Activity: Reflect on what connection to Country, and an understanding of the intergenerational impact of colonisation, have to do with reconciliation.
Read the following reflection by Tace Vigilante, a social justice educator who joined the School of Teacher Education as a lecturer at Bathurst’s Charles Sturt University in 2011:
My name is Tace Vigliante and I am a lecturer in Teacher Education at Charles Sturt University. I wanted to share with you my experience of coming to understand the role education can play as a vehicle for achieving reconciliation in Australia.
When I started university I was confronted with many new and big ideas—ideas that were in some cases in conflict with ideas I had previously held, and that were held by the people around me about whom I cared and respected, such as my family, friends and teachers.
There are a few ideas that have been very powerful in determining the educator that I am today. I am going to share one of these ideas now. You might expect that such a ‘powerful’ idea would require a lengthy explanation or argument to be convinced but this idea can be explained as briefly as this:
Everything we have as Australians is a result of the land being taken from Indigenous Australians.
This idea, delivered in a single sentence in a social psychology lecture blew me away. It seemed so straight forward when I heard it. Here was a simple claim, and I could not counter it.
What’s more, I had recently also learnt at university (in another subject) that Indigenous Australians were deprived of land due to the concept of terra nullius. In essence, I extrapolated; Australians have benefited and still benefit immensely from land being taken from Indigenous Australians and conversely the effect on Indigenous Australians was devastating; and Indigenous Australians continue to be disadvantaged and feel the effects of colonisation today. What an injustice I thought. From this I came to think that, if non-Indigenous Australians benefit from this injustice then non-Indigenous Australians should (have an ethical obligation) be working towards and contributing to the process of reconciliation.
This all took place in my first semester at university and I wondered, why had no one ever shared this idea with me before? I probed further. It was not a particularly popular idea. Whenever I raised this idea of injustice or injustice towards Indigenous Australians I was met most often with contestation, sometimes anger and many times misinformation. Yet, I did not come across a good argument against this claim and the subsequent conclusion, that if we, as non-Indigenous Australians benefit from this injustice then we, as non-Indigenous Australians should contribute to reconciliation.
As I began at the start of my story, throughout my studies in my first year of university, I was challenged by many new and different ideas and it was at this point that I began to see that teachers and educators play a significant role in shaping society and have the potential to be agents of change. At the end of the year I enrolled in a Bachelor of Education.
The following questions have been designed to be discussed in a Community of Inquiry (see the guidelines for conducting a community of inquiry):
- How do you feel or react to new or different ideas?
- Does this story include any new or different ideas for you?
- Had you heard of terra nullius in your own schooling experience?
- If so, when (in high school, in history class etc.)?
- If not, why do you think it was not included?
- (How) has the dispossession of traditional lands impacted on or disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia? (Explain your answer).
- (How) has Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ dispossession of traditional lands impacted on or benefitted non-Indigenous Australians? (Explain your answer).
- Do non–Indigenous Australians have anything to lose by acknowledging or accepting such a claim?
- Do non–Indigenous Australians have anything to gain by acknowledging or accepting such a claim?
- Should those who benefit from a policy such as terra nullius make reparations to those who have been disadvantaged by the policy?
- If not, why?
- If so, what kinds of reparations?
- (What) do ideas around connecting to Country, and the intergenerational impacts of colonisation, have to do with education? Explain your answer.
- (What) do ideas around connecting to Country, and the intergenerational impacts of colonisation, have to do with reconciliation? Explain your answer.
- Do you think educators have a role in shaping and bettering society through fostering relationships, respect and reconciliation? Explain your answer.
Image: From Wikipedia; detail from 'A pioneering settler family, circa 1900'