Ascham Mathematics Teacher Leonor Kydyralieva took up an extraordinary opportunity recently in the Top End. Here she shares her experience of heading to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mathematics Association Conference.
‘In October I had the immense privilege of attending the 2023 ATSIMA Conference. The theme was Speak It: You Create It.
I had the opportunity to listen to researchers, teachers and elders about the need for a more inclusive approach to Mathematics education in First Nations communities. I also learned about different programs and strategies that were trialled or are in place or developing in various communities and contexts around Australia. The most successful ones being those where the local communities are consulted and empowered. Where investment in respect, collaboration and “two-way learning” are priorities to the school leadership. By “two-way learning” I mean that First Nations culture, knowledge and traditions are observed and celebrated. It is a space where educators learn from their students and from the community they serve as much as students learn from their teachers.
I was pleased to see that there is a passionate grassroots movement to revive Indigenous languages. There is already at least one bilingual school in NSW that is experiencing a high demand for growth where teachers and students are developing knowledge and resources in their first language and value immersive education on country. See: Gumbayngirr Giingana Freedom School.
I came away from the conference with a greater understanding of the context in which some of our First Nations students and even non-Indigenous boarders have grown up in. I believe over a short period I developed a much deeper sense of empathy and appreciation for their strengths, their needs and the culture shock that some of them might experience when they first arrive at our School. It is my hope that I can continue to learn to listen to them and their families in order to better support them in the classroom.
The conference was held in the beautiful Yirrkala community of North-East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. I was treated to wonderful local cuisine, art, music and led on a bushwalk to learn about the medicinal properties of local plants. The elders there were warm and welcoming, and I am forever grateful to the Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation and people for their hospitality.’