Department of Education

Aboriginal Education

Aboriginal Education

Cultural awareness

Cultural awareness

An appreciation of cultural differences and similarities will assist teachers in building their relationships with AIEOs. Teachers have stated that:

  • Aboriginal perspectives and ways of interacting can differ from the mainstream; and
  • [Teachers need] understanding of Indigenous culture and how to relate effectively to Aboriginal students/parents.

As AIEOs develop knowledge of the individual students in the school, they will become aware of issues that might be impacting on their learning and attendance. This knowledge can be shared with the teacher, where appropriate.

Not every AIEO is an expert on all aspects of Aboriginal culture but an openness to listen to the AIEO will assist in avoiding obvious mistakes when interacting with Aboriginal people. The AIEO can assist teachers to gain an understanding of local Aboriginal history, language groups, family groups in the area and culturally appropriate behaviour when meeting and working with Aboriginal people. They can also inform teachers about special considerations in remote communities such as which places can be visited and what cultural practices must be followed. These can vary from community to community. Aboriginal people will appreciate the interest and the fact that the teacher is trying to learn about and understand the culture.

It is helpful to seek feedback from the AIEO and be ready to learn when the AIEO points out something that might be inappropriate or language that may not be understood by the Aboriginal students or parents. The AIEO may also be able to assist teachers in understanding some of the differences and the similarities in the ways Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children learn. Teachers indicate that the AIEOs provide:

  • a knowledge of how Indigenous people learn, their 'stories’
  • an understanding of Aboriginal learning styles
  • how Indigenous students learn and are motivated to learn

It is essential that teachers participate in cultural awareness training to assist in building their relationships with AIEOs. Developing cultural competency can be as simple as making an effort to get out into the community, talking to Aboriginal parents and getting to know families, as well as the local Aboriginal community groups. The AIEO can assist with this process but teachers will need to make time to build a relationship with the AIEO.

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Building relationships with the Aboriginal community

AIEOs play an important role in promoting links between the school and the community. By helping teachers to understand local Aboriginal cultures and backgrounds, AIEOs contribute to better relationships with the community and provide schools with cultural direction.

Many principals find that relationships between their schools and communities are enhanced by the activities of the AIEOs, in particular by:

  • establishing and maintaining contact with families;
  • encouraging students to attend to school;
  • supporting parents who might be uncomfortable in schools; and
  • sustaining good relationships with teachers.

It is important that teachers build their own relationships with Aboriginal parents and the community, as well as with the AIEO. The AIEO in the school should not be the only person with links to the Aboriginal community. Some ways to build relationships with the Aboriginal community include:

  • learning about the Aboriginal history of the community;
  • making time to develop relationships with parents and caregivers;
  • participating in cultural awareness provided by Aboriginal people locally and within the region;
  • attending community events such as NAIDOC Week activities;
  • participating in school network meetings such as the school and community partnerships working groups; and
  • becoming informed about contemporary Aboriginal culture – attending events such as Aboriginal film festivals, theatre, art exhibitions.

AIEOs can provide other suggestions for cross-cultural activities and advise about the key people in the community.

Cultural awareness

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