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The language of country.

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Firstly I would like to acknowledge the Luritja country to which I belong and pay my respects to the traditional custodians, Elders and the children who will carry culture into the future.

The process for acknowledging country is more than words said at meetings or events; it is a celebration of ancient practice to pay our respects to the land, people and culture and we all can acknowledge the landscapes and cultural connections of the country we walk and teach upon.

The following words hope to resonate the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identities in our educational systems and how we as teachers inform pedagogical practices and literacy programs that provide a sense of place to the long history of the country we are walking and teaching upon.

The process of continually reflecting on deficit discourses in education must be an ongoing journey to ensure we are continually looking through a lens that respects and honours a whole nation and its long history, rather than the application of viewing dialects other than the Australian standard English as a disadvantage that requires fixing.

The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia reflects on the importance of educators building on their skills, attitudes and knowledge to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and community to enhance and embed cultural integrity into our education systems and daily practice.

A culturally competent organisation that values and respects diversity helps everyone feel like they belong. More specifically, being familiar with the rich and long history of Australia, including our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, enriches all of us.

(Department of Education, Employment and Workplace, 2010, p. 25)

A reflective and honest journey must be respected by educators, schools settings and education systems to obtain real relationships with culture, land and people to deliver programs that reflect the home languages of our vast country; and if true reconciliation is our journey we must hold on tightly to the ancient connections we have in Australia.

Further we have an international imperative stated in Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007):
   Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and
   revitalise their cultural traditions and customs. This
   includes the right to maintain, protect and develop
   the past, present and future manifestations of their
   cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites,
   artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and
   visual and performing arts and literature.


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The place of language and literacy development in education settings must understand and connect to the long history that this diverse country on which we learn and walk daily offers. Therefore implementing curricula that represent and empower cultural identities of individuals, schools, communities and a whole country to truly recognise a real path for reconciliation requires walking long journeys together side by side.

We need to talk to our old people while they are still walking our country and collect as many stories as we can to embed these ancient tracks into our destiny for all Australian children to walk.

Aboriginal Languages have survived over thousands of years with connections to the land the language is spoken on. It is a responsibility of educators to critically reflect on how Aboriginal languages are respected and are living in their pedagogy and educational settings to make real differences in closing the gap and reconciling a nation.

What is the language of land we are standing and teaching upon and do we as educators reflect these diverse cultural identities?

A place to begin such understanding of the language of the land is to look at the Aboriginal Australian map (http://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/aboriginal-australia-map), as Whitehouse (2011) outlines in the article 'Talking up Country'. She draws educators' 'attention to the Australian Indigenous map to identify language or tribal groupings, the place to begin represents the facts of Indigenous settlement and emphasises the point that everything that is, or has been done, or not done, in Australian education is contextualised by the history of European colonisation' (p. 57).

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The landscapes and the tracks we walk are ancient pathways that have been walked for thousands of years by our first nations people, connection to these tracks and the stories from land and people is a pathway we all should reflect upon as we walk and talk on this land.

To see the country on which we stand as part of our family and to hear stories of the land is a rich gift to this nation and individuals--as stories told to me from Elders from my own family and Elders that I have met while walking this nation's landscapes are for me. It is these stories and yarns that I embed into my pedagogical practices to ensure I am sharing my knowledge, but most importantly the knowledge of country as country is family too and we all need to be a part of the Australian mob if we want to walk together into the future. To share a yarn today as we walk together is one of connecting to family who have passed and when we feel the wind upon our face it is our old people reminding us of who they are and the love they have for their kin and country.

What is the language of the country you are standing on and what stories are connected to the tracks of place you walk and talk?

References

Commonwealth of Australia. (2010). Educators guide to the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments.

United Nations General Assembly. (2007). Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved 26 January, 2015, from https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf

Whitehouse, H. (2011). Talking Up Country: Language, Nature culture and Interculture. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 2, 56-67.

Kerryn Moroney is a Luritja woman and early child hood and adult educator who has worked in various areas of education in Northern Territory and Queensland. Kerryn is currently working across a few roles including research assistant, lecturer and mentor. Email: kerryn13@bigpond.com
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Author:Moroney, Kerryn
Publication:Practically Primary
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 1, 2016
Words:1029
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