Utyerre Apanpe (First Nations Educators’ Network) is a new national network of First Cultural educators leading reform in education

Led by Cultural Professors and senior educators from First Nations communities across the country, they are implementing a national strategy to improve the educational outcomes of First Nations children. 

The government education system is failing our children – it does not see their strengths or identity…or the damage that is happening to our children too often in the mainstream system.”
Utyerre Apanpe, October 2019

International educational leaders recognise the critical importance of a child’s language and culture to their educational success:

When taught first in their own languages, children learn better, are more self-confident and transfer their literacy and numeracy skills to additional languages. Children who start formal education in a second or foreign language are much more likely to experience frustration and failure, resulting in higher dropout rates for these children.” UNESCO 2012 

Utyerre Apanpe is led by cultural professors recognised through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law and practice with a fraternity of educators from 15 different nations and growing. Utyerre Apanpe has a clear strategy to redesign education for First Nations children. They are currently executing this strategy without Government support. The Utyerre Apanpe leaders are calling on the Government to recognise their efforts and provide both partnership and investment to contribute to this significant national reform.   

First Nations educators hold knowledge and practices that have been passed on through generations and since before time…we hold the future for our next generations. We recognise our children as being wonderful and engaged learners. We recognise our systems of teaching and education as leading and best practice. We recognise the importance of families and communities in educating our children. Education must be designed by our communities and delivered in our homelands and our communities by our people. We recognise our responsibilities and the role of our elders and our ancestors.”
Utyerre Apanpe, October 2019

Following on from the Gonski Review, the network is calling for significant investment from Government into Utyerre Apanpe’s cultural education review. We recognise the critical and significant review and reform undertaken by Mr. David Gonski AC and the need for a complimentary policy and roadmap for governments in First Nations education reform nationally. This review will be overseen by the network and will be also known as the Kemarre Turner Review. The key direction and authority will held by Elders and led by cultural professor and law woman, M.K. Turner OAM.

As national leaders in the delivery of First Cultural education reform, Children’s Ground is supporting the network coordination. The National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition is a key partner and supporter of the network. 

Statement from Utyerre Apanpe: First Nations Educators’ Network Forum, October 2019

We have come together as 15 different nations on Arrernte country. We are a Network of First Cultural educators and leaders from across Australia. We are working together to have a First Nations education system recognised and formally supported and embedded across Australia. We invite all levels of Government to work with us. 

It has been inspiring to share our knowledge with each other. Although we are from many nations with many languages we share a common vision and history. We recognise the laws of our lands. We belong to the land and the land belongs to us.

We are here because we hold knowledge and practices that have been passed on through generations and since before time. We hold the ways of teaching from our ancestors. We are here because we hold the future for our next generations. 

The government education system is failing our children – it does not see their strengths or identity. It does not understand what our kids really need or the damage that is happening to our children too often in the mainstream system. 

As a network we have shared our work – our history, our struggles and our vision. 

We recognise our children as being wonderful and engaged learners. We recognise our systems of teaching and education as leading and best practice. We recognise our responsibilities and the role of our elders and our ancestors. 

Our education system comes from the land. This is where and how our children grow with their identity and their knowledge. It is the foundation of education. Their learning must come from the land. 

We recognise the importance of families and communities in educating our children. Education must be designed by our communities and delivered in our homelands and our communities by our people. 

We recognise the importance of our languages, to strengthen them and to revive them. 

Our knowledge systems are complex and our children need to learn this knowledge. This will give them the foundation for their future. From this foundation global and western knowledge will be taught and be meaningful to our children’s future. 

Our children need to be taught the truth. The truth about their cultures and languages – the truth about our histories. This truth needs to be shared with all children. 

We want to lead the development of a national First Nations Education system. Our curriculum will be determined by us. We recognise the significant and great work of our educators who have developed First Nations curriculum in communities and in the departments over many years. We want to see our culture at the heart of our curriculum across all areas: science, maths, languages, history, arts, language, English.

A National First Nations Education system will see each community own and control their own education as we have always done as nations. As a network we will support each other. We will share our knowledge, experience and resources. We will be supported through Children’s Ground and our partners to create a shared language and resource centre that includes curriculum, training and standards. Together we will set standards for our own communities and for mainstream education. We want to protect our knowledge systems and laws. We want to ensure that our intellectual and cultural property rights are secure. 

We will be working with Government to secure funding for the network and for our education systems. We will be seeking significant investment from the Government to ensure quality education is provided to all of our children where they live and in a way that recognises and protects their culture and identity. We do not want to send our children away for a quality education. We want that investment where they live. 

The Government invests in our despair – in locking up our children, placing them in welfare, dealing with our illnesses, keeping us on Centrelink. We want this investment to be at least matched and given to the future of our children. We want a % of GDP provided to the future education of our children and invested into our systems of education – controlled by our communities and accountable. 

Education is healing. It is a place that we want our children to feel valued, loved and safe in their spirit. Where their knowledge will grow. 

We are committed to a future where our children are secure in their identity, their cultural responsibilities as well as western and global opportunities. They are the stewards of the oldest living cultures in the world. We will work to see Article 14 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous people recognised and enacted in Australia

Article 14 

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination.

3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.