Date of Award
Master of Education (Research)
School of Education
Faculty of Education and Arts
Associate Professor Jan Gray
Dr Matt Byrne
Many misconceptions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders stem from Australia’s period of colonisation in the 18th and 19th centuries when Indigenous people were believed to be inferior by European settlers. It is disturbing that after 200 years these negative ideas still exist and are often perpetuated through the mass media. Even though schools are well positioned to challenge these colonial values; unfortunately there are many factors which affect the depth and quality of teaching Aboriginal content, such as culture, history and contemporary issues.
The government has aimed to disperse the inconsistencies associated with teaching Aboriginal perspectives by implementing a new Australian Curriculum with prescribed Aboriginal content. However, these changes will only have an impact if teachers are equipped and motivated to implement them. Therefore, understanding what influences teachers’ choice of content and approach to teaching Aboriginal Studies was a key aspect of this study. To explore these influences, non-Aboriginal teachers were interviewed at both government and independent schools. A desktop audit analysing the courses at Western Australian universities placed the participants’ responses into context of the pre-service and in-service learning available. An audit of the Australian Curriculum explored the expectations placed on teachers and the depth to which Aboriginal perspectives can be taught or avoided in secondary schools.
This study identified four key issues that affected the teaching of Aboriginal curriculum content by non-Aboriginal teachers. These factors are: time management, school culture, teacher interest and preconceived ideas of both teachers and students. These issues must be addressed in order to improve the quality teaching of Aboriginal perspectives by standardising in-service learning and pre-service learning. Furthermore, improving cultural competency and acknowledging Aboriginal culture is critical at every school, regardless of the number of Aboriginal students. This study also revealed that the presence of an Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer could have a big impact in providing support, information and an Aboriginal presence at the school. Without these changes it will be difficult to disperse colonial values and challenge negative stereotypes
Booth, S. (2014). Teaching Aboriginal curriculum content in Australian high schools. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/1522