The Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success acknowledges Indigenous peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our campuses are situated. With a history spanning 60,000 years as the original educators, Indigenous peoples hold a unique place in Australia. We recognise the importance of their knowledge and culture, and reflect the principles of participation, equity, and cultural respect in our work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future, and consider it an honour to learn from our Indigenous colleagues, partners, and friends.

You are reading: Crossing Cultural Borders – A Journey Towards Understanding and Celebration in Aboriginal Australian and Non-Aboriginal Australian Contexts

Dr Marianne McLaughlin

Thesis written by Dr Marianne McLaughlin

Aboriginal students will often approach their teacher with the biggest and most beautiful smile. That smile, if it could be verbalised, asks the teacher to ‘learn me’.

Non-Aboriginal teachers may find that crossing cultural borders, between their own worldview and that of the Aboriginal students’ can be a challenging and frightening experience, so much so that they may not see the open smile and desire to learn from the Aboriginal student. I have been fortunate to have experienced crossing multiple cultural borders with Aboriginal people using an Aboriginal form of the Third Space (Bhabar, 1994) based on the lived experience of Scott Fatnowna who is the creator of this teaching and learning model. This model is designed to cause positive change between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians through understanding each other’s worldview by working and learning together with equal power and cross cultural dialogue. The model also resonates with the Ganma metaphor (Yolgnu people from the Northern Territory).

This study investigates, through an autoethnographic narrative and participant interviews, what ‘learn me’ may mean for teachers with Aboriginal students in the classroom. This research also investigates how teachers may not only avoid the pitfalls involved in cultural border crossings but also increase the engagement and retention of Aboriginal students as both students and teachers ‘learn’ each other in a truly holistic fashion.

Read more: Crossing Cultural Borders Thesis by Dr Marianne McLaughlin (6.2Mb)

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