ACSA Webinars
Indigenous Education

Marnee Shay, Senior Research Fellow, School of Education and
Ren Perkins , University of Queensland, QLD, Australia

Strengths approaches to Indigenous education

Wednesday 22 June 2022 7-8pm AEST


Marnee Shay                                  Ren Perkins          

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'Indigenous education' has been a term used and discussed in educational policy and practical terms and has all too often been framed and positioned as a problem to fix. Recent work shows that deficit discourse surrounding Aboriginality is intricately entwined across different sites of representation, including the mainstream news media and Indigenous education policy (Shay, Sarra and Woods, 2021; Vass, 2012).

There has been a shift to reject deficit thinking in response to addressing Indigenous education inequalities. In response to the limitations associated with the deficit-based approach, a growing body of research and evidence has shown support for the strength-based approach. From a strength-based perspective, engagement is focused on realising the existing capacities, knowledges and life-enhancing potential within people, processes and organisations (Shay & Oliver, 2021). This approach is in contrast to disengagement, which is so often focused on the deficits and lack of life potential within particular young people (te Riele 2009).

Strength-based, collaborative approaches to teaching and learning, and research, have demonstrated that young people who have been labelled as lacking in motivation, ability and social skills are capable of concentrated effort, attainment of goals, high levels of achievement, and social cooperation (Carrington, Bland & Brady, 2010). Strengths approaches in Indigenous education became prominent through the work of Aboriginal educator and academic, Prof Chris Sarra. His development of 'stronger smarter' philosophy (Sarra, 2011) provided educators, scholars and policy makers with a framework that systematically requires different thinking in relation to Indigenous education that start from a position of Indigeneity as a foundational strength.
In this session, as two Aboriginal educators and researchers (Shay, Wagiman and Perkins, Quandamooka) we will share our research and practice experiences that have been significantly shaped by strengths approaches. We will provide practical examples of how to implement strengths philosophies and principles into our everyday thinking and practices with the aim of re-shaping narratives around Indigenous education in Australia. 

Carrington, S., Bland, D., & Brady, K. (2010). Training young people as researchers to investigate engagement and disengagement in the middle years. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 14(5), 449-462.
Sarra. (2011). Strong and smart - towards a pedagogy for emancipation: education for first peoples. Routledge.
Shay, M. & Oliver, R. Eds. (2021). Indigenous Education in Australia: Learning and Teaching for Deadly Futures. Abingdon, Oxon United Kingdom: Routledge.
Shay, M., Sarra, G. and Woods, A. (2021). Strong identities, strong futures: Indigenous identities and well-being in schools. Indigenous Education in Australia Learning and Teaching for Deadly Futures. (pp. 63-75) edited by Marnee Shay and Rhonda Oliver. Abingdon, Oxon United Kingdom: Routledge.
Te Riele. (2009). Making Schools Different. In Making Schools Different: Alternative Approaches to Educating Young People. SAGE Publications.
Vass, G. (2012). "So, What 'Is' Wrong with Indigenous Education?" Perspective, Position and Power beyond a Deficit Discourse. Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 41(2), 85.

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Registrations for this webinar will close at 2:00pm on the day of the webinar. Please ensure you have registered by then.