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Indigenous Rights in the Classroom

Rights are essential in developing environments for children that are safe, happy, and allow them to grow up strong within their culture. Rights cover all of the things that are essential for children growing up. They include going to school and learning, playing and having fun, doing things within their culture, and having access to healthy foods and freshwater.

Education is the foundation of human development by providing opportunities and participation in society. Education has a significant impact on the future health, well-being and sociology-economic status of the individual. Education enables people to have an essential start in life. So, education has to be available without discrimination for the youth of Australia. Despite the critical need for education, Indigenous youth continue to be the most educationally disadvantaged group in Australia. While there may have been some educational achievements amongst Indigenous students, they are hardly comparable with their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Education is meant to inspire and captivate students. One critical way that education can capture us is to reflect what is known and familiar to us. A sense of familiarity can assist students educationally and build a sense of ownership and success. Some ways may include making the school culturally aware and suitable for Indigenous children or embedding Indigenous perspectives across the curriculum. Indigenous students should see themselves reflected in the school curriculum, the school culture and the school infrastructure. They need to know the educational space is designed for them, specifically by making indigenous cultural heritage a part of the schooling system. To eliminate cultural barriers means acknowledging and respecting Indigenous cultures across all educational subjects like maths, history, the arts, geography, etc.

Culture is an essential foundation for any child. It not only provides the basis for enhanced learning, but it also provides a space where children and youth can learn that respects and recognises where they came from, who they are and what they already know. As reflected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an individual’s identity, language and values should be respected. No group should be denied their own culture and the use of their language. Like many countries, Australia has not been committed to protecting its Indigenous languages. The National Indigenous Languages Survey reveals that only a third exists today of the original 300 languages, and most are endangered. There are only 20 Indigenous languages that are not yet ‘at risk’.

Safeguarding the Indigenous languages is more than just protecting traditional communication. It preserves Indigenous culture and identity. Indigenous languages carry the Indigenous culture. By keeping Indigenous languages, Indigenous belief systems, religion and spirituality, the traditional knowledge of Australia and the Indigenous kinship systems can be preserved. When language is lost, so is the knowledge, wisdom and identity of the culture. If Indigenous languages are to survive, they must be taught through the formal education systems and the commitment from Indigenous people. By having Indigenous people present in the classrooms, Indigenous students can be taught their histories and cultures. This manner of teaching can be meaningful when Indigenous students learn local perspectives.

At Nhuubala Yugal Education Centre, we strive to imbed Indigenous rights in our classrooms and our Indigenous students to know their culture and identity. Through our teaching and our Empower Campaign, we can teach our students their rights whether they are Indigenous or not.

Written by Izabela Miletic

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