Uncle Ernie Grant shares how to acknowledge Indigenous holistic views of the world


My name’s Ernie Grant. My dad is a Jirrbal
man and my mum was Girramay which is south of Tully. So I grew up in an Aboriginal setting, knowing all the four tribes and had relations amongst all of them. I was up at Hopevale north of Cooktown at the community there, and there was me, a European lady teacher and a guidance officer – European – and five Aboriginals from Hopevale doing a language course. They were talking about a tree. I said, ‘Youse can’t talk about a tree.’ I said, ‘The Aboriginal people don’t see things like that.’ I said, ‘What type of tree? What type of year is it for a start, because the tree has different meanings through the year. When it’s got flowers it’ll tell you certain information, when it’s got fruit,
and of course that eventually led to me and another teacher eventually to develop what we call the Holistic Teaching and Learning Framework, which allows us to see the world holistically, not just the tree but what goes with the tree. Land, language, -culture, at
a certain time, at a certain place, and how those things are joined together. If I had students with me sitting down here and I wanted to tie something up, I’d say to the kid, ‘Just look, I take the skin off like that, and I have the same as what you buy in a store’. I have string to tie
stuff up with. As a child in the classroom then, you start to connect with him, because that child is being brought up to look through the six windows. But in Aboriginal things, it’s either the
environment or relationships socially between people, are the two main things that our culture is based on. Teachers have been brought up that authority is what you should have. I’m
the boss, but that’s not what Indigenous kids – I am your benefactor, I’m the one going
to look after you. That is what the Indigenous child needs. They don’t need somebody to walk in there with a big stick and, I’m the boss. They need somebody to walk in the thing, look, at 10 o’clock I’m going to have a cup of tea and a sandwich for you, but in the meantime I’m going to talk to you and teach you about certain things. There’s a big difference between how Indigenous people want to be involved as compared to how the non-Indigenous wants the parent to be involved. Kindness and caring, and anything that goes along those lines that will get
you a long way further. It’s as simple as that. They’ve got to feel comfortable to where they’re going. You’ll be 80 miles ahead of another teacher that didn’t take that into consideration.

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