Crossing Cultural Borders – A Journey Towards Understanding and Celebration in Aboriginal Australian and Non-Aboriginal Australian Contexts
Thesis written by Dr Marianne McLaughlin
Aboriginal students will often approach their teacher with the biggest and most beautiful smile. That smile, if it could be verbalised, asks the teacher to ‘learn me’.
Non-Aboriginal teachers may find that crossing cultural borders, between their own worldview and that of the Aboriginal students’ can be a challenging and frightening experience, so much so that they may not see the open smile and desire to learn from the Aboriginal student. I have been fortunate to have experienced crossing multiple cultural borders with Aboriginal people using an Aboriginal form of the Third Space (Bhabar, 1994) based on the lived experience of Scott Fatnowna who is the creator of this teaching and learning model. This model is designed to cause positive change between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians through understanding each other’s worldview by working and learning together with equal power and cross cultural dialogue. The model also resonates with the Ganma metaphor (Yolgnu people from the Northern Territory).
This study investigates, through an autoethnographic narrative and participant interviews, what ‘learn me’ may mean for teachers with Aboriginal students in the classroom. This research also investigates how teachers may not only avoid the pitfalls involved in cultural border crossings but also increase the engagement and retention of Aboriginal students as both students and teachers ‘learn’ each other in a truly holistic fashion.
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