Not Just Aboriginal Processes

I am a 43 year old student with three young children. Obviously, they are the most beautiful, smartest, inspiring, wonderful human beings on the planet…that’s my job as their mother to “worship them”. But the mother also asks many, many questions every day as to whether I am doing a “good job” as a parent.

At this point I refer back to my own parents, migrants to Australia over 60 years ago. Migrants who worked hard and valued what was so precious in this country…freedom, land and a future. Four years ago, the first time in my life, I decided to go overseas to my father’s village in the remote mountains to see “where he grew up”. And this is where I say it is “Not Just Aboriginal”.

On reading the 8Ways comment that “Aboriginal perspectives do not come from Aboriginal topics, but from Aboriginal approaches to topics” I realised that this was evident in my own experiences overseas. This remote village is still “behind” in terms of our day to day gadgets. In fact, the electricity supply is near nill, the sanitary systems are a local truck and the feral pigs are your closest nightly neighbours. But these “village people”, in my eyes, have the best life! They don’t go to markets for food, they are markets! They prepare for changes in seasons by drying out abundant foods on the flat rooftops in the summer awaiting the blizzards of the winter. They exchange food and needs.

But the aspect that most intrigued me was language and “growing up native”. Young people instinctively stayed up night after night with the “elders” from the village…sitting and listening to stories and being a part of the community. There wasn’t a TV set in another room happening for them. The expectation was that they were just as valuable in the conversation as the 90 year old smoking his pipe in the circle. The teenagers “adored” the elders and socialised with them. They had an incredible connection to their faith, their  equivalent “dreamtime”, their ancestors. The language was “knowledge”. How to prepare foods, where to get a supply from, exchange of land knowledge. I cannot explain the life that existed in this tiny village.

There may have been minimal power supply but the “life generated” was the most powerful experience I have ever had. And so I say, it is “Not Just Aboriginal” who “know” this. Aboriginals and these tiny villages all over the planet have existed for thousands of years and knowledge was transcended from generation to the next. The knowledge “pass-on” dwindled when we started to think we were smarter and had “better ways of doing”. This often comes at the expense of the traditional.

I have seen in this village how an elder can give to a child so much intellect and “natural giftedness” and “timeless wisdom” at the same time that child Skype’s a friend in the city. I pray that I didn’t wait too long to attain their “Ways of Knowing” to pass on to my children before they become just “Dreamtime stories” in a report somewhere.



Filed under 8Ways, aboriginal learning space, Learning Environment

4 responses to “Not Just Aboriginal Processes

  1. Thank you Rita for your thoughtful and interesting observations on life back in the village of your heritage.
    It is true that we become so divorced from the land, community and faith that we feel disconnected from our past.
    If that is the case what does the future hold?
    As was mentioned in the video on Kakadu National Park management-‘(we are)..using knowledge of the past to manage the park of the future’.
    Reading your post reminds me of when we went camping as kids in the wilds of County Kerry in the south west of Ireland. We very quickly reconnected with nature-there was one port-a-loo and a washbasin and a tap for drinking water by the beach.Then you were on your own!
    You got to know the people camping around you and often had shared BBQs together(yes even in Ireland!)
    We told stories around the campfire, read to each other, played chats and chatted long into the night. There was no television, iPad, smart phone .We had a radio to catch up with the weather so we knew what to expect the next day!
    We would come back from our holiday with a sense of ‘groundedness’ and a respect for nature and our fellow man.
    My wish, like yours is to pass this experience to my children so they can feel that sense of belonging for themselves and not just read about it as a nice idea in a book.

  2. Sounds as if there is a lot in your experiences to draw upon for teaching and learning activities. Do you have any thoughts on how you could bring some of this learning to a school? Seems like there must be a way to share some of the valuable understandings and values. I wonder if somehow through the 8ways? Combining the two? Just a thought so far!

    I loved what you described about the young people’s conversation being equally as valuable as the elderly. We have most certainly lost a lot of the contact between older and younger generations. Though still many people have frequent family visits, it is not the same as living around one another. Also for many young people it is a case of physical distance keeping them from grandparents or other elder family members.

    For students I would love to see more opportunity at least to connect with ‘elders’ of the community. Somehow creating meaningful connections, possibly through building relationships with local retirement homes or in some cases nursing homes. I can imagine sharing of stories from both sides (older and younger). What could that lead on to?

    I have always felt it a great community loss this separation of the young and the elderly. A result I think of our economically focused world, maybe?

  3. Wow Rita, what a fantastic experience.
    I am indeed impressed with the pomegranate juicing, haha! (Not so sure about the snails though.)
    I tend to agree with Sandra and Nuala, your points on connectedness are what resonate with me the most. I think that our students are quite often disadvantaged due to disconnected family lives and homes, they miss out on lengthy conversations with their elders, or even their parents about how things have always been done in their family.

    I feel that as teachers, it’s our job to open up all these avenues of connection, expose our students to all the cultures and traditions that constantly show themselves as our communities diversify. How fantastic it would be in the classroom to have dedicated ‘yarn time’, where students are encouraged to talk about themselves, or their beliefs, or even their opinions on an issue (as opposed to show and tell, or weekend recounts).

    • fin

      Annie, your thought about “show’n’tell” or weekend recounts is spot on. Many times my young children take their “prized possessions” to school. When quizzed about the experience the teacher is often marking during talk time or talking to the teacher next door. I get the busy-ness of the teacher’s day, I remember it very well. But to change it to yarn time and perhaps include older relatives or people from the community…how good would this be!!
      A great thought to take back to the classroom, Annie

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