Unthinking the 200-year-old Colonial Mind: Indigenist Perspectives on Leading and Managing Indigenous Education

Zane Ma Rhea


Two hundred years ago in 1814 in Australia, Governor Lachlan Macquarie developed a 15 point plan for the provision of education services to Indigenous children. Using the tools of policy ethnography, this paper will examine the administration of Indigenous Education from the establishment of the first Native Institution in NSW in 1814 up to the present policy of ‘Closing the Gap’.

Education systems in pluricultural, postcolonial democracies worldwide are grappling with the incommensurability of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People with the colonial legacies embedded within education systems. Comparative analysis of education policies up to the present find striking similarities of colonial thinking embedded in policy formulation, aspects such as infantilization of Indigenous people, the unwillingness of administrators to share power and collaborate equally in the education of Indigenous children, and lack of willingness to bureaucratise the provision of education services for Indigenous children into the mainstream efforts of governments, with key individuals instead holding onto the legacy of executive powers enshrined this work from early colonial times.

This paper argues for the need to develop an Indigenist, rights-based approach to the leadership and management of education of Indigenous children and to the education of non-Indigenous children about Indigenous matters, proper cross-cultural training for bureaucrats, proactive support for schools to bring Indigenous people into the governance structures of schools, substantial commitment of funds to teacher professional development in Indigenous matters.


colonization, Indigenist, Australia, education, postcolonial

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