Glenn Shea’s THE STORYTELLER - a reference from Pam Russell

I first became aware of the work of Glenn Shea when I was associated with Worawa Aboriginal College as a Board Member, 2008-2010, and Chair of the Worawa Academic Reference Group, 2008-2015. In these roles I had responsibility for the development of the Worawa Educational Model and Learning and Teaching Program. The Worawa Program, designed for Aboriginal students, celebrates, and enhances the student’s knowledge and understanding of their Aboriginal Culture whilst providing a rigorous immersion in Western Scientific Learning. The Storyteller, in an engaging and enjoyable way, provides students with knowledge and understanding of their culture—identity, place, belonging. The Worawa students come from many different Aboriginal communities, both remote and regional. The Storyteller reinforced their community knowledge and understanding whilst providing a broader lens to Aboriginal Australia. The Storyteller was used as a resource in Aboriginal Studies, English, and History classes.

My experience of the impact of The Storyteller as an educational resource at Worawa Aboriginal College enabled me to see the value of this approach to curriculum implementation in other settings-both for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.

In my role as Specialist Consultant to the Centre for Strategic Education (CSE)-1997-2014- I developed and implemented Professional Development Programs for teachers. I invited Glenn to introduce interested educational leaders and teachers to the place and role of The Storyteller in core curriculum. It was timely that the new National Curriculum was being rolled out and that one of the cross-curriculum priorities is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures. The Storyteller addresses all of the key concepts and organising ideas of this priority—Country/Place, Culture, People. Many teachers attended these workshops and were then able to not only utilize the resource The Storyteller but to also share the knowledge and understanding they had gained through participating in Glenn’s workshop with their colleagues. Verbal feedback was incredibly positive with teachers stating they had used their improved knowledge and understanding in curriculum planning and that The Storyteller was used as a resource in the disciplines of English, History, Geography and Social Studies.
The CSE Board operates special interest groups including the Indigenous Education Focus Group (IEFG). The IEFG membership was representative of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal interest groups/associations with all members committed to enhancing the learning of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students about the rights, place, history and culture of Australia’s First Nation peoples. School members of the IEFG, and other invited schools, participated in The Storyteller workshops which provide challenging and engaging learning for participating students plus the knowledge of how to incorporate The Storyteller resource into core curriculum.

I will comment briefly on two additional programs which I have conducted in my private educational consultancy: -

1- With my colleague Dr Mauri Hamilton we developed, within the framework of the Wannick Policy of the DEECD, the Learning and Teaching program for the specialist Koori Schools (Preston, Mildura, Swan Hill, Morwell). The Storyteller was an especially important resource within this program as it introduced many young Aboriginal students to a knowledge and understanding of their own culture whilst engaging them in the key skills of Literacy and Numeracy. Unfortunately, these schools are no longer in operation.

2- I provided curriculum consultancy to the Education Program of the AFL. Units of work were designed for senior primary age students which focused on the history and geography of an Aboriginal Nation in Australia in which an Aboriginal football player was based/called home. The Storyteller was an integral resource to all units in the exploration/introductory phase of the units.

3- My many years of educational experience incorporate the roles of teaching—students and staff, administration, curriculum development and research (Centre for Applied Educational Research at The University of Melbourne.) I passionately believe that as educators we must first recognise the knowledge and understanding that students bring to the learning environment. We must celebrate with them as we challenge them, in a relevant and engaging way, to embrace the new ensuring that the student always understands WHY they are learning, WHAT they are learning, HOW they are leaning and NOW WHAT they will “do” with their leaning. The Storyteller is an excellent resource which stimulates and challenges the learning of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students and staff.

Pam Russell—TITC, Grad Dip Ed Stud, ME, FACE

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