A lack of knowledge about First Nations culture is having an impact on classrooms as teachers are more likely to adopt western styles of dance to teach young children.

A small project from the University of South of Australia has highlighted the gaps in pre service teachers knowledge of Indigenous culture by implementing a traditional dance program.

The project worked with Barkindji woman Adrianne Semmens from the Australian Dance Theatre, to teach pre service teachers traditional dances in order to give them the ability to share their knowledge with students in the future.

Ms Semmens says the pre service teachers did not have a strong understanding of traditional dance before the project.

While there are explicit content descriptions and elaborations investigating and exploring First Nations artists and dance practices, many pre-service teachers are without the understanding and confidence to engage students in effective learning experiences,

This project has provided an important starting point for pre-service teachers to deepen their understanding.”

First Nations dance has been an option for national curriculums since 2013 but it’s often ignored for more western style dances due to teachers being unfamiliar with the content.

Arts Education Lecturer Kerrin Rowlands led the project, and says the lack of First Nations representation in classrooms is having an impact.

“We have high populations of Aboriginal in schools being taught predominantly by non-Indigenous teachers, I think the impact is that those children, their families and their communities are not feeling represented or even able to express and share those important parts of themselves and their understanding of the world.”

Ms Rowlands says bringing traditional dances into classrooms could also have a positive impact on non-Indigenous Australians.

“Myself I grew up in New Zealand, and when I went to school as a young kid back in the 70s and 80s I engaged with Maori and Pasifika culture.

That was a natural part of school life and has had a lifelong impact on me.

You get up in the morning and go to school and you’re engaging with the culture of the place in which your growing up, it’s country and it’s place.

So understanding that has a deep impact I believe on young children.”

Image Credit: AAP Image/Dan Peled