Pat Dudgeon, Simone Lazaroo and Harry Pickett
It is our contention that self-esteem theories and their associated education programs are inadequate as a way forward for Australian Aboriginal students. Our intention is to demonstrate why this is so and to suggest alternative directions. This chapter rests on the premise that without an appreciation of Aboriginal history, culture and politics it is possible to understand neither the ways in which Aboriginal girls relate to their schooling nor the manner in which the education system can better serve their interests. Of necessity our arguments are wide-ranging, dealing first with Aboriginality generally before focusing specifically on women and girls. We deal throughout with both the nature of Aboriginal identity and self-esteem for girls-and their relation to education.
No child, whatever its creed or colour or circumstance, ought to be excluded from a public school. But cases may arise, especially amongst the Aboriginal tribes, where the admission of a child or children may be prejudicial to the whole school. (Harris, 1976)
Thus in 1883 the New South Wales Minister for Education defined Aboriginal children as potentially a problem for mainstream education, although he fell short of formally excluding them. Around 1912, however, 'an influx of Aboriginal pupils into European schools…resulted in those schools being closed to Aboriginal children for many years. No provision was made for any effective alternative' (Hill, 1975, p. 71).
* This is an abridged and edited version of a critical review by the authors for the Centre for Aboriginal Studies, Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia.