Teacher Aides cuts will have a devastating and enduring affect
by James Madigan. Aboriginal Education [NSW DET, 1997-2011] 20 September 2013
n response to recent suggestions made by Mr Greg Robson [Minister for Education Western Australia] that the loss of Aboriginal Teacher Aide positions across the country’s northern end will have only a minimal affect upon Aboriginal students defies belief.
With an expected loss of 500 education positions the Minister has also remarked that ‘…there’ll be a reduction in support but that doesn’t mean that support vanishes…’, highlighting the fact that when politicians such as Mr Robson comment on issues that they do not fully comprehend whilst addressing educational concerns from positions of lofty isolation they demonstrate cultural ignorance, a decided lack of empathy for some of the most vulnerable people in modern society as well as a
healthy disrespect for the wonderful achievements of Aboriginal Teacher Aides throughout the history of education in this country. As a Stolen Generations descendant, 4-year trained Aboriginal secondary school teacher with qualifications in Australian History, Aboriginal Studies and Society in Culture, fifteen years teaching and Aboriginal Education in-schools program design and implementation experience, plus certification Project Management and
Indigenous leadership I can assure the Minister that the affect of cuts such as those announced will in fact have a devastating and enduring affect upon Aboriginal students. If nothing else then my professional fifteen years as an expert Aboriginal Educator has taught me the intrinsic value of in-school Aboriginal Teacher Aides, Assistants and/or Workers. Had it not been for the ongoing support of these staff members then I am absolutely certain that former colleagues and myself would not have been able to achieve such positive and long-lasting results in terms of New South Wales Aboriginal Education. I also note that it was the personal approach to individual Aboriginal student needs that allowed for the identification of those with particular concerns relating to learning, behaviour and associated issues. Classroom teachers simply do not have the time and resources to devote to particular student cohorts in the ways they deserve and I know for a fact that the vast majority of teachers whom I network with on a professional as well as personal basis [NSW and other states/territories] frequently suggest that their job is becoming increasingly difficult; that the days of developing and delivering
education to individual students [except via the PLP process] has all but disappeared, and that in doing so there has been an increasing pressure to not only ‘achieve less with more’ but to deliver classroom information in ways that can be accessed by the average or above student learner. Verily I say until you Mr Robson that to those with educational, cultural or emotional/behavioural concerns we should offer the utmost support. In terms of the tasks that Aboriginal Teacher Aides perform it would be disrespectful for anyone to suggest that a loss of even one of these pivotal staff members from a school context would have only a minimal affect upon Aboriginal student learning. In my fifteen years as an Aboriginal Educator [1997-2011] I can clearly remember some of the major elements of the role of the Aboriginal Teacher Aides whom I had the pleasure to work alongside and to call my friends, colleagues and mentors. These people are the schools’ links with the wider Aboriginal community and act as necessary conduits of information. They support classroom teachers in terms of resources, curriculum support, understanding pedagogy and explaining family
and community links to individual classroom teachers. They hold personal, cultural, spiritual and historical connections with Aboriginal students whilst supporting this same student cohort to engage with an often daunting non-Aboriginal learning environment. Aboriginal Teacher Aides offer cultural perspectives on a wide range of issues, sit with Aboriginal students and community members during personalised learning plan processes whilst also acting as mentors to Aboriginal students in an effort to develop the cultural as well as academic potential of students under their care. Aboriginal Teacher Aides record, track and evaluate key data in line with state and federal Education policies, and as the school Principal’s ‘eyes and ears’ in school-based Aboriginal Education they ensure the efficient operation of all aspects of Aboriginal Education at any given time inside of any given school. In essence, Aboriginal Teacher Aides are the embodiment of living Aboriginal knowledge and as such deserve the support of politicians charged with a duty of care in terms of the exercising of political power and privilege.