Area's community joins the Aboriginal culture journey

McCallums Hill Public School teacher Shayn Clarke, right, with colleagues from the Aboriginal Committee

The focus on Aboriginal education at McCallums Hill Public School, considering its broad cross-section of ethnic cultures, is to immerse its students in our First People’s culture.

Teacher Shayn Clarke said that through its Indigenous Perspectives program the school aimed to create a better understanding of Indigenous issues, culture and practises for students, teachers and the community.

“Being in the Canterbury-Bankstown area we have students mostly from non-English-speaking backgrounds, so these families don’t have a huge knowledge of Aboriginal histories,” Mr Clarke, a member of Federation’s Aboriginal Members’ Committee, said.

“So we are introducing the students to Aboriginal culture and we build on that as they go through school because many of them, when they start, have no idea what Aboriginal culture or history is.

“The aim is to try to immerse them in Aboriginal culture rather than just sitting them there and being taught about it.

“We cover different aspects of Aboriginal culture and we’ll focus on a specific area; it could be language one term and who the local people are in another term.

“By years 5 and 6 they’ll have a clearer understanding of Aboriginal culture, the history of Australia and we get into those nitty gritty areas where there’s lots of discussion, lots of truth and honesty about Australian history and Aboriginal history.

Mr Clarke said the program, which runs parallel to the languages program within the school gives students at least one hour a week of Aboriginal education, and has the dual advantage of helping to educate the wider community, through the student’s families.

“At the end of the year we showcase that knowledge,” he said. “The students are involved in a writing project about what they’ve learnt and this is presented to the parents and the wider community through a Reconciliation showcase that we hold at the school.

“The community is involved and the parents learn through their children’s writing. Not only that, the teachers get to learn as well.”

Three students identify as Aboriginal at McCallums Hill, just 1 per cent of the school population of 388 while 83 per cent of its students are from a language back ground other than English.

“We’re fortunate enough that the Aboriginal students’ parents are willing to come to the school and interact in activities and help out where needed,” Mr Clarke said. “As well, Aboriginal elders as community members from the area come and do a smoking ceremony or a Welcome to Country.

“The principal’s attitude is that Aboriginal education is everyone’s business and is open to any suggestions we have to promote Aboriginal awareness.

He said staff at McCallums Hill are enthusiastic about the program and willing to learn as much as possible.

— Scott Coomber