Reflections on interculturality in remote education: a sleeping giant

Although much was experienced, not much has been written about ‘interculturality’ in the Whole of Community Engagement initiative. We operated within it, perhaps got better at doing it, and mentioned it only indirectly in the reporting of the project. We didn’t start talking about interculturality until I was employed in early-2016. I found that in order to speak about it with our WCE staff -Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal -I first had to develop some trust, and had to talk around the subject, give examples, draw on people’s own experience, and then combine all of that with my academic perspectives. The concept of interculturality is an area that is largely unexplored and not generally thought about – even though individuals and groups just do it all the time.

By Dr Terry Moore

Reflections on interculturality in remote education: a sleeping giant

My experience has been that interculturality as a concept is difficult to understand and has to be “unpacked”. People tend to think of it as ‘cultural difference’, using ‘both-ways’ approaches or ‘switching hats’, but to my way of thinking it is more complex. In education, interculturality is about all the interaction, communication and relations that go on between everyone in the school, across social, cultural and identity differences and similarities. This is something like ganma. When White and local Aboriginal teachers relate well, and teachers and students relate well, students will engage and learn. But relating across cultural boundaries is sometimes difficult, because norms and roles can clash, people can misunderstand each other, little attention may be paid to Indigenous leadership, language and culture generally and situations can arise where education contradicts local culture. For example, interested children are teased or local teachers are told they can’t do both, or be both Aboriginal and educated, and may be thought of as “less Aboriginal” and more like “non-Aboriginal” people. These things are not easy to talk about but can make good relations difficult, and lead children, parents and teachers to disengage from education or the school. Until these dynamics of interculturality are opened up for transparent consultation by all parties, and then addressed, children will continue to disengage from school and not consider further education. 

With some others on the WCE team, I am trying to explore and explain interculturality - how everyone lives it every day, how it manifests, how people do it well, how it can challenge children’s learning and adult functioning, and what can be done to improve it, value it and make communication more meaningful and relationships stronger. I am writing several journal articles about interculurality, including:

  • ‘WCE as intercultural partnership in education research’ (with Eliani Boton and Cat Street). Describes how the WCE was intercultural, and the work of Yalu and Shepherdson College to deal better with interculturality. Submitted to The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education.
  • ‘At the intersection: Aboriginal education leaders and a post-both- ways remote education’ (with Geoffrey Jupurrula Shannon and David Scholz). Explains how the Aboriginal team members proved that they could be both educated and culturally strong. In fact, they go together. To be submitted to The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education soon.
  • ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interculturality’. Theoretical. To be submitted to the Journal of Intercultural Studies. 

These are ideas about interculturality we have been developing in the WCE. More research is needed to understand it fully, and how it might be addressed to improve students’ learning and teacher functioning. I have submitted two proposals for research funding in the past year. One has already been rejected, but the other is being considered. This is called ‘A cultural and intercultural training program for Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island’, and would be undertaken in 2018. I am also writing an Australian Research Council submission for a three year project to explore the different forms of interculturality in Galiwin’ku, Tennant Creek and Darwin. It will aim to develop ways of addressing interculturality in those different contexts. This will involve a team of academics and Aboriginal researchers working with local communities and schools.

Dr Terry Moore

Dr Terry Moore

Terry Moore’s first career was in Indigenous education, as teacher, curriculum development, teacher trainer and school principal. After two years teaching in Tasmania the bulk of his work was in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in Far North Queensland.

29 November 2017

Team Member Reflection: Terry Moore

Team Member Reflection: Terry Moore

​I joined the team in April 2016, just in time for the team meeting at Tennant Creek, where it was realised that the team needed someone to analyse the data that was being generated across the different communities.

Charles Darwin UniversityAustralian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges & EducationBatchelor InstituteNAILSMANTG

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