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Recognition of Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Learning

The Recognition of Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Understanding project is committed to fulfilling the learning entitlement of Aboriginal students and is a core component of  Passport of Thrive. The SACE Board with the NT Department for Education, schools and cultural authorities are leading the way with 20 Aboriginal students having their cultural knowledge and learning directly and formally recognised by the SACE Board at the end of 2022 as part of their certificate of education. To our understanding, we are the only system expanding our understanding of education in this way.

As highlighted in the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration the Shergold review into senior secondary pathways, and other significant research, Aboriginal students should be able to draw on their cultural knowledge and competency to demonstrate their learning, in language, or on Country, and have that learning formally recognised.  

To ensure that SACE provides a more culturally responsive qualification that delivers opportunities for Aboriginal students to utilise their living history, languages and cultures as an integral part of their SACE, three recommendations were endorsed in-principle by the Board. These recommendations were:

  • Formal recognition of Aboriginal students’ cultural knowledge and learning
  • Aboriginal students to provide evidence of learning in language
  • Recognition of the authority of Aboriginal Language and Culture custodians to teach and assess Aboriginal languages and cultures

In September 2020, the SACE Board and our Aboriginal Allyship made a significant commitment to ensure all Aboriginal students would be able to demonstrate and share their language and cultural knowledge and understanding, and for these to be valued and recognised in the SACE.

Pilot 1

In 2022, the SACE Board worked closely with SACE Change Network schools to run a small-scale pilot to recognise Aboriginal students’ cultural knowledge and learning, including:

  • Community led learning - students have their cultural knowledge and learning verified by a local Aboriginal authority and recognised by the SACE in partnership with the school
  • Self-directed cultural learning - students explore and develop their Aboriginal culture and identity and have this learning recognised as part of their SACE

We were excited to announce that 20 Aboriginal students received formal recognition for their Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Understanding in this pilot. This is a significant milestone for the SACE Board and for education more broadly. The learnings from this project connect to the assessment of capabilities, and the EIF and AIF pilots through exploring the nature of evidence and the way we might partner with the broader community to verify and quality-assure student learning.

A learning event was held in March 2023 with key stakeholders, including students, teachers, school leaders, Aboriginal community members, NT & SA Department for Education representatives, and SACE Board staff and Aboriginal Allyship members. 

The resounding message from the day was the need for this project to continue to enable Aboriginal students to feel empowered, to feel a sense of belonging, and to strengthen their identity both in the Western education system and their own Aboriginality.

Pilot 2

Pilot 2 commenced in semester 2 2023 and was extended into 2024, working in partnership with 15 schools across South Australia and the Northern Territory. Our focus for pilot 2 includes:

  • developing our understanding of community led cultural learning for a more inclusive learning framework
  • improving access for students who are disconnected from Community or with limited school resources
  • increasing student agency through more opportunities to self-identify recognition pathways
  • increasing awareness and understanding of the project amongst schools and Communities

Monitoring and evaluation is embedded in our responsive design approach. Our aim is to provide evidence of:

  • increased student belonging through building connections with country, family, kinship and community
  • Aboriginal students feeling their culture is valued at school
  • improved relationships between students, teachers, schools and Communities
  • students’ sense of pride, confidence, and self-determination
  • utility and value for local Community

The SACE Board is excited to continue growing our learning, thanks to the generosity of our Aboriginal Allyship, Aboriginal communities and our SACE Change Network schools. 

What’s Next?

Following pilot 2, learnings and insights will be shared with all schools and inform further development and next steps towards implementation.