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Investigating networks of culture and knowledge: a critical discourse between UK Roma Gypsies, Indigenous Australians and education

Thus, bricolage is concerned not only with multiple methods of inquiry but with diverse theoretical and philosophical notions of the various elements encountered in the research act. Bricoleurs understand that the way these dynamics are addressed—whether overtly or tacitly—exerts profound influence on the nature of the knowledge produced by researchers (Kincheloe 2011, p. 180).


Communities and families that substantially exist outside of mainstream society because of a different world view must cope with a range of difficulties in accessing formal education for their children. In the stronger economies however it should be expected that inclusive public systems of education, health, transport and housing are made available for all citizens regardless of background. This paper indicates that for UK Roma Gypsies and Indigenous Australians this is often not the case. Socio-cultural and economic factors that distinguish various communities set up major contradictions with systems of schooling that frustrate and alienate children and which distract from learning. Drawing on national and international scholarship, a number of epistemological principles are discussed that may assist both groups to participate in schooling, recognising that adoption of such principles will require significant educational change. The concepts of ‘discursive learning’ and ‘bricolage’ are advanced as a philosophical framework for researching and guiding policy and practice as the basis of more equitable and democratic schooling for all children.

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  1. There is fluidity in the use of terms to describe this group. This is an outcome both of shifts in policy usage and also to changing preferences with regard to self-ascription. For many years in the UK, there was a preference in policy documents and amongst practitioners to use the term ‘Travellers’. The word ‘Gypsy’ had been used pejoratively in the media, and this seemed neutral. However, the term ‘Travellers’ fails to acknowledge any rights as a separate ethnic group, and is based purely on lifestyle. Moreover, there was resentment within the group of New Age or New Travellers who were often linked to the traditional Travellers and were perceived by many as having brought about repressive legislation, restricting movement. Within schools, younger members of the group have often opted for the term ‘Traveller’, as it is neutral, but this varies. In recent years, the term ‘Roma’ has begun to be used more widely. This provides a means of differentiating between the communities who are long-established in the UK and those who have arrived in recent years from Central and Eastern Europe. At the same time, it should be noted that many of British born Gypsies would also describe themselves as Roma. And once again, within the group many who perceive themselves as ‘true Roma’ do not include other Travellers, such as those from Irish or Scottish Traveller backgrounds, within that category.

  2. The term ‘Indigenous’ refers to Aboriginal peoples on the mainland of Australia and the island state of Tasmania and to the Torres Strait Islander people of the Torres Strait between the state of Queensland and Papua New Guinea. A capital letter is used for Indigenous in the same way that capital letters are used for English, French, or New Zealand peoples. There is discussion in Australia regarding the difference between the words Aboriginal and Indigenous and how they are interpreted by different groups of people.


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Correspondence to Neil Hooley.

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Hooley, N., Levinson, M. Investigating networks of culture and knowledge: a critical discourse between UK Roma Gypsies, Indigenous Australians and education. Aust. Educ. Res. 41, 139–153 (2014).

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  • UK Roma gypsies
  • Indigenous Australians
  • Discursive education
  • Bricolage