A groundbreaking new study hoping to embed Indigenous culture and history into Australia’s curriculum has been launched by non-profit organisation Aurora.
Redefine Indigenous Success in Education is intended to drive reform within Australia’s education system and build a pipeline of Indigenous leaders by delivering a tailored high school program.
Aurora will be working with about 1000 Indigenous students and their families for five years to understand what they want to know about the education system, how they measure success and ensure data is collected based on these prerequisites.
Aurora chief executive and Wiradjuri woman Leila Smith said the data would hopefully create a platform for Indigenous-led advocacy reform.
“Indigenous students are often put in a box where success means turning up, success means finishing Year 12,” she said.
“And we don’t collect data or measures that go beyond that.
“Policymakers mainly look at school attendance, NAPLAN results and completion rates to inform the different policies and funding models and programs for Aboriginal students.
“And they are really important but they’re not working and they’re not working on their own because they are ignoring the rich data and the knowledge in Aboriginal communities.”
RISE hopes to tailor the way Indigenous success is measured by changing the way Aboriginal history is taught in schools.
“We want to embed culture, history, language and Indigenous ways of thinking into our curriculum,” Ms Smith said.
“It’s about embedding history so that it’s not just one class, it’s not one camp, it’s not one sessions but it’s through everything.
“Because history is everywhere. It’s in people’s lives, it’s in the way that we teach and it’s in what we teach.”
Ms Smith said a downfall for Indigenous students in the current education system was the lack of space for students to discuss careers.
“The future of Indigenous students, whether they are on a tertiary pathway, or a vocational pathway, is decided for them,” she said.
“So often university is taken off the table for an Indigenous student before they even have a chance to understand the pathways and options available to them.”
Instead, the RISE program will create different spaces where Indigenous students have the opportunity to speak with Indigenous educators and leaders about their future.
Ms Smith said learning from Indigenous educators inside and out of classrooms was the secret to guiding students through the education system.
The program hopes to create culturally aware spaces in the education system for First Nations students by having culturally appropriate educators.
Ms Smith said this is how Indigenous academic outcomes could improve.
“Having Aboriginal educators, Aboriginal role models, teachers and staff is absolutely critical,” she said.
“We need Aboriginal students to have confidence in their cultural identity.
“And to have that affirmed, we need them to have all of these different pathways and career trajectories to aspire to.”
The study is ongoing and the delivery of the program will begin in the second half of this year.