Education is ‘heart business’

2 children

In order to respect, one must understand. In order to understand, relationships must be developed.

Rogers (2015, pp. 166–181) explains that education is ‘heart business’; for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people both heart (health) and education are a way of life.  Power relationships have often dominated to the extent that institutionalised racism can impact upon children’s learning and exclusion from the curriculum — curriculum in the sense of ‘everything that happens within the school’.

Developing relationships and valuing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ heritage and cultures are paramount in overcoming negative perceptions and low expectations.

What changes as a result of what we do?

Understanding that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children may come to school with a language and cultural background other than English leads to a respect for the fact that children may be bilingual/multilingual.  Students may need additional time to master Standard Australian English (SAE) and respecting that other languages the child may speak are not inferior to SAE.

What will change?

A positive relationship with two-way communication can develop, the child will be less likely to feel intimidated, and it is more likely that respect for the teacher will follow.

As teachers, we have the right and the responsibility to work towards increasing respect, reducing prejudice and strengthening relationships.


Rogers, J 2015, ‘Education: heart business’, in K Price (ed), Knowledge of life: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia, CUP, Melbourne, pp. 166–181.