Inspiration – Uncle Ernie Grant



​​​​​​​​​​​Jirrbal Elder, Uncle Ernie Grant, shares his teaching and learning framework, which acknowledges Indigenous peoples' holistic view of their world, including the interrelatedness of land, language and culture. He explains how these can be embedded in curriculum and pedagogy.

Read the transcript for this video

My name's Ernie Grant. My dad is a Jirribal man and my mum was Giramay which is south of Tully. So I grew up in an Aboriginal setting, knowing all the four tribes and had relations amongst all of them.

I was up at Hopevale north of Cooktown at the community there, and there was me, a European lady teacher and a guidance officer - European - and five Aboriginals from Hopevale doing a language course. They were talking about a tree. 

I said "youse can't talk about a tree", I said "the Aboriginal people don't see things like that." I said "what type of tree, what type of year is it for a start, because the tree has different meanings through the year. When it's got flowers it'll tell you certain information, when it's got fruit....". And of course that led to me and another teacher eventually to develop what we call the Holistic Teaching and Learning Framework, which allows us to see the world holistically, not just the tree but what goes with the tree. Land, language, culture, at a certain time, at a certain place, and how those things are joined together.

If I had students with me sitting down here and I wanted to tie something up, I'd say to the kid, "Look, I take the skin off like that, and I have the same as what you buy in a store. I have strong to tie stuff up with". As a child in the classroom then, you start to connect with him, because that child is being brought up to look through the six windows.

But in Aboriginal things, it's either the environment or relationships socially between people, are the two main things that our culture is based on. Teachers have been brought up that authority is what you should have. I'm the boss, but that's not with Indigenous kids - I am your benefactor, I'm the one going to look after you. That is what the Indigenous child needs. They don't need somebody to walk in there with a big stick and say, "I'm the boss". They need somebody to walk with them..... "look, at 10 o'clock I'm going to have a cup of tea and a sandwich for you, but in the meantime I'm going to talk to you and teach you about certain things".

There's a big difference between how Indigenous people want to be involved as compared to how the non-Indigenous wants the parent to be involved. Kindness and caring, and anything that goes along those lines, that will get you a long way further. It's as simple as that. They've got to feel comfortable to where they're going.

You'll be 80 miles ahead of another teacher that didn't take that into consideration. 


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Last updated 06 June 2022