Australian kids want to learn First Nations words and culture more than other, foreign languages.
A new poll* of primary school students has revealed that children would rather learn a local First Nations language than the commonly-taught Japanese, Mandarin, French, Italian, German and Indonesian.
The parents of the kids say learning the history of Australia’s First Nations people is more important for their children than studying the Egyptian pyramids at school.
The Children’s Voice survey released today follows a Federal Opposition announcement last week that it would commit $14 million over three years to employ a First Nations Language and Culture Teacher in 60 schools.
Know your Country
The Know Your Country campaign – invites all political parties, Federal and State, to support funding Cultural Educators in every primary school.
The campaign-commissioned Children’s Voice survey found seven in 10 primary students want to regularly learn from a First Nations Cultural Educator – but only one in three had the opportunity at school last year to meet even one person from the local First Nations community.
Know Your Country ambassador and rock icon Peter Garrett said primary schools were specially placed to set up children for lifelong learning.
‘If children are asking to learn more First Nations language and culture then we should listen to them,’ he said. ‘I’ve spent the last three months on tour around Australia – acknowledging Country at every stop – and I’m seeing how thirsty Australians are for knowledge of First Nations people and culture. Even so, schools not rock concerts should be Australians’ gateway to the world’s oldest living culture.’
‘What better way to improve our understanding of culture than to teach young children the languages first spoken on this land thousands of years ago?’
A genuine hunger from both parents and children
Campaign advisor Professor Tom Calma, AO, from the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, said the findings show a genuine hunger from both parents and children themselves to be authentically taught more about the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages. ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the local First Nations language for ‘hello’ rolled off our children’s tongues as easily as Bonjour or Ciao?’ he said.
Campaign Co-Chair Scott Winch said Know Your Country was about sharing the gift of that ancient wisdom with all children directly from local First Nations people.
‘There’s an incredible power and investment in knowing the history and unique language of the land you are standing on. When children learn directly from a local First Nations educator, our research shows they are more likely to enjoy the class, and develop a thirst to learn even more.’
‘It would be terrific if children knew as much about the importance and had a deeper appreciation of local significant sites and creation stories where the children live, play and go to school – as well as Tutankhamun’s tomb and the Pyramids.
The world’s oldest living culture
Australia is blessed to be home to the world’s oldest living culture. Children need – and want – to learn it from local First Nations people themselves.’
Prof Calma said a more holistic education guided by local First Nations Cultural Educators would help build a greater depth of knowledge across more areas, and stronger respect for First Nations people.’
Required to teach First Nations content
Dr Winch said schools are required to teach First Nations content as an ACARA cross-curriculum priority and teachers are meant to be capable of delivering First Nations content under AITSL teacher standards. ‘The survey shows limited progress in the 10 years since these important frameworks were implemented.
‘There is minimal delivery of First Nations content across the curriculum, however the survey revealed that when a First Nations person was engaged to teach directly, the number of First Nations topics taught in class actually trebled.’
The Children’s Voice 2022 survey also revealed:
· More than half (55 per cent) of parents felt learning more about our First Nations peoples in school, such as traditional ways of caring for Country, was much more important than the pyramids and Ancient Egypt.
· Nearly a third (28 per cent) of parents wanted their children to learn a First Nations language, followed by Japanese (25 per cent), Mandarin (22 per cent), French (15 per cent), Italian (15 per cent), German (10 per cent) and Indonesian (6 per cent). 23 per cent chose ‘other’. Yet most children (63 per cent) did not know a single First Nations word.
· The overwhelming majority of children (85 per cent) enjoyed learning about First Nations peoples and cultures. If they had direct contact from a local member of the First Nations community, students’ enjoyment increased to 92 per cent.
· Most Australian parents with primary school-aged kids want governments to fund local First Nations cultural educators and see it as an important way to help heal and unify the nation.
A better education than the one we received
Know Your Country ambassador Justine Clarke said we need to ensure that our kids get a much better education than the one we received about local First Nations Country, people, culture and language? ‘Australian children have a hunger to connect with their country and this ancient and unique history that we share, our cultural educators need to be remunerated for their knowledge and expertise and our teachers are screaming out for authentic support to teach this part of the curriculum with confidence. Know Your Country is the answer.’
The Know Your Country campaign – run by a First Nations-led coalition – is asking for all Parliamentarians, at all levels of Government to commit to ongoing funding for schools to employ First Nations cultural educators.
(*The survey of 650 primary school students was conducted by polling company McNair Yellow Squares in February this year.)