HUNTER students and teachers have been encouraged to use new resources to learn more about Indigenous culture, in the hope of improving community understanding and attitudes about race.
The University of Newcastle's (UON) Office of Indigenous Strategy and Leadership and Wollotuka Institute created the resources - which include YouTube videos, lesson plans and hands-on activities - in conjunction with the Hunter and Central Coast branches of the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and members of the local Indigenous community.
UON Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, Nathan Towney, said the resources were born from an idea to help keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students engaged with education during COVID-19. He said they were also intended to help students learn new skills, bring families closer together through shared activities, develop relationships between Indigenous representatives and schools, as well as educate non-Indigenous students about Indigenous history and culture.
"The idea was around trying to provide some culturally relevant learning opportunities through COVID-19," Mr Towney said. "While students were at home, schools were struggling to get content out to students, it was really problematic. We also knew our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and families were probably more likely to struggle through that time. If we could provide a resource to schools that they could use to then engage their Aboriginal students, that would hopefully make things a bit easier for them."
He said a lot of schools had strategies to try to support Indigenous students and close the gap, but they were often based on relationships and didn't translate well to an online environment.
The videos include messages from elders and cover topics including art, wellbeing, the environment, sharing stories, dancing and making and playing the didgeridoo. Mr Towney said the time was right to have important conversations.
"I think a lot of Australia's structures and policies have a cultural bias," he said. "I think more people are wanting to engage and learn what they can do in a practical sense to help inform everybody about Aboriginal history and culture. There's opportunity through all of this to make sure we leverage that goodwill and to make some of that structure and policy change."
He said young people needed to be informed and form their own views and opinions. "These are the people who are going to be our policy makers, influencers and implementers in the next generation. We want them to challenge particular things and maybe see that cultural bias that others that haven't been exposed to that education wouldn't see. That's going to create a better environment for everybody," he said. "This is about promoting the knowledge that exists in our community and linking that knowledge to the people who need it."