Reko Rennie is an interdisciplinary artist who explores his Aboriginal identity through contemporary media. This work is about being culturally visible. Rennie’s use of camouflage aims to amplify, rather than conceal his identity and stakes his claim to a luminous, commanding form of cultural visibility.
AITSL acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands, sea countries and waterways from across Australia. We honour and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future.
The purpose of this continuum is to assist educators and school leaders to critically reflect on and develop their ability to be more responsive to the knowledge, skills, and cultural identities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. It should be used by educators and school leaders to understand how their biases and assumptions affect practices, behaviours and attitudes in ways that adversely impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and to educate all students about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages. The aim is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to feel culturally safe at school and for the teaching profession to celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and cultures.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural identities are foundational to one’s way of understanding the world and influence all aspects of life. The legacy of colonisation has undermined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ access to their cultures, identities, histories, and languages. The education system must embrace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural identities so that these students can access a complete, relevant, and responsive education. Being ‘responsive’, in the context of this tool, is the ability to respond to the diverse knowledges, skills and cultural identities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. This will look different in different contexts. Also, given the cycle of inquiry this continuum seeks to guide is a process of continuous learning, one can never be ‘responsive’. The stages of the continuum are therefore non-linear and cyclical.
Teachers and school leaders have not always been provided with adequate support or resources to effectively teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Yet, teachers and school leaders play a critical role in creating new and promising futures. They hold significant influence and power in being able to create change in the classroom as well as in the broader community setting. To effect this change - in conjunction with the key principles underpinning the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in accordance with the Australian Professional Standards for Teaching - educators and school leaders have a responsibility to understand appropriate strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and to promote reconciliation. The continuum supports this process through personal and professional development, or as part of family and community engagement. It is about enriching the education profession to build confidence and skills, broadening perspectives and re-imagining a shared future with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Intercultural Destructiveness is the attitudes, policies and practices that are destructive to identities, values and practices. It is characterised by its intentional nature and a belief that people of certain backgrounds are superior to others. Difference is not valued.
Destructiveness in schools means that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages are actively destroyed through approaches to teaching and learning. This is done by policies and practices that promote the dominant culture as being superior to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and cultures.
Intercultural Blindness is the belief that all peoples have the same needs, priorities and values and that those who are different are segregated for their own good. It is characterised by a lack of awareness about the impact of differences on understanding and interactions between people of different backgrounds. This encourages assimilation and ignores the role of power and privilege.
Blindness in schools means that in efforts to make it ‘fair’ for all students, there is no consideration of the impact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultural identities and languages on learning. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students may be segregated for ‘their own good’.
Intercultural Awareness is recognising that there are differences and similarities between people from different backgrounds. There is some knowledge that students from different backgrounds may require different approaches. This comes through being able to identify and understand one’s own beliefs, values and practices.
By minimising differences, this approach may encourage assimilation and ignores the profound impact that understanding and respecting the oldest living cultures on earth can provide all students, particularly the experiences and outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Awareness in schools means having a broad knowledge and understanding in schools about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultural identities and languages.
Intercultural Competence is the ability to understand, interact and communicate with people from a background that is different to one’s own in ways that are sensitive to individual needs. It is developed through obtaining knowledge, skills and the appropriate attitudes and beliefs needed to interact with people from different backgrounds. This means valuing diverse cultural identities, knowledges and traditions and recognising the centrality of connections to family, community and the land to individual wellbeing.
Competence in schools means understanding the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and of their diverse histories, cultural identities and languages. It also means valuing critical relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the community. School staff respect diversity and recognise the need for change at all levels in education approaches.
Intercultural Responsiveness is a high level of proficiency of understanding, interacting and communicating effectively and sensitively with people from a different background. Diversity is respected and prioritised by individuals through ongoing self-reflection and learning, and continued commitment to improving practices and relationships.
Individuals demonstrate commitment to mutually respectful relationships with local communities and work collaboratively to set the directions and priorities for the school.
Responsiveness in schools means that educators and school leaders are responsive to the diverse histories, cultural identities and languages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and use these as a basis to facilitate learning opportunities.
Intercultural Sustainability is responsiveness that is actively sustained through systems, policies, practices and partnerships that enable ongoing learning and self-reflection for understanding, interacting and communicating with people from different backgrounds. Systems and processes that respect diversity, ongoing self-reflection, expansion of knowledge is embedded in schools and in relationships with local communities, and there is ongoing commitment to improving practices and relationships. While this is the highest level of practice, ‘responsiveness’ can never be achieved. Learning must be ongoing and sustained.
Sustainability in schools means that educators and school leaders continually aim to strengthen mutually respectful, ongoing relationships with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, value their strengths, and work collaboratively to implement and be accountable to the directions and priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the school.