‘Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in Schools’ and the Australian Curriculum

This post first describes the aims and content of the cross-curriculum priority ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures‘ in the Australian Curriculum. It then explores how the Queensland Government framework ‘Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in Schools‘ (EATSIPS) can assist teaching and learning in this space.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures‘ is one of three cross-curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum taught through the subjects disciplines. The cross-curriculum priorities were nominated and adopted by the Council of Education ministers translating the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians for the new Australian Curriculum. The aim of this cross-curriculum priority is to include Indigenous Australian perspectives and knowledge into all disciplines where relevant and applicable. On the one hand, this is to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to see themselves better reflected in the national curriculum and become more engaged and empowered in their education. The other important objective is for all Australian students to participate in a process of reconciliation, by developing a deeper understanding of, and more respect for, Indigenous Australian Peoples, cultures, knowledges, beliefs and languages.

Implementing the cross-curriculum priority, there is some Indigenous content prescribed in the curriculum in the format of subject-specific year-level content descriptors, in particular in Humanities and Social Sciences (i.e. HaSS Foundation ACHASSK016, Year 1 ACHASSK032, Year 2 ACHASSK049, Year 3 ACHASSK062, ACHASSK064, ACHASSK066, Year 4 ACHASSK083, ACHASSK086, ACHASSK089, Year 5 ACHASSI099, ACHASSK107, ACHASSK112, Year 6 ACHASSK135, a Depth Study in History Year 10, Geography Year 7 ACHGK041, Year 8 ACHGK049, Year 10 ACHGK072, Civics and Citizenship Year 8 ACHCK064, ACHCK066, and Year 10 ACHCK093, and Economics and Business Year 8 ACHEK028), as well as one content descriptor for every year-level band in all the Arts (increasing to two content descriptors in Secondary School).

However, there are no content descriptor referencing this cross-curriculum priority in English (except for Year 8 ACELT1806), Mathematics, Science, Technologies, Health and Physical Education! In LOTE, there is an optional provision for separate first language, language revival and second language learner pathways for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages, and there are Options content descriptors in the Year 9-10 Work Studies. Objectively, the Indigenous cross-curriculum priority is therefore hardly a compulsory part of the core curriculum. However, within all subjects including Mathematics and Science most year levels provide at least one meaningful link and examples to the cross-curriculum priority in one or more elaborations of one or more content descriptors. These elaborations are optional, so teachers can choose whether or not to take up these opportunities to include the cross-curriculum priority in their teaching and learning units. In conclusion, by following the Australian Curriculum schools and classroom teachers are very much on their own in deciding whether or not to include the Indigenous cross-curriculum priority content into their lessons beyond the HaSS and Arts lessons.

The Australian Curriculum icon for Cross-curriculum priority Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives (EATSIPS)

The ‘Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives’ (EATSIPS) is a framework initiated by the Queensland Government Reconciliation Action Plan in 2009-2012, with the aim to close the gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous students’ achievements. The framework comprises three components:

  1. personal reflections
  2. classroom ethos, and
  3. whole-school ethos.

Explicit links to the national curriculum are drawn inĀ four action areas:

  1. curriculum and pedagogy
  2. community engagement
  3. organisational environment, and
  4. professional and personal accountabilities.

In appendix 2, EATS lists strategies for teachers to implement a culturally-appropriate curriculum, and to make the best use of opportunities towards embedding Indigenous knowledges and perspectives in the planning, delivery, assessment, moderation, reporting and evaluation processes. A particularly useful tool to develop measurable goals and gage success in terms of its implementation is a checklist with defined targets. For example, in the curriculum and pedagogy section, the vision includes:

  • culturally appropriate curriculum units connecting to the local area and histories, where possible making Indigenous knowledges and perspectives explicit
  • catering for all learning styles and backgrounds in curriculum delivery and pedagogy
  • celebrating local Indigenous stories, oral traditions and languages
  • critically reviewing teaching and learning resources (e.g. for authenticity, balanced representation, accuracy, exclusion of sacred content), and
  • sharing successes with the community

The Queensland Government EATSIPS framework

Conclusion

In conclusion, the EATSIPS framework provides schools and teachers with practical advice and guidelines towards implementing the opportunities that the Australian Curriculum cross-curriculum priority ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures‘ provides. EATSIPS further extends the curriculum by taking a more holistic approach towards developing culturally-appropriate personal, class and whole-school approaches towards teaching about and for Australian Indigenous Peoples.

EATSIPS implementation checklist with targets

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