Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Call for more Indigenous Culture on University Campus

The road to hell is paved with good intentions...
An SRC election candidate at Sydney university is proposing an 'Indigenous Education' program. Basically the candidate is undertaking to bring groups of Indigenous primary school students from remote Indigenous communities to Sydney University and put them through an intensive education course. There are number of fundemental problems with this concept that I will outline from my perspective.
Firstly this will be run by non-professional volunteer students, no teachers or specialist in the field will be running this 'intensive education' program. Volunteers are apparantly good enough for the accepted level of standards of Indigenous Australian kids.

Secondly there is a focus on the need to 'make them better' and fill the assumed lack in their education abilities. This is not through a culturally relevant approach that acknowledges the rich heritige of their identity and the challenges these kids face fighting for a 'western education' within their own cultural system, but rather in the rhetoric of what indigenous people 'lack'.

The program also completely ignores the fact that other programs exists with similar aims and inititives (both within the Department of Education and independant organisations such as AIME) and has failed to approach any employees from these organisations to either build a partnership between the SRC and these firmly established programs, or even to gain expert advice.

The candidate legitimised his focus on bringing Indigenous primary school students to the university environment because from what he's "heard primary school is the best age to get in and change them". No specific evidence based research or infact any research had been conducted to support the program, other than suggesting this would be a program that the likes of Noel Pearson would endorse...

On that note, the most disgusting approach in this program remains that there has been no consultation with Indigenous communities, organisations or schools! It is assumed that these 'well educated' university students know what's best for Indigenous people.This campaign is essentially supporting paternalistic approaches towards Indigenous Australians .
It would be far more beneficial and successful to focus on educating University students on Indigenous awarness. There should be a 'intensive education' program for non-Indigenous university students to learn about Indigenous Australian history, to give them the tools to engage in social commentary today and challenge government to move towards substantiative equality rather than the idea of ‘formal equality’ by provisioning ‘special assistance’, which is useless and creates further disadvantaged through a system that fails to take diverse Indigenous Australian situations into account.

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