Jeff McMullen urges Notre Dame to connect with Indigenous people

18/11/2011

Notre Dame Jeff McMullen News Story
Jeff McMullen speaks passionately about Indigenous issues to students from the School of Education at Notre Dame, Sydney Campus.

Veteran journalist and Indigenous rights campaigner Jeff McMullen has urged Education students at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney Campus, to recognise that learning is a two-way street and as school teachers, they can help empower Aboriginal children and improve the quality of life of future generations.

During his guest lecture to students undertaking their final year of a Bachelor of Education, Mr McMullen emphasised the role of teachers in what he called "Australia‟s greatest human rights challenge".

"There are very few professionals in Australia that have a front line job as important, as challenging and, ultimately, as life-changing as yours," Mr McMullen said.

"The intersection of health and education for Aboriginal people is the key to the wellbeing of our society.

"For every year of education that you add to a community of teenage girls, you will add up to four years' life expectancy to her first child. For every extra year of education you give to those teenage girls, you reduce by ten per cent the chance that she will lose her first child through infant mortality."

Education student Jessica Maughan said she was inspired by Mr McMullen's discussion of teachers breaking down the barriers to Indigenous education.

"One comment that resonated with me strongly was the need for us to listen to Indigenous students and communities and place ourselves in their shoes," Ms Maughan said.

"Mr McMullen offered us a challenge, placing the onus on us as educators to make a difference and empower Indigenous children, giving them the skills to take control of their own lives."

Mr McMullen urged students not to surrender to common stereotypes, but to find common ground with Indigenous communities.

"You don't arrive in a remote community or a regional Australian school with the view that you have come to 'change the world'. You've actually gone there to learn to be part of a community. You must get to know the families who will let you know, if you listen, the way to really engage their children," McMullen said.

Education student David Knight said he found Mr McMullen's experience in Aboriginal communities moving.

"It is our responsibility to challenge the pessimistic stereotypes that exist around Indigenous learning," Mr Knight said.

"Mr McMullen is a great example of a person who empties some of his own worldviews before entering another person‟s community. I walked away from his lecture with a desire to listen to the stream of Indigenous knowledge and to develop sustainable human relationships in their communities."



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