New project partnership reimagines education for all Australians

A new partnership which aims to improve how students learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and knowledge systems was announced today.  

The Ngarrngga Project, a Taungurung word meaning to know, to hear, to understand, has three core elements – expanding the resources available to support teachers, building their confidence and intercultural competence, and embedding Indigenous knowledge within educational settings.  

The Indigenous led national partnership, proudly supported by BHP, will expand and trial the use of Indigenous resources and tools to better support the teaching of First Nations content across the existing Australian Curriculum, and in teacher education programs. 

Associate Professor Melitta Hogarth, Project Director said the initiative was a vital step in addressing key barriers shared by educators.

“Teachers have shared they are afraid of making mistakes or appearing tokenistic but this fear only results in inactivity. Every educator plays a role in teaching Australian students about the depth and wealth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions to our country. The Project will build an evidence base about how best to support the teaching of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures in our education systems”, said Associate Professor Hogarth, a Kamiliaroi woman whose cultural links are from South-West Queensland.

The Project bridges theory and practice by encouraging Indigenous knowledge experts and practicing classroom teachers to work collaboratively. Differentiating itself from simply providing resources, the Project will produce resources and professional development workshops based on curriculum tools using a culturally responsive pedagogical approach to build educator confidence.  It will also develop partnerships and strategies with schools and universities to engage with and trial the resources to ensure the resources and tools are user friendly and flexible for the classroom setting.

The Ngarrngga Project builds on the work of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Curricula Project from 2017-2019. Professor Marcia Langton, an Iman woman of Central and South-West Queensland, said the project expansion responds to community calls for greater culturally safe teaching practices and learning in schools.  

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, grandparents and great grandparents, have a burning desire for their young people to learn in school about their cultures and achievements, and feel proud of them. Enhancing how First Nations histories, cultures and knowledge systems are taught, will help all children to know that contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are strong, resilient, rich, and diverse, and have a lasting impact on reconciliation and education experiences” said Professor Langton.  

The University of Melbourne and BHP share the vision for an education system that reframes our national story as one which recognises, curates and activates Indigenous histories, cultures and knowledges. 

“BHP is very pleased to be able to support this initiative and the contribution we believe it can make to Australia’s collective understanding, celebration and pride in the strong, diverse, and living cultures, knowledge systems and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  This project embodies the idea of reconciliation in action and we are humbled and honoured to be able play our small part in it,” said Caroline Cox, BHP’s Chief Legal, Governance and External Affairs Officer. 

Professor Barry Judd, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) at the University of Melbourne said that universities need to take the lead to advance the social and economic standing of Indigenous people in contemporary society by foregrounding the value and benefits of Indigenous knowledge for all Australians.

“The University of Melbourne has a pivotal role to play in progressing the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in higher education and fostering the rich exchange of knowledge for the betterment of our communities”, Professor Judd said. “We’re proud of our deepening engagement and reciprocal learning with Indigenous communities through partnerships both here in Melbourne and throughout Australia, and of course, there is much more work and learning to do.”

Ngarrngga is a collaborative project, trialling and learning with education partners to make sustainable and lasting improvements to the education system. To find out more or express your interest in being involved contact ngarrngga-team@unimelb.edu.au.