Macquarie University
01front.pdf (488.24 kB)

The implementation of the policy of Reconciliation in NSW schools

Download (488.24 kB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 01:30 authored by Nina Burridge
The research detailed in this thesis investigated how schools in NSW responded to the social and political project of Reconciliation at the end of the 1990s. -- The research used a multi-method research approach which included a survey instrument, focus group interviews and key informants interviews with Aboriginal and non Aboriginal teachers, elders and educators, to gather qualitative as well as quantitative data. Differing research methodologies, including Indigenous research paradigms, are presented and discussed within the context of this research. From the initial research questions a number of sub-questions emerged which included: -The exploration of meanings and perspectives of Reconciliation evident in both the school and wider communities contexts and the extent to which these meanings and perspectives were transposed from the community to the school sector. -The perceived level of support for Reconciliation in school communities and what factors impacted on this level of support. -Responses of school communities to Reconciliation in terms of school programs and teaching strategies including factors which enhanced the teaching of Reconciliation issues in the classroom and factors which acted as barriers. -- Firstly in order to provide the context for the research study, the thesis provides a brief historical overview of the creation of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. It then builds a framework through which the discourses of Reconciliation are presented and deconstructed. These various meanings and perspectives of Reconciliation are placed within a linear spectrum of typologies, from 'hard', 'genuine' or 'substantive' Reconciliation advocated by the Left, comprising a strong social justice agenda, first nation rights and compensation for past injustices, to the assimiliationist typologies desired by members of the Right which suggest that Reconciliation is best achieved through the total integration of Aboriginal people into the mainstream community, with Aboriginal people accepting the reality of their dispossession. -- In between these two extremes lie degrees of interpretations of what constitutes Reconciliation, including John Howard's current Federal Government interpretation of 'practical' Reconciliation. In this context "Left" and "Right" are defined less by political ideological lines of the Labor and Liberal parties than by attitudes to human rights and social justice. Secondly, and within the socio-political context presented above, the thesis reports on research conducted with Indigenous and non Indigenous educators, students and elders in the context of the NSW school system to decipher meanings and perspectives on Reconciliation as reflected in that sector. It then makes comparisons with research conducted on behalf of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation during the 1990s on attitudes to Reconciliation in the community. Perceived differences are analysed and discussed. The research further explores how schools approached the teaching of Reconciliation through a series of survey questions designed to document the types of activities undertaken by the schools with Reconciliation as the main aim. -- Research findings indicated that while both the community at large and the education community are overwhelmingly supportive of Reconciliation, both as a concept and as a government policy, when questioned further as to the depth and details of this commitment to Reconciliation and the extent to which they may be supportive of the 'hard' issues of Reconciliation, their views and level of support were more wide ranging and deflective. -- Findings indicated that, in general, educators have a more multi-layered understanding of the issues related to Reconciliation than the general community, and a proportion of them do articulate more clearly those harder, more controversial aspects of the Reconciliation process (eg just compensation, land and sea rights, customary laws). However, they are in the main, unsure of its meaning beyond the 'soft' symbolic acts and gatherings which occur in schools. In the late 1990s, when Reconciliation was at the forefront of the national agenda, research findings indicate that while schools were organising cultural and curriculum activities in their teaching of Indigenous history or Aboriginal studies - they did not specifically focus on Reconciliation in their teaching programs as an issue in the community. Teachers did not have a clearly defined view of what Reconciliation entailed and schools were not teaching about Reconciliation directly within their curriculum programs. -- The research also sought to identify facotrs which acted as enhancers of a Reconciliation program in schools and factors which were seen as barriers. Research findings clearly pointed to community and parental attitudes as important barriers with time and an overcrowded curriculum as further barriers to the implementation of teaching programs. Factors which promoted Reconciliation in schools often related to human agency and human relationships such as supportive executive leadership, the work of committed teachers and a responsive staff and community.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Literature review -- Meanings and perspectives of Reconciliation in the Australian socio-political context -- An explanation of the research method -- Meanings of Reconciliation in the school context -- Survey results -- The role of education in the Reconciliation process -- Obstacles and barriers to Reconciliation -- Teaching for Reconciliation: best practice in teaching resources -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: leaves 243-267 "November 2003".

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Australian Centre for Educational Studies, School of Education

Department, Centre or School

School of Education

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Pamela Coutts

Additional Supervisor 1

James Kohen

Additional Supervisor 2

David Saltmarsh


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Nina Burridge 2004. This thesis was digitised for the purposes of Document Delivery. Macquarie University ResearchOnline attempted to locate the author but where this has not been possible; we are making available, open access, selected parts of the thesis which may be used for the purposes of private research and study. If you have any enquiries or issues regarding this work being made available please contact Macquarie University ResearchOnline - If you wish to access the complete thesis, on receipt of a Document Supply Request, placed with Macquarie University Library by another library, we will consider supplying a copy of this thesis. For more information on Document Supply, please contact




New South Wales


xvi, 286 leaves ill

Former Identifiers

mq:3608 1287510