• First Nations education bodies say they're disappointed at the education minister's stance on the new national curriculum. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
First Nations educators say proposed changes to the Australian curriculum would strengthen the teaching of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures in schools.
Keira Jenkins

7 Jul 2021 - 6:13 PM  UPDATED 7 Jul 2021 - 6:17 PM

More than 150 education experts and practitioners have signed a letter to the Minister of Education supporting the inclusion of First Nations histories and cultures in the national curriculum.

President of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Principals Association, and Principal of Cabbage Tree Island Public School in northern NSW, Dyonne Anderson, told NITV News the time is right to implement change. 

"Knowing that it's been six years since it's been reviewed, the timeliness is actually very good for us to think about the terminology, to think about the inclusiveness of learning content, that needs to reflect the diversity of students within our schools.

"That means we can have a curriculum that meets the needs of all students."

Ms Anderson said the goal is to improve the education system, so students can get the best possible outcomes while learning about the First People of this country.

"There's so much to celebrate by incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures," she said.

"...The strength and resilience, the richness and diversity of our First Nations histories and cultures just makes learning not only relevant, but much more interesting.

"It (can't) be underestimated, the significant improvements we can see in student learning when learning is relevant and engaging.

"I know that it's important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, but it actually changes the conversation for our non-Aboriginal students (as well).

Ms Anderson said there was a "small pocket" of people spreading mistruths about the review of the curriculum.

"There's been some sensationalised comments about the curriculum review, having a big focus on 'Indigenising' what is currently at play," the Githabul woman said.

"That is a mistruth. The fact that we have an Australian curriculum that needs to have more focus on our First Nations people has been a conversation that has been had since the beginning of the curriculum in 2014.

Ngunnawal, Ngambri and Wiradjuri woman Alinta Iddles-Williams teaches prep at Reservoir East Primary School in Melbourne.

She said the changes are about broadening the perspectives of students.

"We need to give our students a lot more credit," she said. 

"They are keen to engage with different ways of looking at the world.

"Even though most of the changes suggested by the review sit in the non-mandatory part of the curriculum, they still suggest ways teachers can use content to support students to understand First Nations perspectives."

Ms Iddles-Williams said these perspectives can be incorporated in a multitude of ways, big or small.

"If you are doing work on the seasons, children can look at local Indigenous seasons and how they relate to the changes they are seeing in the weather," she said.

"They might also walk on Country with a local Elder, which gives them a chance to build relationships, empathy and understanding."

These calls from educators have been echoed by 11 organisations, including Reconciliation Australia, the Australian Education Union, the National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network and the Stronger Smarter Institute.

Stronger Smarter Institute CEO John Davis said ensuring First Nations histories and cultures are part of the curriculum is "an important part of our growth as a nation".

"We are encouraging all parents, teachers and community members who are engaged in this learning to have their say to support and strengthen this work in schools," he said.

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