Encounters with Racism; The Need for Courageous Conversations in Australian Initial Teacher Education Programs to Address Racial Inequality for Aboriginal Peoples

Sheelagh Daniels-Mayes


The strategy of courageous conversations is offered as a means of addressing racial inequity experienced by Australian Aboriginal peoples evident in society’s institutions like education. Despite teacher preparation programs efforts to prepare pre-service teachers for diversity in the classroom, the issue of racism remains problematic. The denial of racism existing in contemporary times is commonplace. Alternatively, rather than being understood as a collective and active colonial and cultural inheritance, racism has been thoroughly reconstructed as an individual moral aberration. Dialogues about racism are often difficult and may create discomfort, raise feelings of indifference, guilt, resistance, shame, and mistrust that lead to avoidance or denial allowing ‘white’ people to remain ignorant that racial issues are endemic. Such denial and avoidance is a privilege not afforded to Aboriginal peoples who have been racially constructed and measured since the onset of dispossessing colonisation in the late 18th century. To not speak of racism and how it intersects with structural inequity for Australian Aboriginal students, serves only to perpetuate dominant racialised narratives that produce and reproduce ‘white’ privilege. This paper draws on and repurposes quantitative data gathered through a two-year critical ethnographic investigation that sought to identify and document what does successful teaching of Aboriginal high school students look like and what challenges do successful teachers encounter? The research quickly revealed the many guises of racism being encountered by teachers and students, personally and professionally, overtly and covertly, within and beyond the school gates. In this paper, narratives of encounters with racism shared by participants are provided to demonstrate the need for intentional and explicit courageous conversations in our schools that start in the Initial Teacher Education classroom.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/jets.v9i3.5183


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Journal of Education and Training Studies  ISSN 2324-805X (Print)   ISSN 2324-8068 (Online)

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