Two worlds apart: Indigenous community perspectives and non- indigenous teacher perspectives on Australian schools

Jay Phillips, Allan Luke

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


There are well-trodden paths we could follow to introduce international readers of this Handbook to the education of Australia’s Indigenous peoples: Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. We could start from a genocidal history of invasion, incarceration, residential schooling, forced labor, political and economic marginalisation. We could review current analyses of the effects of this history on traditional lands, Indigenous health, cultural and linguistic sustainability, economic and political participation, and education – noting the performance ‘gaps’ in schools on all conventional measures (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2012). We could begin from scholarship on Indigenous epistemologies and Aboriginal knowledge (e.g., Nakata 2008; Martin 2009), Indigenous re-appropriation of critical theory (Moreton-Robinson 2008), and powerful pan-Indigenous models of decolonisation (e.g., Smith 2012). However, this evaluation study of Indigenous school reform in Australia proceeds from lead us to a different starting point: listening to, hearing and engaging with the commentaries, voices, narratives and analyses of Indigenous community as they discuss and recount their experiences and current encounters with Australian state schools. Here we undertake a contrastive documentation of the views of Indigenous community members, Elders, parents, education workers, and young people and, indeed, of the views of their non-Indigenous teachers and school principals. This is a dramatic picture of two distinctive cultural lifeworlds, communities and worldviews in contact, of two very different ‘constructions’ by participants of a shared, mutual experience: everyday interaction in the social field of the Australian school. Taken together, our Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants repeatedly confirmed and corroborated a key theme: that Indigenous peoples continue to be viewed and ‘treated’ through the lens and language of cultural, intellectual and moral ‘deficit’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSecond international handbook of urban education
EditorsWilliam T. Pink, George W. Noblit
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages38
ISBN (Electronic)9783319403175
ISBN (Print)9783319403151
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameSpringer International Handbooks of Education


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