Having read the article titled ‘Young and Black and Deadly’ by Sarra, I found myself relating to the situation having volunteered in similar Indigenous communities previously. The morale of the adolescents in Indigenous communities is high, yet, in the dominant society’s eyes, they are not achieving. We, the dominant culture, associate success in life with academic achievement. This is not always the case in Aboriginality. While many families do see that success can be achieved through education, some families will continue on ‘non achieving’ – perhaps seldom attending school up to grade 7 before moving on. Sadly, it is what we are not doing for the Indigenous people which are more evident.
The problem the conventional model of schooling is that attendance is required constantly, something that cannot be guaranteed within Aboriginality. For instance, when a member of an Indigenous family passes away, the mourning period is extensive and typically, the entire family will ‘go missing’, unannounced for weeks on ‘sorry business’.
By making goals and working towards them, Indigenous students are able to see that success is attainable. This realisation is at the heart of my own teaching epistemology. To guide students toward a destination and give them the skills they need to get there, and stay there should be the aim of any teacher – irrespective of the colour of their students’ skin.
It still saddens me that such injustice occurs today, in our own background. This is a problem that transcends the school fence. It is my one hope that this generation that so believes in change will have the power and decency to do something about it. If all teachers had the passion and determination of Mr Serra, I highly doubt we’d be in such a position today. I too hope to make that difference, even if it is only for one child. In some situations, this is literally a life or death issue. Education gives us power, despite our hesitation to admitting it. To deny someone of their chance to have power would be a disservice not only to the student, but to society.
The wisdom of Aboriginality is obvious, it just takes a good teacher, respect, determination and hard work to harness it to achieve a goal. We must start somewhere. Anywhere. The destination seems closer each day, be the one to say you were there when that destination became a reality.