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Central Recommendation: The establishment of a First Nations education system

The MK Turner Report is a landmark report, created by the cultural authority of Utyerre Apanpe network and Children’s Ground. It establishes a plan for a First Nations-led and designed education reform in Australia by privileging an approach entitled Apmerengentyele, the Arrernte concept of ‘world view.’ 

Apmerengentyele is a sophisticated system of knowledge and practice that underpins an Arrernte person’s world view – (Arrernte is a First Nations language group of Central Australia). While each First Nation has its own language and culture for their own system of knowledge and practice, each one shares knowledge, ways of knowing, values, and a common practice. 

In this series, we explore and further articulate the recommendations of the MK Turner Report to consider how they can be implemented. The Report’s central recommendation is to seek Australian government’s commitment to the establishment of a new First Nations education system. 


What is a First Nations education system and why is it needed? 

A First Nations knowledge system is an established system of education and learning, privileging First Nations ways of knowing, being and doing and, with its own standards, specialists, and practices. It is not the inclusion of First Nations curriculum or pedagogy in a Western mainstream system (this is called a hybrid model).  

Since colonisation, a First Nations learning system has never been systematically embedded in the structures that govern the way First Nations people are taught in Australia. Elders have fought since invasion for recognition of the First Nations learning system that has been successfully practiced on this continent for millennia. 

It is needed because the introduced, colonial western construct of education is failing First Nations children and people. It is needed to ensure the First Nations laws of the land; the continuation of First Nations language and the strengthening of Australia’s identity is contextualized by a foundation of First Nations knowledge.  

The UNESCO, United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People UNDRIP Article 14 and the World Bank Loud-and-Clear-LOI is supporting evidence that shows embracing First Nations-led and designed education offers real hope in addressing structural disadvantage and improving educational outcomes for First Nations people in Australia.  

How can Australia implement a First Nations education system?

The MK Turner Report recommends that the Australian Government, with agreement by the States and Territory governments, enacts policy and legislation to establish a new arm of the Australian education system: a First Nations-led and designed learning system that is founded on first culture and language. 

Federal legislation will allow First Nations communities to establish and govern our own schools through First Nations pedagogy and practice, based on First Nations Worldview. The result will provide an opportunity of choice for First Nations children and families within the Australian education system.  

This bold reform requires the leadership and cultural authority of Elders and cannot be controlled by a national body selected by the government. It is essential for the Australian Government to partner with this new arm of education to achieve national reform and show confidence in ways First Nations people want to govern their future.  

What can you do to support this core recommendation of the MK Turner Report?