Defining Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Perspectives

What are Indigenous studies?
Indigenous Studies are units of work where the main outcomes focus on students gaining knowledge and/or values about Indigenous content. In the primary sector many of these units of work are located in the Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) syllabus. In the Early Childhood sector these units of work may be a center focus or related to a community activity (such as NAIDOC week). They are usually designed to be integrated across subjects/outcomes and are a group of lessons/activities that are extended for a period of time.
Activities – I will only mention a few, but I am sure you could devise many more. Symbols- what the colors mean. Comparison – to other flags in particular the Torres Strait Islander Flag. Location – where the flag represents, can they locate it in their school/community. History – who developed it and when. Art – Create the Indigenous Flag, both individual and as a class. Flags – where do we see them and why do they exist, create a class flag and discuss what it means to them.
What are Indigenous Perspectives
Indigenous Perspectives differ from Indigenous Studies in two areas; outcome focus and length. Firstly, Indigenous Perspectives are what I consider a pathway or learning journey in allowing a student to meet a subject/framework outcome (not specifically aimed at gaining knowledge on Indigenous content). Secondly, Indigenous Perspectives can be utilized across a variety of subjects and are usually based in one activity. An Indigenous perspective can either inform or value Indigenous issues, concerns, lifestyles, histories and achievements.
Subject – Math
Indigenous Perspective – Indigenous Flag and acknowledging what it represents symbolically
Activity – I have a number of black, yellow and red blocks and I arrange them in a pattern. The students and I firstly look at the blocks and discuss if and what pattern there may be. As a group we could say the pattern together; black, yellow, red, black, yellow, red. I then ask the students what in the classroom has the same colors on them. As they look around the room I would hope (or direct) they would recognize that the Indigenous Flag has the same colors. We can revise what the colors represent and then repeat them in the pattern; people, sun, earth, people, sun, earth.
I can then extend the activity to continuing patterns by asking them what comes next. I would do this firstly using the colors and then using the representations of the Indigenous Flag.
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• Topic 4.2: Comparing Indigenous Perspectives and Indigenous Studies
Topic 4.2: Comparing Indigenous Perspectives and Indigenous Studies
If we place Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Perspectives side by side we can compare and highlight the differences in application, purpose and strategies.
Indigenous Studies are:
• Concentrated units of work
• Delivered in a condensed space of time
• Primary focus is Indigenous content and knowledge
• Usually contained in Human Society and its Environment (HSIE)
Indigenous Perspectives are:
• Included in teaching activities
• Can be delivered throughout a variety of units and therefore all year
• Secondary focus is Indigenous knowledge and value
• Can be utilized across all subjects

• Topic 4.3: Why do we implement Indigenous Perspectives and Indigenous Studies?
Topic 4.3: Why do we implement Indigenous Perspectives and Indigenous Studies?
Why do we need to include Indigenous Perspectives
There are two reasons for including Indigenous perspectives for both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous student; knowledge and value.
Knowledge is self-explanatory in that you are providing new or building on content that has an Indigenous perspective.
Value is the worth that is added to Indigenous Education and these perspectives are not as evident to the student, but are more likely everyday expectation displayed by the teacher and/or community. This could be something as routine as utilizing an Indigenous based resource or acknowledging country at the beginning of the year. The Indigenous content/knowledge is not necessarily explained or discussed in detail, but is present and accepted in your lessons.
As the teacher you can select your perspectives, but my advice is that you work with other people such as Indigenous staff members and communities. Working as a team makes the prospect of adding Indigenous perspectives and developing Indigenous Studies less daunting for you as a beginning teacher.
Culture – This is the provision of knowledge regarding cultural practices. It could be a traditional or contemporary cultural activity.
History – This is the provision of knowledge regarding the history and experiences of Indigenous communities and Peoples.
Place Within the Learning Environment – This knowledge is reflective of the contribution Indigenous Peoples make to the learning environment in a historical sense and also as participants within the classroom.
Culture -Valuing culture is an example of accepting Indigenous culture as an equal participant to Australia’s history and modern society
History – Valuing Indigenous history is the acknowledgment of Indigenous Peoples experiences (including Indigenous students in your classroom).
Place Within the Learning Environment – By valuing Indigenous Perspectives in your classroom demonstrates to the students that Indigenous Education has a positive and contributing place in the learning environment and also in the wider community

• Topic 4.4: How do we incorporate Indigenous Perspectives and Indigenous Studies
Topic 4.4: How do we incorporate Indigenous Perspectives and Indigenous Studies
How do we add an Indigenous Perspective?
There are two ways we can approach this process.
What outcome do we need to address?

Then finding an Indigenous Perspective that demonstrates or contributes to the learning process for the students. This could be something related to an Indigenous student or to the local community.
What Indigenous Perspectives are available to you?
Then finding a syllabus outcome that can utilize this perspective. Sometimes resources are limited, therefore find out what is available to you and work from there. Remember there are Indigenous Organizations that are only too willing to help you with this process.

• Further Research & Activity
Further Research & Activity

Further Research
Everyday Learning Series (2018) Opportunities. Vol 16. No1. pp20-21 ECA Reconciliation.pdf pp20-21 ECA Reconciliation.pdf – Alternative Formats
Everyday Learning Series (2017) Indigenous Australia as a starting point for cultural competence. Vol 15, No.2. pp18-19 ECA.pdf pp18-19 ECA.pdf – Alternative Formats

Learning Activity
Find a picture book appropriate for an early childhood setting authored by an Indigenous person.
What activity can you lead after reading this book to children?
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• Indigenous perspective example
Indigenous perspective example
EYLF LO 5.4 Children begin to understand how symbols and patterns work

• Sissy
• Rocks
• Shells
• Wrapping decoration
• The painting in the background is one completed by my son Alfie. He used spray cans to create the effect.
I was inspired by the symbols on Sissy’s clothes, which is the symbol of campfire and meetings.
When you look down on top of the sample you can see the same pattern that is on the material.
There are many ways you can utilize this sample, including
• Exploration/provocation table = telling stories around the campfire
• An alternative to setting up a tea party
• There are a lot of books about camping and therefore can be a play station that includes the children and dolls playing together
• Early writing – painting the symbol with different colors
• Can also connect it with the famous Russian artist’s work Kandinsky’s Concentric Circles.

• Module overview
This module will encourage you to investigate and research various pedagogy approaches developed by Indigenous educators. Each pedagogy approach that you will investigate can be applied to the early childhood environment with some adaption.
Learning Outcomes
By engaging in this learning you will be working towards achieving the following learning outcomes:

o have developed an awareness and understanding of culturally appropriate pedagogy for Indigenous children
Links to Assessment 2
How does Module 5 relate to Assessment 2?
• Part B is directly related to this module. You are required to investigate one of the 8 ways of learning.
• Part D can be reflected because you may reflect on how you utilize Indigenous pedagogies in an EC setting.

Module content
Students in Indigenous Education
Topic 1: 8 Ways of Aboriginal Learning
Topic 2: Stronger Smarter Framework
Topic 3: Culturally Responsive Pedagogies
Topic 4: Aboriginal English

Prescribed Readings

Buckskin, P. (2019). Engaging Indigenous Students: The important relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their teachers. In Price, K. & Rogers, J. (eds). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education: An Introduction for the teaching profession. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press pp272-293 Click Here
Excell, M. & Gower, G. (2021). Developing strong relationships with Aboriginal students, families and communities. In Shay, M. & Oliver, R. (eds) Indigenous Education in Australia; Learning and Teaching for Deadly Futures. Routledge. Pp86-96 Click Here
Grote, E. & Dann, T. (2021). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at school – Strengths analysis. In Shay, M. & Oliver, R. (eds) Indigenous Education in Australia; Learning and Teaching for Deadly Futures. Routledge. Pp174-189 Click Here
Harrison, N & Sellwood, J. (2021). Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, 4th Ed. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. Chap 4 – Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. pp 109-146
Huff Sisson. J, Whitington, V. & Shin, A. (2020) “Teaching Culture Through Culture”: A Case Study of Culturally Responsive Pedagogies in an Australian Early Childhood/Primary Context, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 34:1, 108-126, Retrieved from
Sydenham, E. (2019). Discussion Paper: Ensuring Equality for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Children in the Early Years. SNAICC & ECA. Retrieved
SNAICC-ECA-Discussion-Paper-.pdf (
Improving outcomes in early childhood for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Pp23-33

Western New South Wales Regional Aboriginal Education Team, DoE. (n.d.) 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning: Aboriginal Pedagogy. Bangamalanha Centre Dubbo. Retrieved from

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