n - t y p e l e a r n i n g . I n c r e a s i n g numbers

a r e c o m p l e t i n g t e c h n i c a l , u n i v e r s i t y and s p e c i a l i s t

c o u r s e s and t a k i n g t h e i r p l a c e in t h e m a n a g e r i a l and

a d m i n i s t r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e s o f s o c i e t y .

D e s p i t e t h e s e s i g n i f i c a n t g a i n s , t h e r e i s s t i l l much

t o be done i n t h e f i e l d o f e d u c a t i o n as i n o t h e r s .

P u b l i c u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h e c o m p l e x i t i e s o f t h e p r obl em

t o be s o l v e d h as n o t n e c e s s a r i l y k e p t up w i t h c h a n g e s in

p o l i c y .

The Young A b o r i g i n a l Movement h as r e c e n t l y s e n t a l e t t e r

t o t h e M i n i s t e r f o r A b o r i g i n a l A f f a i r s , Mr Chaney, s e t t i n g

o u t what i t s e e s a s t h e l i n k b e tw e e n p u b l i c e d u c a t i o n and

t h e 1 s o l i . d a r i t y , p r i d e and d i g n i t y ' o f a l l A b o r i g i n e s . '

I t has a s k e d t h a t t h r o u g h s u c h e v e n t s a s N a t i o n a l A b o r i g i n e s

Week:

1 1. F u t u r e N.A.D.O.C. f u n d i n g be i n c r e a s e d t o an

amount w h i c h i s s u f f i c i e n t f o r t h e p r e s e n t a t i o n of

a r a c e r e l a t i o n s p r o m o t i o n s pr o gr am i n v o l v i n g a l l

A u s t r a l i a n s , a b o u t t h e t r u e p o s i t i o n o f t h e i n d i g e n o u s

p e o p l e o f t h i s c o u n t r y .

2. That N a t i o n a l A b o r i g i n e s Day t h r o u g h o u t A u s t r a l i a

be d e c l a r e d a N a t i o n a l H o l i d a y f o r a l l A u s t r a l i a n s i n

r e c o g n i t i o n o f a s h a r e d A b o r i g i n a l H e r i t a g e .

3. T h at a p o s i t i o n be c r e a t e d w i t h i n t h e D e p a r t m e n t

o f A b o r i g i n a l A f f a i r s , f o r an A b o r i g i n a l p e r s o n t o

o r g a n i s e , f o r m u l a t e and imple men t a pro gr am of

a c t i v i t i e s d u r i n g e a c h N a t i o n a l A b o r i g i n e s Week.

. . . / 5

- 5 -

4 . N o t i f i c a t i o n o f f u n d s a v a i l a b l e f o r N a t i o n a l

A b o r i g i n e s Week a c t i v i t i e s , be g i v e n t o t h o s e

o r g a n i s a t i o n s c o n c e r n e d m t h e N.A .D.O.C . Committee

t

a t l e a s t s i x m o n t h s p r i o r t o J u l y .

I n c a l l i n g f o r t h e e s t a b l i s h m e n t o f a N a t i o n a l A b o r i g i n a l

E d u c a t i o n C o m m i s s i o n a n d a N a t i o n a l A b o r i g i n a l a n d T o r r e s

S t r a i t I s l a n d C o l l e g e o f A d v a n c e d E d u c a t i o n , t h e NABC i n

t h e i r d r a f t d o c u m e n t c a l l s f o r a N a t i o n a l I n q u i r y i n t o

a l l a s p e c t s o f A b o r i g i n a l e d u c a t i o n a n d f o r r e s e a r c h

i n v o l v i n g m a j o r i t y A b o r i g i n a l r e p r e s e n t a t i o n i n a r e a s

o f d e c i s i o n - m a k i n g . As Aim ( 5 ) i n i t s ' Ai ms a n d O b j e c t i v e s '

p a p e r ( r e f e r r e d t o a b o v e ) t h e NAEC s a y s :

' T h e e d u c a t i o n s e r v i c e s o f f e r e d t o A b o r i g i n a l p e o p l e

m u s t a i m f o r a n d b e c a p a b l e o f d e v e l o p i n g A b o r i g i n e s

who a r e a t e a s e i n t h e k n o w l e d g e o f , a n d p r i d e i n ,

t h e i r own c u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e a s w e l l a s o b t a i n i n g t h e

a c a d e m i c a n d t e c h n o l o g i c a l s k i l l s r e q u i r e d o f

A b o r i g i n a l A u s t r a l i a n s t o d a y . . . '

N a t i o n a l A b o r i g i n e s Week c o n t i n u e s t o b e a n i m p o r t a n t

e l e m e n t i n t h e p r o c e s s b y w h i c h t h e o r i g i n a l i n h a b i t a n t s

o f t h i s l a n d c a n r e c a p t u r e t h e i r h e r i t a g e a n d t h u s f u l f i l

t h e i r r o l e i n s o c i e t y . '

F o o t n o t e s

* The N a t i o n a l A b o r i g i n e s ■ E d u c a t i o n C o m m i t t e e was f o r m e d

i n 1977 t o a d v i s e The F e d e r a l G o v e r n m e n t , t o l i a i s e w i t h

o r g a n i s a t i o n s i n v o l v e d i n t h e e d u c a t i o n o f a n d a b o u t

A b o r i g i n a l A u s t r a l i a n s a n d t o e n c o u r a g e A b o r i g i n a l s t o

i n v o l v e t h e m s e l v e s i n e d u c a t i o n p o l i c y - m a k i n g .

E n q u i r i e s : Bob J a m e s , D e p a r t m e n t o f E d u c a t i o n , 0 6 2 / 8 9 7 3 1 5