Making cultural inclusion a priority

Moolap Primary School shows how whole-school approaches to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural inclusion leads to a positive climate for learning for all students.

Moolap Primary School prides itself on fostering a strong sense of belonging within the school community, and the history of the land is an important part of the school's identity.  Because of this, it is important for all members of the school community to learn more about the connection to Country.

Building relationships to support learning and build confidence

Starting the journey

Through developing strong relationships with the local Aboriginal Community and its Elders, Moolap Primary School started a journey to support all members of the school community to learn about the rich contributions of Australia's First Nations Peoples.

Educating ourselves on cultural understanding and safety

The school undertook Cultural Understanding and Safety Training (CUST) in Term 4, 2018, led by Koorie Engagement Support Officers (KESO) Richard Fry and Denise Charles in partnership with Wadawurrung Traditional Owner Corrina Eccles.

CUST was an important way for the school staff to gather and engage in an authentic opportunity to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge, histories, culture and experience through local Aboriginal story telling. The training provided the school with an opportunity to collectively review their existing whole-school approaches to Koorie cultural inclusion and to really think about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives are embedded within curriculum content.

Sustaining the focus after CUST

Principal Peter Knight explained 'The school was united in their desire to continue the momentum for professional learning post CUST. We wanted to elevate the engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, cultural content and knowledge across all aspects of the school.'

'The journey has been championed by a core group of teachers who have developed really strong relationships with the Local Aboriginal Education Consultation Group (LAECG), Wathaurong community, the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre and the KESO. These relationships have been absolutely central to our learning and confidence in teaching about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, histories, cultures and experience.'

Finding quality resources to support teaching and learning

Following the training, the school allocated funding to establish a resource library for each teaching and learning level in the school.

'Wadawurrung Traditional Owner, Corrina Eccles and our KESO, Richard Fry have guided and supported us to develop our curriculum content and select authentic and quality teaching resources,' said Peter.

Significant time was then set aside for staff to plan and develop curriculum content further. Teachers worked in their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to map and develop teaching and learning activities using these resources within the Victorian Curriculum priorities. This process has enabled staff to build their confidence with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content and to recognise opportunities to draw upon Aboriginal pedagogies and practices within their classrooms.

Embedding cultural learning in teaching projects

With resources that integrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural content and perspectives, teachers led projects in the Arts to engage students in rich learning activities.

An Indigenous garden was landscaped and cultivated at the school and a large collaborative artwork with Indigenous artist Nathan Patterson created a fantastic cross-level, learning program for all students within the school.

'The Arts are a fabulous entry point for the whole-school community to explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, stories and culture,' explained Peter.

'Through Arts, students and teachers can learn and explore together, building collective knowledge and experience with new content, supported by Aboriginal artists and Community members who share their stories and traditions'.

Developing a Reconciliation Action Plan

Concurrent with the curriculum work undertaken after CUST, the school embarked upon developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) through Narragunnawali, Reconciliation Australia.

The RAP process provides the school community with a framework to develop a formal statement about the school's commitment to reconciliation. The school community uses this process to foster a higher level of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions.

The RAP covers all facets of the school and articulates a vision for reconciliation. At Moolap Primary School, this involves the daily practice of embedding actions across the school that:

  • acknowledge and demonstrate respect for the Country on which the school stands
  • involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members
  • incorporate ongoing learning opportunities for the whole school community.

'The RAP process has been really worthwhile, it has reflected the work that we were already undertaking, and provided a framework to continue to work and learning in this space,' reflected Peter.

'Our school community is engaged and there is a growing sense of belonging for students, families and community.' 

The RAP also identifies key actions within the school to further develop relationships, respect and opportunities in the classroom, around the school and with the community that recognises contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as a proud part of a shared identity.

'Our RAP was formally endorsed by Reconciliation Australia in May 2019. We held a fantastic celebratory event to mark the occasion with students, families and the broader community,' said Peter.

'A smoking ceremony was performed in language, our students' collaborative artwork and totems were unveiled at the event and the Indigenous garden officially opened. We are motivated and celebrating the learning we are all part of in this space.'

You can read the school's Reconciliation Statement and the RAP on their website.

Exploring the latest professional practice note

Including the cultural histories, perspectives and insights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is an essential foundation for a positive learning climate in Victorian schools.

The latest professional practice note explores Marrung, the Department's Aboriginal Education Plan, resources, tools and contacts that can help your school make Koorie cultural inclusion a priority.