Rosetta Primary School – Tasmania

The school

Rosetta Primary School is a government school set in the city of Glenorchy, ten kilometres north of Tasmania's capital city, Hobart. Rosetta is largely a residential area situated close to the city's business centre.

Rosetta Primary School has around 390 students. Indigenous students form 2.9% of the student population. The school runs 15 classes from K–6 and approximately 30% of students receive government assistance with school fees. Parents generally are very supportive of all school programs and initiatives.

For further details about the school visit the Rosetta PS website at
http://www.rosetta.primary.tased.edu.au.

Rosetta Primary School

Program overview

The Year 5/6 unit 'Aboriginal Cross-Cultural Awareness' was an eight-week course of study developed for the class curriculum. It addresses the Social Responsibility strand in the Tasmanian curriculum framework.

The major focus of the unit was to examine the traditional and contemporary complexities of Aboriginal culture, with specific attention to how these complexities determine Aboriginal values, beliefs and relationships with others and their environment.

To promote an acceptance of cultural diversities and develop stronger community links, an Aboriginal Student Support and Parental Awareness (ASSPA) initiative was established with the local high school, Rosetta High School.

Material was adapted from the Discovering Democracy Upper Primary Units 'People Power – at a glance' section as well as other resources.

Learning needs

The main focus was to develop in students knowledge of Aboriginal culture and give them a framework on which to build in future activities. Initially much of this background information was read and summarised in small groups during reading sessions of extracts from Living off the Land: Book 1 – Invasion. The sections covered included:

  • Before the Invasion
  • Daily Activities
  • An Effective Technology
  • Tribal Lands.

This research was completed before a planned excursion to the Margate Aboriginal Centre to enable the students to learn about traditional Tasmanian Aborigines' way of life before invasion by Europeans.

The students needed to be able to discuss issues from different viewpoints. They needed to be aware of how Aborigines felt about their land, their connection to it, their belonging and how this was in stark contrast to the European viewpoint.

Learning outcomes

The unit 'People Power' addresses the Social Responsibility strand as specified in the Tasmanian Essential Learnings Framework.

Learners will 'develop a personal understanding of their own beliefs about fundamental concepts such as power, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the public good' by:

  • acting democratically
  • valuing diversity
  • understanding the past and creating preferred futures.

It also addresses Goals 1–3 in The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals For Schooling in the Twenty-first Century, in that the students should have the capacity to exercise judgement and responsibility in matters of morality, ethics and social justice and accept responsibility for their own actions.

Student outcomes

When students have completed the unit they will be able to:

  • have a greater understanding and empathy towards Indigenous people;
  • identify the impact on the environment by European settlement;
  • give accounts of the actions and achievements of specific citizen campaigns in relation to Indigenous groups;
  • identify the values and beliefs that influenced Indigenous groups to publicly campaign for change;
  • discuss and evaluate the strategies used by the Freedom Riders, Eddie Mabo and the Gurindji people to achieve change;
  • identify the injustices done to the Aboriginal people;
  • have an awareness of the need for reconciliation.

Program outline

In Term 2, 2002, the 'Aboriginal Cross-Cultural Awareness' unit was developed for students in a Year 5/6 class. The program ran for eight weeks and was integrated into the class curriculum. The main issues covered were cultural identity and social justice in relation to Indigenous people.

Key concepts covered were:

  • invasion
  • inequality
  • injustice
  • discrimination
  • segregation
  • reconciliation.

The aim of the program was for students to:

  • develop knowledge and understanding of Tasmanian Aboriginal Culture;
  • acknowledge and value cultural diversity;
  • develop a greater understanding of the issues that face Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today and in the past;
  • value Aboriginal knowledge of the natural environment;
  • make judgements in matters of social justice in regards to Indigenous people.

Rosetta school teacher with class in a circle, map on floor

Resources

The following curriculum resources were used:

  • About Aboriginal People, Elton Publications
  • Gumnuts to Buttons, Aboriginal Education Unit, Department of Education, Tasmania, 2001
  • Living with the Land: Book 1 – Invasion, Department of Education and the Arts, Hobart, 1989–91
  • On the Track: Aboriginal Studies in Early Education, Department of Education, Tasmania, 2001
  • Towards a New Dreaming: Future Directions in Land Management in Australia, Clean up Australia, 1995
  • Towards Reconciliation: Activities for Reconciliation Week, Department of Education, Training and Employment, South Australia, 1998
  • Two Rivers: A Reflective Journey, Department of Education, Training, Community and Cultural Development, Hobart, 1998.

Positive links and advice have been provided by:

  • Margate Aboriginal Centre
  • Aboriginal Speakers Program
  • Cross-Cultural Awareness Training Programs
  • Aboriginal Resource Centre
  • PALAWA Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage, Culture and Arts and Crafts Centre
  • Bill Hodge – an expert on plants relevant to the Aboriginal community and culture.

Developing the program

The following are significant events that contributed to the program:

  • professional development for staff, making links to the Discovering Democracy resources focusing on Civics and Citizenship and Aboriginal education;
  • professional development session at Margate Aboriginal School Centre focusing on exploring the facilities available;
  • Koorie Consultants Cross-Cultural Awareness Course focusing on Tasmanian Indigenous issues;
  • four upper primary classes viewed the film Rabbit-Proof Fence;
  • songs and the featuring of the Australian flag, Aboriginal flag and Torres Strait Islander flag were incorporated into events and displays;
  • visit to the Margate Aboriginal Centre by students from both Rosetta High School and Rosetta Primary School, where children participated in activities presented by Aboriginal community members, including role play, storytelling and discussion about what it means to be an Aboriginal;
  • excursion to the Bedlam Walls, a significant Aboriginal site;
  • school performances by Aboriginal performers.

Evaluation

Initially this project began as a short-term task but it soon became evident that we would need more time to achieve our goals. Our aim has always been to increase the understanding of the elements of cross-cultural awareness for staff and students.

Throughout the course of the year our outcomes have focused on creating connections with Aboriginal culture throughout the whole school. Perhaps one of the main outcomes was the opportunity to allow staff the time to discuss, reflect and increase their awareness of Aboriginal culture and understand how this knowledge can be conveyed in the classroom to the students within a meaningful framework where children could ask questions and seek information. Various community excursions have been arranged for staff and contact made with Indigenous community members, the local high school and the Discovering Democracy Project Officer in order to assist staff understanding.

One of the most important outcomes for students within the school has been for them to be aware of, and gain an understanding of, the experiences of Tasmanian Aborigines at the time of the European invasion and the subsequent changes to their land and lifestyles. The unit allowed students the opportunity to develop empathy with another culture and to understand its history. Through practical programs such as Gumnuts to Buttons and the game My Patch, students have been able to empathise with Tasmanian Aborigines and gain a different historical perspective on the European invasion of Tasmania.

Some teachers have used an explicit teaching approach, while others have used more practical methods such as art, drama, science, technology and music. The underpinning outcomes have included:

  • recounting some major events in Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations;
  • looking at ways that these relations have changed over time, specifically in recent history with the emphasis on National Sorry Day and Aboriginal Land Rights;
  • being able to explain different perspectives and historical interpretations about events that have occurred in Australian history;
  • understanding the values underpinning our democracy and the particular issues that relate to reconciliation.

Throughout this program, students have gained a greater understanding and insight of:

  • the history and operations of Australia's democracy;
  • the values and attributes that enable them to take their place as informed, responsible and active citizens.

Rosetta school kids in class

Assessment

There has been a high level of student participation in the program from K–6. The use of such opportunities as assemblies, displays, contact with Indigenous guests and the operation of the ASSPA Group have increased student understanding of equity and tolerance which is readily identifiable within the whole school. Assessment opportunities have included an array of simple and complicated structures.

Cross-curricula assessment in late October and early November when the whole school moves toward an evaluation cycle will be of further importance to an overview assessment from a wider staff perspective.

Specifically we have aimed to identify student understanding of the cultural identity and diversity of Indigenous people through their work and conversations. The capacity for a thoughtful and reflective approach in their observations, descriptions and attitudes has been evident during assemblies and displays at various times throughout the year. Use of information communication technologies that have highlighted different ways of recording and presenting student work have been an excellent means of sharing with others. These methods have been used at assemblies, on our school website and intranet site. Integrated tasks have been used to sustain student interest and add variety to the manner in which tasks have been completed.

One of our aims was to assess feedback on the involvement of the broader community in school initiatives. This has been harder to monitor, although attendance at events has increased and parents are taking more interest in our work. Creating links with the local high school has certainly been one of our bigger successes and combined activities are being constantly consolidated through the promotion of ASSPA initiatives. There has also been a significant increase in the number of families identifying as Aborigine and Torres Strait Islander in recent months.

The Essential Learnings have guided our assessment procedures and purposes with the focus on social responsibility through:

  • building social capital
  • valuing diversity
  • acting democratically
  • understanding the past and creating preferred futures.

The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-first Century and the National Statements and Profiles material have also been used as the foundation levels of our assessment outcomes and underpin our Essential Learnings framework.

These have culminated in the teacher-identified assessment outcomes of:

  • inquiring and reflective thinkers
  • effective communicators
  • self-directed and ethical people
  • responsible citizens
  • world contributors.

The children's written work was collected and assessed by requiring the student to demonstrate:

  1. a knowledge of Aboriginal culture;
  2. knowledge of the injustices done to Indigenous people;
  3. an ability to discuss and form an opinion about issues concerning equality, equal opportunity and freedom;
  4. knowledge of the impact of European settlement on the environment;
  5. knowledge of the ways people can bring about change;
  6. knowledge of why the Freedom Ride occurred;
  7. knowledge of the actions of the Freedom Riders and their effectiveness;
  8. an awareness of the need for and meaning of reconciliation.

Discussion was also a significant factor in assessment as children throughout the unit were given the opportunity to discuss and reflect upon issues concerning Aboriginal people. This was often done in small reading groups. Students were able to formulate their own ideas on issues concerning Indigenous Australians and identify inequality and injustices done to Indigenous people.

Reflections

This unit of work was undertaken to develop within the students an understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal culture – an awareness of what it means to be an Aborigine and to gain a better view of history from an Aboriginal perspective.

The students were able to identify the issues that have faced Indigenous people and make their own judgements about the treatment of Aborigines in the past. This led to the belief that we do need to travel together as one on the path of reconciliation in the future.

As reflected in our class reconciliation song:

Together we'll travel
The healing's begun
We'll travel the main road
Where two rivers run
For life is a journey
And there's work to be done
Till we travel the same road
Together as one.

Acknowledgements

Mr T Poynter, Discovering Democracy Project Officer (Tasmania)
Rosetta High School and Rosetta Primary School ASSPA Group
Ms E Riddell, Principal, Rosetta Primary School
Mr A Cuthbertson, IT Program
Ms G Hill and Ms G Bonnitcha, Music Program
Mrs L Smith, Library Assistant
Mrs S Willing, Parent Assistance
Mrs J Jackman, Curriculum Officer, Aboriginal Education Unit
Aboriginal Education Centre, the Margate Aboriginal Centre and the Aboriginal Speakers' Program.

A special acknowledgment to Grade 5/6 C and the staff, parents and students of Rosetta Primary who have supported this project in many varied ways.

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