Indigenous Teacher Education Initiative: Shared Conceptualisation Leading to Social Justice and Social Capital in Remote Australian Aboriginal Communities

By Marguerite Maher.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Northern Territory (NT) of Australia is home to 80 different Aboriginal cultural groups; 40 different Indigenous languages are still spoken as a first language. Aboriginal children make up 40 per cent of the school aged population of the NT by comparison with 4 per cent nationally; by 2014 they will make up 50 per cent. These children perform poorly on National testing scales and, as a consequence of the remoteness of their communities, it is extremely difficult to recruit and retain teachers. This results in a lack of continuity in education for these children who are most at risk of failing. Against that backdrop, this paper describes the "Growing Our Own" Indigenous teacher education initiative currently being undertaken by Charles Darwin University in partnership with remote Aboriginal communities to reverse these trends. This project aims to empower Indigenous Assistant Teachers to join culturally relevant ways of being, knowing and doing with contemporary curriculum and pedagogical knowledge as they complete their teacher education, in situ, and to empower non-Indigenous Mentor Teachers to understand culturally relevant Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing and infuse these with contemporary curriculum and pedagogical knowledge to strengthen opportunities for children’s learning. Achievements in this endeavour resulting in increased social capital within communities, are reported. Since the traditional Western conceptualisation of a teacher has previously not worked for children in remote Aboriginal communities, an interesting aspect of the current initiative is the co-construction with students and community of what characteristics would comprise a successful teacher in that context.

Keywords: Indigenous, Aboriginal Australian, Teacher Education, Social Capital, Social Justice, Remote Communities

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.357-366. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 648.827KB).

Dr. Marguerite Maher

Associate Professor of Education, School of Education, Faculty of Education Health and Science, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Dr Marguerite Maher is Associate Professor of Education at Charles Darwin University (CDU), Northern Territory (NT), Australia. She has taught at both primary and secondary level, and she has been involved in teacher education for the past ten years. Her work has always had a social justice focus within the education arena: her Masters research was with Maori and Pasifika children and their families in New Zealand, her PhD research with Zulu people in South Africa, and now she is leading the “Growing Our Own” Indigenous teacher education pilot in a partnehrship between CDU, the Catholic Education Office of the NT, and six remote Aboriginal communities in the NT of Australia.


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