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Coming home to place: Aboriginal Lore and place-responsive pedagogy for transformative learning in Australian outdoor education

Abstract

In a significant way, the growing body of place-responsive research and practice within outdoor education in Australia can be perceived as an eco-inspired response to both the devastating impact of colonization on our ecological communities and the concomitant sense of “placelessness” or lack of a sense of belonging and purpose experienced by many Australians. In this regard, there has always been an ally in Aboriginal Lore, which worked to maintain ecological and social balance and wellness in Australia for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. Yet, it has been argued that many outdoor education programmes continue to perpetuate the colonial and anthropocentric discourses clearly responsible for much of this ecological and social damage. Not surprisingly, several place-responsive proponents have flagged the value of local partnerships between outdoor educators and Aboriginal people. This paper offers a brief critique of these dominant discourses and their impact upon outdoor education practice, followed by an exploration of what partnerships with local Aboriginal people might look like and offer. To this end, transformative and conversational processes will be proposed, supported, and nuanced with evidence from an intercultural collaboration project undertaken in the Northern Territory in 2008.

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Correspondence to David Spillman.

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David Spillman is a career educator, having taught in remote, rural, regional and urban schools in Queensland and the Northern Territory, including nine years in teaching and leadership positions in remote Indigenous schooling. Since 2006, David has worked for the Stronger Smarter Institute and as a consultant in the areas of leadership in Indigenous education, cultural capability, and organizational complexity. In 2014, David had the honour of being taken into Ngemba men’s lore. With his family, David currently lives on Ugarapul country in South East Queensland where he runs Learning on Country programmes for Queensland school students at Maroon Outdoor Education Centre. David is in the final stage of writing for the Doctor of Cultural Research degree (University of Western Sydney).

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Spillman, D. Coming home to place: Aboriginal Lore and place-responsive pedagogy for transformative learning in Australian outdoor education. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education 20, 14–24 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03400999

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Keywords

  • place responsive
  • Aboriginal Lore
  • colonization
  • transformative learning
  • cultural assumptions
  • conversational circles