An Indigenous Cultural Analysis Tool


In seeking to undertake an analysis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in your curriculum, we propose a cultural matrix tool to measure both breadth of content and depth of perspective. For breadth and integrity of Aboriginal content, we employ Uncle Ernie Grant’s Indigenous framework from far north Queensland. Dr Grant’s framework is highly regarded and widely used in Queensland and beyond. It comprises six elements, as follows:

Land
Language
Culture
Time
Place
Relationships

For depth of Aboriginal perspectives, we employ four elements of Aboriginal epistemology/ontology from the 8ways Aboriginal pedagogy framework. The elements we are using are not the pedagogies themselves, but the four elements identified as aspects of Aboriginal ways of valuing, being, doing and knowing (which relate to Indigenous perspectives, rather than Indigenised content).

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These four elements will comprise the columns of the matrix and the six elements of Dr Grant’s Indigenous framework will form the rows, as follows:


Protocols
Values
Processes
Systems
Land




Language




Culture




Time




Place




Relationships





You will certainly have tangible items of Aboriginal culture and history in your curriculum. However, these do not necessarily represent Aboriginal perspectives. Indigenous ways of valuing, being, knowing and doing are intangible aspects of culture that cannot be represented by mere cultural and historical facts or items. Rather, they can be found in Indigenous protocols, values, processes and systems.

For the purposes of this appraisal ways of valuing will be regarded as axiology, represented by the perspective descriptor of Values. Ways of being will be regarded as ontologies, represented by the descriptor of Protocols (these being the rules that tell us how to live/be in relation to people and country). Ways of knowing will be regarded as epistemologies, represented by the perspective descriptor of Systems. Ways of doing will be regarded as methodology, represented by the perspective descriptor of Processes.

The content descriptor of Land encompasses perspectives on landscape, nature and natural phenomena. Language refers to perspectives on contemporary and historical communication forms. Culture refers to both tangible and intangible aspects of lived realities and expressions of ways of being, knowing and thinking. Time refers to perspectives on sequencing, chronology, temporal realities and cause and effect relationships. Place refers to the narrative, ritual and cultural meanings enfolded in spaces and landscapes through long term occupancy and custodianship of land. The category of Relationships refers to perspectives on the dynamic interaction between all the other elements, and the connections within and between human, spiritual and ecological systems.

Overall, this cultural analysis tool is a way of measuring the presence of the intangible cultural elements (specifically ways of valuing, being, knowing and doing). The objective is to determine whether cultural perspectives (not just cultural items viewed from non-Aboriginal perspectives) are included in the curriculum, and to measure the depth and breadth of cultural integrity expressed by these perspectives.

Using the Analysis Tool


Simply review your unit of work, or even the entire curriculum, placing a mark in the appropriate box in the matrix for each Aboriginal perspective item you find. For example, for a lesson on Aboriginal family structure, you would place a mark in the box where the Relationships row meets the Systems column. Continue the analysis in this way, then at the end examine the distribution of scores overall.

If you see all your scores building up around Culture, you might consider increasing the breadth of your Aboriginal perspectives to include time, place, land, language and relationships. If you see that most of these are occurring at the level of Processes and Systems, then you might seek to increase the depth of your Aboriginal perspectives by including more values and protocols.

If you see a broad spread across all descriptors, then this means your Indigenous perspectives are being presented in a way that demands application and transfer of Aboriginal ways of valuing, being, knowing and doing to a variety of contexts and disciplines. When you have this, then the potential for inclusion of these perspectives across areas of mainstream content is markedly increased. One advantage of this kind of inclusion is that if Aboriginal perspectives are delivered across the curriculum as ways (rather than only as additional content, then concerns about diminished space for mainstream content can be neutralized.