OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1970 (15)

1970 was somewhat of a steep learning experience for me, in my first year as a teacher. I learned a lot and hopefully gave back as a classroom teacher and community member. During the year, (which is very fully dealt with in the first diary I ever kept), the seeds for wanting to continue in education, and to continue with education in an indigenous context, must have been sown. The majority of my years through the 1970’s and 1980’s were spent in the field of Aboriginal (these days ‘Indigenous’) education.

As a ‘newby’ teacher (albeit a mature aged one who had left a family farm to train as a teacher) I learned a great deal during our twelve months at Warburton. In educational terms and for many reasons, I learned a lot about what to do by learning a lot ab out what not to do. These lessons derived from personal experience, which helped me separate good teaching practices from ones which were less effective.

The lessons learned were also based on observation of what others did and how they dealt with particular circumstances. I would also add that my training as a teacher (a two year course in those days) was of great help when it came to translating and applying that training in practical teaching situations.

Regarding and treating Aboriginal adults and children as equals in terms of regard and conversation helped. While the Warburton of 1970 was unique and different, the people were people and we were all on the same plane together. I tried to keep it that way in conversation.

When some people went into communities to live and work, it seemed to me they tried to ingratiate themselves with the local people in order to learn about Aboriginal culture and ceremonies. Undue inquisitiveness I believed to be unwise. A respectful interest was a far better option and waiting to earn the confidence of people so they shared was a superior approach to developing cross cultural relationships.

It was also important to represent one’s social and cultural mores appropriately. Working in a remote community did not mean abrogating one’s own background in order to embrace that of others. It was quite possible to be symbiotic, in terms of both groups living and associating together in the same area. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people had a great deal they could share, including both learning and teaching, in a context of proximity and association.

Warburton in 1970 was a different and unique experience, one that helped when it came to preparing me for teaching beyond my first year.

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