Ngarrngga Project Director Melitta Hogarth on picking up a gauntlet thrown by her Year 10 students
I’m one of those teachers that went through the schooling system and didn’t learn very much, if anything, about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, histories or cultures.
I grew up in the 1970s and didn’t have that engagement with community and family. That’s a shared story across a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, that disconnect from country, family and community. It’s added an extra layer because by identifying as Indigenous as a classroom teacher, you’re suddenly considered to be the expert on all things Indigenous - totally dismissing that horrid history of Australia such as the Stolen Generations.
I was a classroom teacher for 20 years and I was working in an Indigenous community in Central Queensland as the only Indigenous classroom teacher.
The biggest frustration for students on community was that they couldn't see themselves being reflected in the work.
The curriculum was Western-focused, and it was very much celebrating coloniality as opposed to them being able to see themselves.
The Year 10 class turned to me at one point and said, “Go wherever they teach the teachers… and [you] teach the teachers.” They were tired of seeing teachers coming into the community and wanting to save the Aboriginal child.
One of my favourite things having completed my Masters and my PhD is that I get to report back to my Year 10 class who are now parents with their own kids in schools, letting them know about the progress that I’m making to fulfill that remit that they set for me.