ERG SES D 09, Parallel Session D 09
The challenge of meeting the educational needs and interests of Indigenous students within Australian schools was taken up by the Federal government in the 1970s, and despite a wealth of policy and research initiatives designed to ameliorate the challenges encountered, the goal of creating inclusive, engaged and meaningful learning experiences has remained largely elusive. As Gray and Beresford (2008, p. 218) point out, ‘Indigenous education remains in a parlous state, characterised by decades of slow improvement and a more recent plateau effect of outcomes.’ This paper takes up a view that this ineffective response can partially be explained by drawing attention to education policy and research that has failed to listen to Indigenous voices throughout this time, coupled with an aversion to asking suitable or relevant research questions that addressed underlying systemic problems. In other words, education policy and research has to date been largely unwilling or unable to account for the impact of ‘race’ and power with regard to meeting the needs of this section of the student population. This paper is part of a broader research project that seeks to reassert the need to centrally locate ‘race’ as a theoretical, methodological and analytical social construct that is pertinent for education research in Australia. For this critique, I take on a Critical Race Theory (CRT) view of race-based assumptions as endemic within Australia. Moreover, that race-based bias has contributed to the research community sustaining ‘student-as-problem’ explanations of, and responses to, poor attendance records for Indigenous students, limited numbers of students completing year 12, and state and national testing regimes that further reiterate the so-called achievement ‘gap’.
In an attempt to provoke the research community to both reflect on this and concurrently develop a research agenda beyond this deficit framing, Indigenous educator and researcher Karen Martin challenged those at a symposium on ‘Indigenous Education’ at the 2010 AARE conference to ‘make a difference’ for Indigenous students in education. This paper represents a response to this challenge, and acknowledges that an important starting point requires shifting the research gaze onto the self. As such, I will reflexively examine how, as a white, male, educator and education researcher, I can in some way make a positive and constructive contribution to this new research paradigm. The aim of the paper then, is to unpack the theoretical, methodological and ethical implications associated with being a white education researcher, taking up the ideas offered by CRT within Australia. Despite its origins in the USA, contributions from Moreton-Robinson (2004) and Beresford and Beresford (2006) affirm that CRT has much to offer within Australia, concurrently attesting to Gillborn’s (2006, 2008) assertion that the approach has much to contribute beyond this originating context. An additional goal of the paper then, is to draw attention to the potential value offered by CRTs central tenets and conceptual tools for ‘making a difference’ with education research within the Australian setting.
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