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Learning Together (ATOM Study Guide)

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Martu people, like many indigenous people, want children and younger generations to learn the knowledge of their ancestors. They say this both makes children stronger and honours responsibilities to their ancestors. How to teach in towns when you’re distant from the countries of your family? How to teach in schools when non-indigenous curricula dominate?

Since colonisation, indigenous people have asked these questions. Increasingly, other Australians recognise and respect the value of indigenous knowledge to the care of our continent and its regions. We are shifting to better two-way teaching.

In Wiluna, Western Australia, partnerships are vital to two-way learning. Individuals work together over years and decades. These partnerships are between different generations of Martu, the local school and the ranger program, CSIRO and visiting scientists. Two-way science brings indigenous and science-derived knowledge into a shared journey.

Country was once the classroom of Australian Aboriginal people. On their land, they learnt biology, geography, science, all subjects.

The first of three episodes focus on Martu elders, teachers and primary school students. Elders choose the ecology of Nganamara or Mallee Fowl as the animal for children to learn about. Predictions and enquiry in the classroom then hands-on activities ‘on country’ transfer to the school yard then back to the classroom. 

The second of the three episodes focusses on teachers and their experiences in a remote community school. They say teacher to family relationships are central to support student learning. Teachers speak of hopes and dreams for young students.  They have so how much to learn themselves, to teach in a remote indigenous school.

In the third episode, Martu women and two scientists, an eagle man and a plant lady, share and learn two-ways or ‘ngapartji-ngapartji’. They yarn about learning together. Bush foods and medicines, Wedge-tailed eagles and wildlife are their common interests.

The episodes in the series show a pathway from primary to secondary to tertiary learning and rangers work. They reveal the importance of land, plant and animal-focussed enquiry in school children. The series shows the Importance of indigenous knowledge and connections to primary and secondary education. Indigenous knowledge is a foundation of the unique knowledge held by Aboriginal rangers.

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