Surviving the Whiteman's world : adult education in Aboriginal society

McClay, David J. L. (1988). Surviving the Whiteman's world : adult education in Aboriginal society PhD Thesis, Graduate School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author McClay, David J. L.
Thesis Title Surviving the Whiteman's world : adult education in Aboriginal society
School, Centre or Institute Graduate School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1988
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 464
Language eng
Subjects 130301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education
Formatted abstract This thesis is an exploratory study in the field of Aboriginal adult education. It seeks to place the activity in theoretical perspective and to offer a model of an education that can assist Aboriginal people to move towards the realization of their central aspirations.

The theoretical framework for the study is developed in Chapters Two and Three. Through an examination of the Weberian categories of class, status, and party. Aboriginal people are located in Australia as an underclass in a stratified society. Related concepts of ethnicity and power are examined and theories of the state reviewed, since it is argued that the relationship between tribal Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people is in large measure determined by the state.

Theories of sociocultural change are presented and applied to an analysis of the adaptations that Aboriginal cultures and society are undergoing. The concept of a permanent identity system is elaborated and the implication drawn that the retention of a collective identity through adherence to the meanings contained within a system of symbols, is a possible goal for Aboriginal people.

The study adopts a critical perspective. The data were collected through a qualitative participant - observation methodology and supported and extended by structured and unstructured interviews. The theoretical formulations through which these data were analyzed derive from the general body of critical sociological thought.

The nature of the contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is given a specific setting in Chapter Four through an examination of the history of contact of the Warlpiri people with whites. This section contextualizes the study and explains in part, the development of the relationships that exist in the contemporary setting. Those relationships are examined in Chapter Five through a critical ethnography of Lajamanu, a Warlpiri community in the Northern Territory where the research was conducted.

Two key issues are considered in Chapters Six and Seven, aspirations and autonomy. In keeping with the critical perspective, much of the data consist of Aboriginal people speaking about their lives and their world.

The central aspiration of the Lajamanu Warlpiri is drawn out and shown to be a desire to live within family, under "the Law", free from domination by white people. This aspiration is held throughout their community, but the young people especially are being prevented from realizing this goal by forces that originate within the encroaching white world.

In the final two chapters several forms of adult education are analyzed and a model of an adult education that seeks to free people from various social structural constraints is developed in contrast to those forms of adult education that are centered on training and adjustment to the status quo. A set of nine principles for Aboriginal adult education is derived from theory and these structure the model. It is argued that while the model is radical to the extent that it seeks to increase the control Aboriginal people have over their lives and seeks to help them move towards fulfilling their own aspirations, it is nonetheless a model of education that stems from the logic of the policy of self-management for Aboriginal people, as advocated by conservative governments throughout Australia.
Keyword Aboriginal Australians -- Education
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