Issue 9
Monday, 19 June 2017
Charles Darwin University
Dr Lisa Hall
Dr Lisa Hall

Stories light way forward for bush teachers

By Patrick Nelson

The personal stories of seven teachers from remote Central Australian schools have formed the basis of a PhD thesis analysing what may be done to create pathways for future Indigenous teachers.

Dr Lisa Hall said the stories gave her a strong sense of what had helped, and what had hindered the seven teachers in their careers.

“The purpose was to explore why so few young Indigenous people from remote communities in Central Australia complete a teacher educator pathway,” Dr Hall said.

She said one of the barriers was the selection process and criteria for who was eligible to become a teacher. 

“The insistence on ‘sameness’ can often act as an exclusionary mechanism to aspiring Indigenous teachers, especially those who speak their own language,” she said.

“Similarly there is an imbalance of power between the Western knowledge embedded in the education systems and Indigenous knowledges, which creates additional barriers that need redress.”

Dr Hall said she was optimistic that young Central Australians in remote Indigenous communities would pursue teaching careers in the future, but argued that “the system” needed to move beyond the “colonial default position within Australian education”.

“This would involve finding ways of identifying and calling out the assimilationist practices still embedded in our policies,” she said. “And it would involve working with local communities to develop teacher education programs that integrate national standards, guidelines and the curriculum with the life of those communities.”

Dr Hall said a “post-colonial knowledge space” would be a challenge for a teacher education system that is strongly entrenched in notions of linear time and segregated knowledge.

“It would require a commitment to come together in good faith to build symbiotic relationships, to allow time, to engage the local context and to welcome difference.”

Dr Hall emphasised the importance of Indigenous teachers in remote schools.

“They share identity, language, culture and practices that give them unique insights about how best to teach students from their home communities,” she said.