Shortlisted for the Stanner Award, 2017
By the late 1960s, Indigenous education in Australia was in crisis. When Whitlam swept to power in 1972, his Labor government reached out to Indigenous people to guide change at a national level. The National Aboriginal Education Committee was the result. This comprehensive history by Leanne Holt traces the journey of the committee and its members from its inception in the mid 1970s to its completion in 1989.
In Talking Strong, Holt introduces us to the radical men and women, from all walks of life, who served on the committee. Women like May O’Brien, one of the Stolen Generation, who fought the odds to become the first Aboriginal teacher in Western Australia. Men like charismatic Stephen Bamba, a musician, diesel mechanic and
teacher from Broome, who at just 27 became the committee’s chair.
The committee travelled Australia listening to teachers and communities tell their stories. They believed that an education in harmony with their own cultural values and identity was the best means for Indigenous people to achieve self-determination.
These extraordinary individuals forever influenced the participation, retention and success of Indigenous people at all levels of education in Australia.
- 230mm x 153mm
- Released March 2021
- ISBN 9781925302318
The NAEC was active from 1977 to 1989, during which time it successfully set the agenda for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education policy development in Australia. It is easy to attribute this success to the Australian Government, which introduced the ‘self-determination’ policy (Altman, Biddle & Hunter 2005) and initiated the appointment of the NAEC; however, the journey had started long before the NAEC was established. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had been actively and publicly advocating and fighting for their right to be recognised as citizens in their own country since the 1920s (Maynard 1997). With more than 150 years of oppression, it was time that justice was served and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were given the right to education and economic development. By the time of the establishment of the NAEC, the Australian Government could no longer ignore the long struggle. The NAEC members took up the efforts of their forefathers and mothers and connected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country to commence healing and the building of relationships that would open up a space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Western educational arena. The inclusion of a national voice was the key factor in the NAEC’s success. The NAEC made a significant contribution to the development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education policy in Australia, through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices, for the guidance of future educators and leaders. Without knowing our past, we cannot truly define our futures.
Chapter 1: A new dawning: The first national approach to Aboriginal education
Chapter 2: A voice in Aboriginal education: The first term of the National Aboriginal Education Committee, 1977–80
Chapter 3: Community collaboration: The establishment of state and territory Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups
Chapter 4: Redefining Aboriginal access to education
Chapter 5: Taking our place in education: The second term of the National Aboriginal Education Committee, 1980–83
Chapter 6: Forging ahead from consultation to involvement: Raising our voices
Chapter 7: Introducing Aboriginal studies: A change in education
Chapter 8: Asserting a right to self-determination: The third term of the NAEC, 1983–85
Chapter 9: Setting strong priorities
Chapter 10: Consolidating Aboriginal education policy: The final term of the NAEC, 1986-89
Chapter 11: The NAEC’s final story
Chapter 12: The river continues to flow: A celebration of leadership and legacy
About The Author
Leanne Holt (nee Lilley) is a Worimi woman from coastal New South Wales, Australia. She has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education for over twenty years, and is currently the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy) at Macquarie University. She is currently the President, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC) and deputy co-chair of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC).