Indigenous knowing and understanding

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This term started with Ways of Knowing – a staff leaning day focused on indigenous understanding. John Bradley from Monash University delivered the keynote focusing on ‘How do we know?’

He reminded us of the diversity of indigenous Australians and showed us a map of ‘Aboriginal Australia’.  There were at least 275 different languages : ‘if we accept Europe, we have to accept this … The distinctiveness must be acknowledged … ‘
He talked about the important relationship with ecosystems and language; their impact on each other. He showed us a map of the area he knows best, south of Arnhem Land and talked about the various overlays we could apply to our vision of that space. He showed us his mapping project that was intended to pass on indigenous knowledge from one generation to the next and a drawing project which he could not even get accepted into the local school curriculum.
Some of the key questions he raised were:
  • ‘How in the world of western knowledge do we place this?’
  • ‘Why does the west think its best?’
  • ‘How do we undo our educational reliance on Descartes and the French Enlightenment?’
  • ‘Diversity (of what we know, and now we know) is the key’.
It was a provocative presentation, particularly for me his defence of cultural norms that eclude women, but a very important discussion to have and a great start to the term.
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