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Australian Indigenous Studies

Research and Practice

Terry Moore, Carol Pybus, Mitchell Rolls and David Moltow

This book provides a guide to research and teaching in an Australian Indigenous Studies that is oriented toward the diverse, contemporary world. Central to this perspective is a sensibility to the intercultural complexity of that world – particularly its Indigenous component – and an awareness of the interactional capabilities that the Indigenous (and others) need to successfully negotiate it. These capabilities are important for facilitating Indigenous peoples’ goal of equality as citizens and recognition as Indigenous, a goal which this book seeks to address.

The Indigenous Studies presented in this book rejects as unproductive the orientation of orthodox Indigenous Studies, which promulgates the retention of old cultures, positive stereotypes, binary oppositions and false certainties. It adopts a more dialogical and process-oriented approach that highlights interactions and relationships and leads to the recognition of cultural and identity multiplicity, intersection and ambiguous difference.

The book covers key topics such as ancestral cultures, colonisation and its impacts, identity politics, interculturality, intersectionality, structural marginalisation, unit development and teaching complexity. The focus of the book is the development of a sensibility that can shape readers’ perceptions, decisions and actions in the future and guide teachers in their negotiation of intercultural classroom relationships.

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Chapter 12: Ethics and the contentions of Indigenous Studies


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Ethics and the contentions of Indigenous Studies


In order to grasp the ethical dimension of education in relation to issues that concern Indigenous peoples and cultures in Australia, we must first grasp the notion of the ethical in its most general sense. Once we have a clear idea of what it means to be ethical, of what it means ethically to engage with issues of significance, we can then explore with confidence the more specific ethical demands placed on educators when engaging with issues concerning Indigeneity, and the responsibilities educators have in relation to these demands. In this chapter we outline a basic account of ‘ethics’ that includes a brief examination of the political and professional institutional framework within which educators must configure their ethical practice. While it will be seen that the institutional framework gives rise to a broad approach to matters of ethical significance in education, and gestures towards practical demands in relation to Indigenous issues, its prescriptions remain sufficiently general to allow educators to exercise a degree of moral autonomy consistent with their status as professionals properly so called. That is to say, in circumscribing the space in which, at least in principle, ethical constraint can be reconciled with professional freedom, they afford professional educators the scope to make well-informed and reasonable decisions concerning how best, pedagogically, to deal with ethically significant issues, including those that involve or are related to Indigenous concerns.

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