Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
To ‘Uplift’ the ‘Aborigine’ or to ‘Uphold’ Aboriginal Dignity and Pride? Indigenous Educational Debates in 1960s Australia
Sophie Rudolph

Última modificación: 2017-07-16


The depth and severity of the ‘problem’ of Australian Indigenous educational disadvantage is considered to have become widely known in the late 1960s (Gray and Beresford, 2008). This was a time in which struggles for Aboriginal justice and self-determination was being influenced by international debates about race and gender inequalities and civil rights (Clark, 2008). In 1967 Monash University in Melbourne, held a conference titled Aborigines and Education (Dunn and Tatz, 1969), which was attended by a diverse group of academics, educators, community workers, students, school inspectors and government representatives. A range of issues were raised and discussed at the conference, concerning the educational opportunities and experiences of Aboriginal students.

There was, at this time, an awareness of the ongoing effects of the violence of colonialism and a desire by many to move away from the civilizing discourses related to Aboriginal education that had been prominent in previous decades. Added to this was a strong push by Aboriginal people for access to education for political power and material equality. It is within these educational struggles that this paper is located.  Through analysis of a selection of contributions to the Aborigines and Education conference (a record that was published by Dunn and Tatz in 1969), the contestation over educational provision for Aboriginal students is examined. In particular, two key discourses are identified in the papers: one that centers around concerns to ‘uplift’ Aboriginal students to the educational standards of non-Aboriginal students and another that emphasizes the importance of ‘upholding’ Aboriginal dignity and pride within the European education system. While the ‘uplift’ discourse focuses on the individual and falls into colonially influenced discourses of ‘modernisation’ of Aboriginal people, the ‘uphold’ discourse suggests a form of equality that understands the system to require change and refuses to see Aboriginal people as requiring ‘modernisation’.

This work aims to contribute empirically and conceptually to scholarly debates concerning Indigenous educational inequalities. It grows out of a project that developed a history of the present policy concern of an ‘achievement gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian students. The contestation over what was considered important in education in the late 1960s enables us to cleave open the current debate about Indigenous education in which the idea of ‘gap’ has become taken-for-granted. I argue that these historical insights provoke reflection on the enduring legacies of settler colonial histories and the ways in which educational inequalities are addressed in the present.