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4725.0 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth, Apr 2011  
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Contents >> Culture, Heritage and Leisure >> Traditional knowledge and cultural education


CULTURE, HERITAGE AND LEISURE: TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND CULTURAL EDUCATION

This article is part of a comprehensive series released as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth.



Note: In this section 'children' refers to people aged 3–14 years (unless otherwise stated). The terms 'youth' and 'young people' refer to people aged 15–24 years. Data presented are from the ABS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2008 (cat. no. 4714.0).

KEY MESSAGES

In 2008:
  • 42% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were spending some time with an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander elder, including 31% who were spending time with an elder at least once a week
  • 67% of children (aged 5–14 years who were attending school) and 64% of youth were being, or had been taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at school, or as part of further studies.

Cultural education occurs in a number of ways, such as elders passing down traditional knowledge to younger generations, or through school-based cultural education. The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) collected information on both of these types of education. However, there may be other ways in which children and youth learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures that are not captured by the NATSISS.

TIME SPENT WITH ELDERS

Elders are important members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and are often the knowledge keepers of their people's history, stories, culture and language. The time a child spends with an elder can be instrumental in their cultural education.

Of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in 2008:
  • 31% were spending time with an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander leader or elder at least one day a week
  • 12% were spending time with an elder less than once a week
  • 58% were not spending any time with an elder, or did not have an elder with whom they could spend time.
Children living in remote areas were much more likely than those in non-remote areas to have been spending time with an elder at least one day a week (49% compared with 25%).

Children who were spending time with elders were more likely than those who were not to:
  • identify with a cultural group, such as a clan, tribal or language group (66% compared with 33%)
  • speak an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language (21% compared with 7%).

LEARNING ABOUT ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER CULTURES AT SCHOOL

The 2008 NATSISS asked carers of children if their child was being taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at their school, and asked youth if they had ever been taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures while studying.

Children (aged 5–14 years)

In 2008, 124,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (aged 5–14 years), were reported to have attended school. Of these children, 67% were being taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at school.

The children who were being taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at school were more likely than those who were not to identify with a cultural group (54% compared with 42%). This was the case in both remote and non-remote areas.

Youth

In 2008, 64% of youth reported that they had been taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at school or as part of further studies. The majority of youth who had received Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural education reported learning about it in secondary school (74%) and/or primary school (62%).

Among youth who had received Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural education:
  • 52% reported that what was taught was usually accurate
  • 31% said that it was only accurate some of the time
  • 6% said that it was rarely or never accurate
  • 10% said that they did not know, or could not remember, how accurate the information was.

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