Studying Aboriginal Victoria

Studying Aboriginal Victoria

23 Jun 2010

La Trobe University tomorrow (Saturday, 19 June 2010) starts an innovative way of teaching history – by combining classroom lectures with lessons on traditional lands of Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal Sand DrawingThe new course is being held on the University’s Shepparton campus and in Barmah State Forest, on the Murray River flood plain near Echuca, home of the Yorta Yorta people.

Course co-ordinator and La Trobe history lecturer, Julie Andrews, says here some 50 students will learn first-hand about Aboriginal people practicing culture and knowledge on their traditional lands.

While La Trobe’s Shepparton campus recently made the news for its pioneering use of ‘high tech’ learning, delivering lectures via iPods provided to students, staff are warning that, in this area of studies, students are likely to find themselves beyond mobile phone and internet coverage.

Ms Andrews says the course is called ‘Encountering Aboriginal Victoria – Parallel Systems of Knowledge’. It highlights that ‘Aboriginal knowledge’ is separate from acquired ‘academic knowledge’.

It was developed from a public lecture in Shepparton in 2008 by well-known Victorian Aboriginal historian and author, La Trobe’s Professor Richard Broome, following close discussions with the local Aboriginal community and support from the Sir Andrew and Lady Fairley Foundation* and University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Johnson.

‘Aboriginal knowledge,’ explains Ms Andrews, ‘is acquired differently from academic knowledge. It is a family group and community way of learning, and is directly related to one’s own country and to personal requirements of knowledge. Hence it is best taught in such a setting.’

About twenty lecturers will deliver the course. They comprise leading La Trobe academics from history, anthropology, archaeology, social work and politics. Other speakers include Yorta Yorta Elders, representatives of local Aboriginal associations, community, health and sporting services and Aboriginal wildlife rangers.

The course begins with an introductory workshop this Saturday, 19 June 2010. A lecture by Professor Broome will be followed by a research project to familiarise students with the Shepparton area and Barmah Forest country.

An intensive seven-day residential teaching block commences on Sunday 11 July 2010. This includes lectures, workshops and community speakers as well as meetings with Aboriginal Elders in Shepparton, followed by the two-day ‘On Country’ component at Barmah’s Morning Glory River Resort.

Ms Andrews says a wide range of material about the local region has been gathered and compiled for the course from Aboriginal and other community groups, individuals in the Shepparton Goulburn Valley and from the La Trobe University library.  

This includes academic literature, stories, some in Yorta Yorta language, documentaries, government records, film and news-clippings. Subjects range from the First Nations Bank to Victorian and National health directions and the Yorta Yorta land claim case.

‘So apart from an enriched experience for our students, this course material will also be made available by the University to the local community by enrolling ten Aboriginal community members as participants, and through local libraries and schools,’ says Ms Andrews.  


*Sir Andrew Fairley was Chairman and managing director of the SPC fruit preservation company and first mayor of Shepparton.


Local Guests Speakers include:

Uncle Colin Walker (Yorta Yorta Elder)
Uncle Lloyd (Boydie) Turner (Elder)
Paul Briggs (Chairperson Rumbalara Football & Netball Association) Sharon Atkinson (Bush Tucker tour, basket weaving, archivist & facilitator of Indigenous BBQ) Cynthia Scott, Krystal Atkinson ( Shepparton Hospital Aboriginal Liaison Officers) Denise Morgan-Bulled (Public Health Officer, Viney Morgan Aboriginal Medical Service, Cummeragunja) Leon Atkinson, Greta Morgan & Hilda Walker (Aboriginal Rangers) Peter Ferguson (Yorta Yorta Nations/Murray River Cruise) Dion & Violet Button (Youth representatives from Cummeragunja Aboriginal Village, NSW)



> For interviews and further information, please contact Julie Andrews, T: 03 9479 3147  E: j.andrews@latrobe.edu.au

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