‘Settled reconciliation’ in education policy and practice: How celebrations of reconciliation can silence Indigenous diversity and agency, and perpetuate racism

Talia Avrahamzon

Abstract

Since Australia’s formal reconciliation process began almost thirty years ago, the education system has been viewed as having a critical role in un-silencing Australia’s past by increasing the awareness of children and young people to diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives on social, cultural and historical matters. The very term ‘reconciliation’ has been promoted in national and jurisdictional education policies, strategies, national curriculum documents and professional teaching standards.

This presentation draws on doctoral research undertaken during the 2016 school year in two primary schools on Ngunnawal Country, in the ACT jurisdiction. It explores how schools engage in reconciliation at the policy, school and classroom levels as well as children’s interpretation of this experience.

Findings are that despite educators’ strong commitment to ‘reconciliation’, schools mainly reproduced forms of ‘colonial storytelling’ (Behrendt 2016) about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures. This can perpetuate structures of the ‘silent apartheid’ (Rose 2007). In some cases, this storytelling led to the creation of ‘settled reconciliation’, in which good intent and celebrations of perceived Indigenous culture(s) silenced diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ experiences and agency, and ignored ongoing assimilation and racism.

These findings suggest a need for education policy and schools to engage more with and interrogate assumptions about reconciliation; about the purpose of schooling; and about children’s development and embodiment of racism, and readiness to engage in ‘transformative reconciliation’. The findings also have implications for how institutions beyond education engage with ‘reconciliation’.

Biography

Talia is passionate about understanding the complexities of reconciliation, intercultural understanding, contested histories and anti-racism across different institutions and society, as well as children and young people’s agency in social transformation.  After recently completing her PhD at CAEPR as a Sir Roland Wilson Scholar, she is currently a research fellow at CAEPR, teaching and undertaking a research project exploring organisational cultural change in transformative reconciliation in the College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU.    

Prior to her PhD, Talia's roles in the Australian Public Service over ten years primarily focused on children and Indigenous policy, program development and implementation, mainly in NSW.   Previous to this, she worked in volunteer roles in early childhood education and Democratic Education in East Jerusalem developing community based bi-education programs.  During her PhD, Talia presented at both national and International conferences and won the 2018 Joan Uhr Prize for her contributions to public policy.  Talia has an undergraduate degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology (USyd) and a Masters in International Social Development (UNSW).

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Date & time

Wed 14 Aug 2019, 12.30–1.30pm

Location

Jon Altman Rm 2145, Level 2, Copland Bld, 24 Kingsley Pl

Speakers

Ms Talia Avrahamzon

Contacts

Annette Kimber
+61261250587

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