‘Curriculum as Knowledge System: Indigenous Knowledge in the Warlpiri schools’

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Presenter:  Dr Samantha Disbray, Senior Research Fellow-CRC REP – Education Systems in Remote Australia, Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University

Date: Aug 07, 2014

Time: 2:00pm to 3:30pm

Contact person:  Belinda Snell
T: 08 8946 6153
E: belinda.snell@cdu.edu.au

Location:  Yellow Building 1, Level 2, Room 48 (Red Room), Northern Institute , Charles Darwin University - Casuarina Campus

Target audience:  All Welcome

samantha-disbray‘Curriculum as Knowledge System: Indigenous Knowledge in the Warlpiri schools’

Dr Samantha Disbray

Senior Research Fellow

CRC REP – Education Systems in Remote Australia

Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University


Indigenous knowledge has been incorporated in programs in remote schools in a range of ways; through the use of local pedagogy, first language instruction and vernacular literacy, and teaching cultural knowledge, such as kinship, land tenure and ecological knowledge, in particular recently, in Caring for Country type initiatives (Fogarty, 2013). In the Northern Territory Curriculum Framework (NTCF), Indigenous Language and Culture was included as a Learning Area, and an Australian Languages framework is drafted as part of the new National Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, 2013; Northern Territory Department of Education and Training, 2002). In some regions, educators and community members worked to formalise local cultural content and pedagogy, creating programs such as the Galtha Rom and Ganma created at Yirrkala School and Dhanarangala Murrurinydji Gaywanagal, later Gattjirrk at Milingimbi School (Marika, 1998; Marika-Munggiritji & Christie, 1995; Ngurruwutthun, 1991). In the Warlpiri schools in central Australia educators developed the Warlpiri theme cycle.

This presentation describes the development, content and goals of the Warlpiri theme cycle. The theme cycle reflects a local knowledge system at various levels: in its taxonomy and structure, and also in the practices of intergenerational knowledge transmission and transformation that educators, community members and students engage in, in and out of classrooms. However, with changes to education policy and the cessation of bilingual education program in the Warlpiri schools, the role of the theme cycle has shifted. Warlpiri educators are looking at new ways to maintain and to promote Warlpiri teaching and learning, through partnerships with organisations outside of schools, and also through the adoption of digital technologies. One means of achieving this is the development of an electronic database to store materials. Drawing on discussions of ‘place-based pedagogy’ (Fogarty & Schwab, 2012) and ‘Red Dirt Curriculum’ (Osborne, 2013), these new opportunities are explored in this presentation.


Samantha Disbray is an education researcher and linguist based in Alice Springs. She is working on the CRC for Remote Economic Development – Education Systems in Remote Australia project. For this project, she is working within a team to research aspirations and innovative models for education delivery across remote Australia. With extensive experience working in the Warlpiri communities in Central Australia and long-standing professional relationships with Warlpiri educators, she is focussing on these sites.

RSVP Tuesday 5 August via Outlook or alternatively by email to thenortherninstitute@cdu.edu.au