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Living with the legacy of conquest and culture : social justice leadership in education and the Indigenous peoples of Australia and America

posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Bronwyn Fredericks, P Maynor, Nereda White, F English, L Ehrich
Through the process of colonization, Indigenous peoples throughout the world witnessed the imposition of British and European worldviews, languages, legal and social structures and lifestyle: in fact, over all areas of life. By means of domination and oppression, it also imposed derogatory labels on Indigenous peoples such as “uncivilized,” “inferior” and “immoral” (Henderson, 2000; Memmi,1967). Through language usage and colonial processes, the British and the Europeans were imbued with a spurious sense of superiority over the rest of the world (Henderson, 2000; Sawchuck, 1992) resulting in a discourse in which Aboriginal Australians and Native American Indians became the “Other.” Everything and everyone else in this process became subordinate to Britain and Europe: culturally, economically and politically. This was repeated through exclusionary language and privileging difference. In the making of modern Australia and the United States of America, Indigenous peoples have survived the most inhumane acts and violations against them and despite acts of genocide, Aboriginal Australians and Native Americans have survived. It is the historical process of colonization that binds and connects Australian Aboriginal peoples in the same way as it does for Native Americans in the United States of America. Colonization and ongoing struggles are entrenched within Indigenous people’s lives in both countries. The experiences and stories that are shared through the generations demonstrate that the legacy of colonization is still part of the everyday reality for thousands of Indigenous people. The impact of the past five hundred years cannot be separated from understandings of education for Native Americans in the same way that the impact of the past 220 years cannot be separated from the understandings of Australian Aboriginal people’s experiences of education. Indigenous people in other geographic areas of the world also have their own experiences of education and are linked through a larger project of conquest, imperialism and colonialism (for example people in Mexico, parts of South America and Africa along with Canada, New Zealand and other areas). This chapter though is specifically about comparisons in Aboriginal and Native American communities and their collision with the dominant, white European settlers who came to Australia and America. Moreover, it will highlight important leadership considerations in education in these contemporary times. Noam Chomsky (1987) once remarked that if one took two historical events and compared them for similarities and differences you would find both. The real test was whether on the similarities they were significant. The position of the co-authors of this chapter is in the affirmative and we take this occasion to lay them out for analysis and review. The chapter begins with a discussion of the historical legacy of oppression and colonization impacting upon Indigenous peoples in Australia and in the United States, followed by a discussion of the plight of Indigenous children in a specific State in America. Through the lens of social justice we then examine those issues and attitudes that continue to subjugate Indigenous peoples in the economic and educational systems of both nations. The final part of the paper identifies some implications for school leadership. It is important to note that with reference to the Australian story, the term “Indigenous” will be used to refer to two Indigenous groups, Australian Aboriginal people who have never ceded sovereignty over the Australian mainland and the Torres Strait Islander people who maintain their sovereignty in the islands between the northern tip of Australia and Papua New Guinea. These groups have separate and distinct histories and cultures and many Torres Strait Islanders now live in mainland Australia.


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Open Access

  • No

Cultural Warning

This research output may contain the names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. We apologize for any distress that may occur.

External Author Affiliations

Australian Catholic University; CELT Corporation; Learning and Teaching Education Research Centre (LTERC); Office of Indigenous Engagement; Queensland University of Technology; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;

Era Eligible

  • Yes

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