Applying ‘Red Dirt Thinking’ to adult learning in the Northern Territory

Guenther, John (2017) Applying ‘Red Dirt Thinking’ to adult learning in the Northern Territory. In: 40th National Conference Australian Council for Adult Literacy, 13-14 September 2017, Darwin Convention Centre, Darwin, NT.

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The term ‘red dirt thinking’ was coined by researchers who were part of the Cooperative
Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation’s (CRC-REP) Remote Education Systems
(RES) project. The researchers, who were particularly interested in remote schools asked:
“What would education look like if it was grounded in the red dirt context of remote parts of
Australia?”. Red dirt is a powerful metaphor that reflects the landscapes of most parts of
remote Australia and captures something about the wide open possibilities of thinking from
within the places where many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live.
Red dirt thinking: challenges the assumptions that underpin system thinking as it is often
applied to remote Australia; encourages those who live in remote Australia to have a voice
and be heard; and it demands respectful engagement between non-Indigenous and
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, such that local ways of being, knowing, believing
and valuing are intrinsically valued. Red dirt thinking challenges generalised notions of deficit
and disadvantage while supporting strengths and aspirations of those who live in red dirt
How might red dirt thinking be applied to adult learning in the Northern Territory? In the
first instance, it is important to understand where current strategic policy comes from. What
philosophical and theoretical bases do policies designed to facilitate adult learning (including
training) have? How well do they work (or not work)? What does aspiration and success look
like from and adult learning or vocational training perspective in remote communities? How
would systems measure these and what outcomes would we expect if we applied red dirt
thinking to adult learning? What structures would be required to facilitate these contextually
responsive outcomes?
There are lots of questions in this, but the clues to answers to these questions are already
available as we look back at the successes and failures of policies and interventions from the
past. Further, as we take time hear the voices of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
adult learning stakeholders, the answers will no doubt become very clear, as they were for
the RES project.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Field of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130101 Continuing and Community Education
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education
16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160809 Sociology of Education
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Research Collaboration Area: Education
Date Deposited: 21 May 2018 01:55
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 03:13

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