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ERIC Number: EJ727802
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Sep-22
Aboriginal Education at Two Australian Schools: Under One Dream
Hones, Donald F.
Multicultural Education, v13 n1 p10 Fall 2005
In this article the author shares his experience visiting two schools that serve Aboriginal children in the state of Queensland, Australia: (1) Cherbourg State School in central Queensland; and (2) Kuranda State School in the Far North. Prior to his visit he had learned somewhat of Australia's troubled history regarding Aboriginal education, a history that has included attempts to eradicate entire cultures and languages through forcible removal from traditional lands, removal of children from parents, and severe punishments for speaking native languages (Schmidt, 1993). The original settlement, mirroring broader Australian policies towards Aboriginal peoples, had the twin goals of breaking down native cultures and creating a subservient class of workers for the whites: One of the primary functions of the settlement was to inculcate the inmates with "civilised" values by destroying their cultural roots. Chris Sarra became the first Aboriginal principal of Cherbourg State School. He inherited a school with tremendous absenteeism, low-performing students, a school set in a community that in many ways was still recovering from generations of government efforts to break up families and groups. One of Chris Sarra's first priorities at the school was to improve attendance. Sarra also challenged the teachers at Cherbourg to have high expectations for all of the children at the school. In the far north of Queensland, in the hills above Cairns, the author was able to visit a school where a traditional Aboriginal language is taught to all students, irrespective of their heritage. The demographics at Kuranda State School are about 40% Murri (Queensland Aboriginal) and 60% Euro-Australian. Interestingly, the teacher at the schools is an Englishman who has learned the language, with the help of elders. Working together with elders and students, he has helped produce a variety of Djabugay texts, including a dictionary, traditional stories, songs, and descriptions of local flora and fauna (Quinn, 1992 and 1986). Djabugay can be seen as a key to understanding the rainforest environment of this part of northern Queensland. The language is a vehicle of a worldview that is based on the careful management and sharing of resources rather than on exploitation and profit. At both Cherbourg and Kuranda, Aboriginal students are finding pride in the traditional cultures of the land, and at Kuranda, all students are relearning a traditional language.
Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Tribes, State Schools, Indigenous Populations, Native Speakers, Cultural Background, Community, High Schools, Cultural Awareness, Language Maintenance, Language Minorities, Uncommonly Taught Languages
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia