My name's Chelsea Bond, and I'm Mulunjali and South Sea Islander through the Wattego and Williams family.
So I've been studying and working in Indigenous health for almost 20 years and I currently work as an academic teaching into the health sciences, but also in Indigenous knowledges.
My PhD research was in population health. The focus of my research was to examine how Aboriginal people articulate their identities.
So there's been a lot of research, and they have found a strong relationship between racial socialisation as a positive sense of self and one's identity with a whole range of health outcomes, from mental health, depression, obesity and a range of health risk factors such as drug and alcohol use. So we know that when people have a healthy sense of their own identity, they are healthy as well.
There has been a tendency in the past for educators to engage with sort of generic Aboriginal culture in the curriculum, and often times this engagement with culture relates to a culture somewhere a long way away, and often to a time gone by. And what that often tells our children is that they are somehow culturally bereft, because they have no connection to the culture that's being taught in the classroom.
So it's really important that we engage with the cultural identity of the children who sit in our centres. When I engage in teaching, I always think about local and contemporary. How does this relate to right here and right now?
Often when we think about culture, we think about the superficial things, the things that we can identify, such as food, language, dress. But culture really is about the stuff underneath that, how we give meaning to our world, how we engage with each other, our sense of humour.
It's all that stuff that is not so visible.
So I think it's really important for educators to critically examine their own centres, and the messages that are being conveyed to children explicitly and implicitly. Are there toys of colour? Are there images of Aboriginality beyond NAIDOC week? Are there everyday messages conveyed to children that not even necessarily boast a proud identity, but just normalising our Indigeneity and our presence in the classroom?
It can be challenging work, it can be uncomfortable work, because we have to fess up to some things that we perhaps should have done a bit better. But it's about being prepared to listen and to learn, and more importantly it's about listening and learning from Indigenous people.
If we are so committed to doing this work about empowering Indigenous kids, then we have to recognise Indigenous knowledge. We have to recognise Indigenous capabilities, and we have to recognise that we have to take on a role as the learner, not the educator, in this engagement.