Learning from the land: a case study of Worawa Aboriginal College
“Until Aboriginal narrative, understandings, knowledge and spirituality are more than curios or benevolent additions to Eurocentric compilations then there will be no real value in them to non-Aboriginal participants beyond salve for colonial cringe and the satisfaction of justice appearing to be done,” Dr Lois Peeler.
Worawa Aboriginal College was founded in 1983 by Aboriginal visionary Hyllus Maris who said “Aboriginality comes out of the culture. It comes out of being the people who belong here. It comes out of pride in an ancient history and values that sustained a People for countless thousands of years and that are still relevant today…”.
Aboriginal philosophy conceives a holistic view of the world of everything connected to everything else and a need to respect all features of the environment. For Aboriginal people, relationship with the land is special, deeply felt and essential to who we are and how we have become who we are. This approach is incorporated into the Worawa curriculum and Aboriginal spiritual beliefs in relationship to land, and responsibility for caring for country, is expressed in care of the land on which the College is situated.
At Worawa, we are careful to present Aboriginal ways of knowing, content and context in a manner that is in keeping with its intrinsic value and complexity. This is particularly critical because Worawa is an Aboriginal school for Aboriginal students existing within a dominant culture. The nurturing and building of Aboriginal identity and pride is critical in this context.
We do not attempt to make the curriculum Aboriginal but rather, we embed Aboriginal ways of Knowing, Doing and Being into our existence. It is not a simple task, but our charter, to thoroughly uphold Aboriginal pride, pre-existence and custodianship, while we educate students to thrive in mainstream schooling and society, is a given in our community and a first consideration of our planning and operating.
Along with the core academic program, emphasis is placed on nurturing and celebrating Aboriginal culture as a crucial aspect of student self-esteem and wellbeing.
Dr Lois Peeler AM, Executive Director/Principal, Worawa Aboriginal College
Dr Peeler is Executive Director/Principal of Australia’s only Aboriginal girls’ boarding school, Worawa Aboriginal College, and has held senior positions in the community and public sectors.