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SACE Change Network | Aboriginal Education | September 2021 update Recognition of Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Learning

A project to explore ways to value, recognise and celebrate Aboriginal students' language and cultural learning, skills, and capabilities.

What did we do?

The SACE Board has been working over the past few months on engaging with stakeholders from across South Australia and the Northern Territory. Engagements have been held with representatives from the South Australian and Northern Territory Governments, Aboriginal communities and the education sector.


Conversations with stakeholders focused on their level of support for:

  • Awarding  SACE credits in recognition of learning on or about country, including: 
    • Recognition of a Spectrum of Evidence spanning tangible and intangible, and direct and indirect evidence of learning.
    • A cultural Authority warranting student learning.
  • Enabling Aboriginal students to show evidence of their learning (in any subject) in an Australian Language.

What did we learn?

Strong support was received from all stakeholders the project and its important in creating belonging for Aboriginal students and communities within the education system. Consistent themes were identified across all engagements that highlighted the importance of recognising Aboriginal cultural knowledge and learning as of equal importance and educational significance as the western education system.

The following key elements of the project were explicitly tested:

1.    Awarding SACE credits to Aboriginal students in recognition of cultural knowledge and learning 

  • Very strong support received from all stakeholders.

2.    Enabling cultural knowledge and learning to be accredited by a Cultural Authority

  • Very strong support received from all stakeholders with several considerations raised regarding the implementation e.g.:
    • Access to Cultural Authorities
    • Consistency and comparability of learning

3.    Receiving indirect and intangible evidence as evidence of student learning.

  • Strong support received from majority of stakeholders with some stakeholders hesitant to endorse indirect and intangible evidence at this time.

4.    Enabling Aboriginal students to submit evidence of learning, in any subject (other than English) in an Australian language 

  • Varying levels of support received with considerations identified around: 
    • Access to interpreters 
    • Literacy of students in Australian languages 
    • Potential impacts on student English literacy 
    • Trust in grading work translated by a third party 

Other Learnings  

  • A system level policy or framework is needed with flexibility for local contexts. 
  • Support for modern concepts (e.g. colonialism and advocacy) to be included in project scope
  • There are natural learning progressions within cultural activities that could potentially be mapped against SACE Stage 1 and Stage 2. 
  • There was strong support to recognise knowledge (performance) and learning (development). 
  • The essential role of English literacy and numeracy in education was strongly communicated by all stakeholders
  • Support and professional development will be required for teachers and community leaders. 

So what?

Our next step in the project is to develop prototypes for a system level policy and operational workflow at the individual student/school level, these will be tested and further developed with a range of stakeholders.