Jindaola Good Practice Symposium November 2019
The aim from my perspective today is to give an opportunity, like give a space for people that have come through the Jindaola program to share what it is that they are actually doing in their classrooms. There is this conceptual space. There's a philosophical space. There's a decolonial space that occurs where people are being confronted with a whole range of different knowledges, with a whole range of different perspectives that make them question everything that they know. And then you say to them, we'll translate that into a classroom. And that's not an easy process. It's not an easy story to speak and translate. And so this space today is about giving people an opportunity to really celebrate. Celebrate that they have become comfortable with sitting uncomfortably, acknowledging that there's some atrocity, there's some pretty bad stories. There's some difficulties that privilege or position the things that they've spent a lifetime learning and doing, and then having to reconcile those with some Aboriginal knowledges or Aboriginal perspectives, or even just different ways of doing things. How they can reconcile those and share them with students authentically, that they don't get to celebrate, that they don't get to speak about. And so this provides a space. And for me, the aspiration in the space is that it continues that yarn spinning, is that people can pick up those nuggets of gold, that people can pick up the valuable, practical, little applied ways in which other people have started to utilise their experiences and their learnings and their musings and confusions that people can pick those up and leapfrog from them and start to do things in their particular spaces and places.
I'm part of the SMAH team and in particular work in graduate medicine. So we're, doing a few things on a couple of different levels. So one is that we're trying to develop some modules that are interviews with elders from Yuin country and Bundjalung country so far. And the elders are talking, giving story, yarning about history and present day, strengths in community about culture and living that we then sort of develop some curriculum around and some assessment items around. That's one thing and then the other thing we've been working on is improving the Indigenous health curriculum for the graduate medicine students. So they're going to go out and be doctors, and we've changed our way of doing things as a result of our learning in Jindaola. Instead of just delivering didactic lectures that are very stats based, we're now engaging with community much more and having elders much more involved in delivering the content on Aboriginal ways of knowing, being, and doing on Yuin country. And that's got really amazing responses from the students as well. And then the last thing that I talked about in my presentation today was the Indigenous trauma recovery program, which is a graduate certificate course that I've been involved in facilitating that has been developed completely, by Aboriginal experts in health or trauma delivery. And we met every couple of months for about 18 months and we developed the curriculum together. So I facilitated all their expertise. And then in the course, it was online with a one week residential and 28 students, 24 of whom were Aboriginal working in community facs, not-for-profit government organizations. And, um, and it's been a massive success story because they've all completed. So despite the fact that it's an online graduate certificate, which has like an attrition rate of like 90% usually, we had a completion rate of 100%. And the reason why it was so incredibly successful from that perspective is because it was delivered completely through an Aboriginal framework. Elders were involved in delivering content in that course and Aboriginal experts from all over the country delivered the content in that course. So it was not a Western framework, completely an Aboriginal framework. So the students were, completely embraced and safe and felt, everything about their experiences were validated, rather than being outside, they were driving, driving their own learning because they are motivated to do so by all those, inspirational people that they are being exposed to.
Our presentation from the school of psychology was about some of our challenges that we've had within the, within the space of psychology and bringing Aboriginal knowledges and ways and ways of knowing within that space, which is very kind of white, Western scientific, empirical thinking. And, Jindaola knowledges, Aboriginal knowledges challenges that somewhat, that they are based on student observation, which is actually, a good thing because it does give us a bridge there, but the problem doesn't come from actual Aboriginal ways of not knowing. I think, I think it comes from people, especially white fellows in academia who think they know things through a certain process. And that's the end of that process. And there are no other perspectives out there which is contradictory, especially in psychology because we have so many different psychological perspectives about the same phenomenon. Human behavior is very complex. There's no one simple answer for any of it. So it needs these different perspectives. So it's quite surprising that it's been such a challenge to bring in Aboriginal perspectives. And we've also talked about the awkwardness about being a white fellow, saying something about Aboriginal culture, not being a black fellow, doing it, which speaks to, you know, for us who actually understand it, I guess a little bit, we don't feel authentic about it. So we feel awkward. So it's about saying that that's okay. And it's about the way that we can be authentic in that you're saying, no, I'm not a black fella and no, I don't know everything about Yuin culture, Dharawal peoples here in the Illawarra. This is what I do now. And this is a practice in Aboriginal practice or based in Aboriginal practice that we can do. And this is what it stems from. So it's about acknowledging what you don't know and being comfortable with that. We ask our students to do that all the time. You know, a degree, a university degree, it's challenging. You are in a space of discomfort a lot of the time. So, it's also about telling our academics that it's okay to be in that space too.
We were one of the original, grant participants from 2017. And so we finished our, I guess our formal Jindaola journey, and now we've been on our own path with, with the Aboriginal community. Our way has been very much about, exploring and entrepreneurship and piloting different, I guess different ways of knowledges within our curriculum and within our content and engaging our students in different experiences and embedding those throughout the variety of years in our faculty. We have also created a Jindaola committee within the faculty and that committee while it used to meet every two weeks has continued now to meet monthly. We still come together to explore and come up with different ideas on how we can embed Aboriginal knowledges and ways in our curriculum and pilot those and try and test and being very mindful and respectful of Aboriginal students of country and of our non-Aboriginal students.
Talking from my own personal experience as an Aboriginal person and being in a program that was a really culturally safe space, has been really important for me. Having Aboriginal leadership, so coming into it as an Aboriginal program, being led by Aboriginal people within an Aboriginal context for an Aboriginal purpose, but involving everybody from the community has been really good. It's meant that it's increased, the amount of people on campus that I feel culturally safe with. So instead of just having a few people that I knew I could feel comfortable to be with and around that, the community's kind of bigger. So my community, my personal community at work has grown, which has been really important. And that's, um, that's been something that I've noticed in my own self and just seeing people, you know, out on campus that I think are, yeah, they are from Jindaola. I know them and they know me. And just being able to say hello.
With the classroom teaching things, we talked a little bit about acknowledgements of country and figuring out how to do those in a respectful, authentic way. We talked about, implementing yarning circles in the classroom and developing a sense of community among the students. Luke talked about taking some students up Mount Keira and the kind of joy of that, and also, what the students came up with after having climbed up Mount Keira and also the process of taking students up there and what that looks like in terms of OH&S and that kind of thing. Mike talked about the projects that we're working on that, come out of Jindaola, which is called Ya-angarra. So we're building a database of material that will be used by teachers of English and creative writing in a tertiary context, to help teach Aboriginal literature. Ika finished off the presentation, talking about how little steps, just doing little things in our subjects and in our classrooms actually contribute to the kind of broader project of decolonizing the curriculum and how it can feel overwhelming to start with. But then, as you just take kind of step after step after you've begun by mapping your landscape, you kind of start to see how those little steps actually do impact on the bigger picture.
There's a number of different I'll call them principles maybe, or values that sit within our program Jindaola. So they're really just my naming of them, but they're overarching amongst Aboriginal communities. So you've got respect, responsibility and reciprocity. So these values guide our practice, but some of the ways in which we actually articulate those values is through regularity, routine and relevance. We conduct a circle to begin every one of our gatherings, that's a cleansing. So we bring people into the space through that circle work to start with, and then we move into presentations and I sort of speak of it you know, if we think about them old school corroboree, when communities would come together, they would share a dance, they would share a song or they'd share some art and they would share these intangible aspects that represented new knowledges or knowledges that meant to be kept or different types of sharing to have influence over that community. So we've got a community of people here that are bringing what they've been learning into this presentation space. They're doing their dance, you know, they're doing their songs and they do all of that and then we break it back down and we start to jigsaw and workshop in the ways in which we can really hone in on the different sets of knowledges or inspiration or motivation that we got out of those presentations. And we can reconcile them with those people that were working most closely. And so what we're doing here is we're breaking down that barrier to knowledge. Like it doesn't sit with one person, it doesn't sit with two or three people. It doesn't sit with one faculty. We sit down and we ground and we share knowledges authentically from where we come from being inquisitive, being willing, being respectful, you know, sitting in that ‘ngapartji ngapartji’ and finding the ways in which we can be developing our community as well.