The significance of engaging with Indigenous histories and cultures in the curriculum will be the main focus of my keynote address at Inclusive Teaching Forum on Tuesday 12 April. I will highlight the benefits to students of embedding Indigenous Knowledges in the curriculum and more generally the importance of inclusive educational practices in the classroom.

The engagement of Indigenous histories and cultures have become more prominent in Australian society over recent decades. The oldest living continuous sustainable culture needs to be promoted and integrated in Australian society and the very unique position it has within the Australian identity. Through building your understanding of Indigenous Knowledges, you will not only embrace a more inclusive approach to teaching for Indigenous students, but you will also inform all students about the richness of Indigenous culture. 

Culture is a feature of all peoples and important aspect of our lives. Fortunately for us, we live in a multicultural society and have the opportunity to celebrate diverse and rich cultural histories in our communities. Your own cultural understandings allow you to view the world from your unique personal perspective that is built from your life experiences. Decisions that you make will always pass through your own personal lens. This includes your cultural understandings encompassing your beliefs, behaviours, attitudes, and practices that are developed from your personal experiences.

When trying to present a more informed understanding of Indigenous society there is a need to engage with the Indigenous community. Indigenous peoples are part of a dignified culture with the understanding that knowledge can be shared when a trusting relationship has been developed. This is more than a one-off request for help but the development of reciprocal relationship where all parties benefit from that relationship. The importance of this type of relationship is to allow for Indigenous Knowledges to be shared from an authentic source and at a much deeper level. This can be done in a number of ways. These include story-telling, re-telling of a lived experience from an Indigenous standpoint or building of an understanding where Indigenous Knowledges are positioned at the centre of the discussion. From my experience I believe Indigenous communities will generously participate in aspects of knowledge sharing and sharing these deep knowledges will benefit students and our communities.

What are the benefits of introducing Indigenous Knowledges into your units? Through embedding Indigenous Knowledges into your curriculum, you will invite Indigenous students into your content, and inform all students of how these perspectives can benefit their experience as well as their future careers. Through allowing your students to discuss Indigenous Knowledges within classes, this will allow them to see how this content complements and aligns with the objectives of your unit. Students will be able to consider new perspectives and build knowledge within their discipline. Allowing students to see Indigenous course content also provides an opportunity to raise awareness of issues facing Indigenous communities. Students will then have the knowledge in their future careers when working with aspects of Indigenous society.  Students will be able to see that there are multiple views and that these issues can be examined from other perspectives.  Students will be able to formulate ideas and hopefully contribute solutions that will benefit the wider community.

Many culturally diverse communities have come to recognise that not all professional standards are inclusive within the wider Australian community. MQ has demonstrated that it values diversity and inclusion and is working at improving services to support our diverse student population.  By being more inclusive in our curriculum and teaching, will also allow students to see themselves supported and represented. This may allow them to build their confidence and professional growth to further support their own personal development and future careers.  

Many more perspectives on how we can be more inclusive in our teaching and curriculum will be examined at the Inclusive Teaching Forum on Tuesday, 12 April.

Dr Michael Donovan is a member of the Gumbaynggirr Nation and Academic Director, Indigenous Education, School of Education, Macquarie University. He has been involved in Aboriginal education since 1992, working from schools through to university. He has lectured across a wide variety of Indigenous Studies topics and is currently focussed on strategic directions for embedding Indigenous Knowledges at Macquarie University. He is a Life Member of the NSW AECG and has been a community elected board member on various NSW Aboriginal organisations.  

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