Advice for new teachers on introducing Indigenous perspectives and knowledge
The Sector > Quality > Professional development > Advice for new teachers on introducing Indigenous perspectives and knowledge

Advice for new teachers on introducing Indigenous perspectives and knowledge

by Freya Lucas

May 24, 2023

“The worst thing you can do is to do nothing…” This is the simple advice that Swinburne Lecturer Anne Rohde gives to her Bachelor of Education students about introducing Indigenous (sic.) perspectives and knowledge into their teaching.


Ms Rohde is an Indigenous Education Academic Lead in the Department of Education at Swinburne University of Technology, and is currently working with students ahead of their primary and early childhood teaching placements to help them understand how they can better embed Indigenous perspectives in the classroom.


This means not just confining First Nations history, language and culture to one class or classroom, but empowering new teachers to include Indigenous knowledges across the curriculum in authentic and respectful ways.


“I try to give them the strategies, skills and background knowledge to help them put it into practice across their teaching, and the confidence to make a start,” she explained. 


As an Indigenous woman herself, Ms Rohde’s first piece of advice is to go out onto Country, to get to know what Country they are working on, and to use this knowledge to localise their teaching. 


She also recommends utilising Indigenous texts, not just as a tokenistic gesture, but in an authentic way that provides a new perspective – whether it be a video, a short story or a picture book for younger students.


Overall, she recommends that new teachers take approaches that resonate with them.


“I’m not going to tell you exactly what to do,” she said. “I am here to share my knowledge with you, to work with you and help you to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural identity, scientific knowledge and historical perspectives across what you’re teaching.”


Ms Rohde began her career working in educational psychology before teaching both primary and secondary education, with her most recent teaching experience being in early childhood education. 


It was not too long, however, until she realised that the path to making ‘big picture’ changes in the education sector lay in impacting how teachers themselves were taught. In her current role, she is dedicated to decolonising and embedding Indigenous perspectives across the entire Department of Education at Swinburne, working closely with the Academic Director, Indigenous Learning and Teaching, Mat Jakobi.


“I’ve always felt very welcome at Swinburne and Mat has been fantastic with helping me make connections across the university,” she said.


“Looking at our Reconciliation Action Plan and strategic plan, we’re seeing that Indigenous education is coming through and becoming more visible. There’s great support and input from across the university.”


With a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament planned this year, Ms Rohde said now is the perfect time to be providing new perspectives and ways of learning.


“My students often say that they had no idea about some elements of Australian history, so it is important that we teach our students about our Nation’s shared history”, she explained.


“The more we know, the more we can be part of the change in politics, media and society. You need to listen to multiple perspectives; you need to be informed. People must know what they are voting for.”


As for her favourite part of the job, she loves to see emerging teachers building confidence to use their newfound knowledge and skills to make changes themselves.


“It’s great when my students say that they tried something new in the classroom and that they are putting what they have learned into practical action. You can really see that exponential impact.”


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