First Nations Policy
1. Statement of Acknowledgement
The Song Room (TSR) head office is located on the traditional lands of the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung (Wurundjeri) peoples of the Kulin Nation. TSR programs are delivered across Australia in a diverse range of Indigenous nations, therefore The Song Room acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to the land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures and to Elders past and present.
This policy supports TSR’s commitment to reconciliation and recognises and respects the significance of First Nations peoples’ communities, cultures and histories. The policy clarifies the protocol for recognition of First Nations peoples and cultures in TSR’s Arts Learning programs and in the broader context in which we work.
In addition, this document aims to define the intentions of TSR in relation to its commitment to First Nations arts education and align its work with First Nations communities with the broader values and goals of the organisation.
The document also intends to define roles and responsibilities.
3.1 Business Context
TSR is dedicated to delivering high quality, curriculum-aligned Arts Learning programs in primary schools across Australia with content related to the learning of local First Nations’ histories, cultures and art practices.
TSR delivers Deadly Arts, its specific First Nations Program, which is delivered by leading First Nations Teaching Artists. These programs respond to the needs of the school and community in which they are based and may differ from one Indigenous sovereign nation to the next.
Deadly Arts objectives include:
- To engage the whole school in learning about and valuing the local Indigenous culture and history of the land on which the school is situated
- To provide a detailed exploration of the arts practices of the Indigenous communities from the land on which the school is situated
- To deliver an engaging exploration of First Nations peoples and issues, as a means of assisting school staff and students to enhance their cultural understanding
- To aid students, staff and the school community to gain a deeper sense of self-awareness and capacity to engage respectfully in an intercultural context
- To assist schools to build a bridge between their local First Nations community and the school and to ensure this relationship is safe and culturally responsive
- To involve the local First Nations community in the cultural education of the students at the school
- To provide opportunities for cross-cultural collaboration and mentoring in local First Nations histories and cultures between TSR’s First Nations Teaching Artists and generalist primary school teachers.
TSR delivers music and arts education programs in schools and communities located in remote locations across Australia. These programs are delivered to First Nations students, teaching staff and communities.
TSR’s Remote Indigenous Program objectives include:
- All remote programs are planned and delivered under full consultation with representatives from the local First Nations community
- 50% of all teaching staff who deliver the remote programs must be First Nations and where possible must be from the local community where the program is being delivered
- While the focus of the programs is to build the capacity and confidence of generalist classroom teachers in the delivery of Arts Learning programs, all Teaching Artists must engage with themes and content relevant to the local heritage and culture
- Opportunities for learning about the local First Nations history and culture must be embedded in the program.
3.2 Educational Context
The following objectives represent TSR’s commitment to the teaching and learning of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content in their programs and to the teaching and learning of First Nations students.
- TSR is committed to improving the educational outcomes and wellbeing of all First Nations students who participate in their programs so that they excel and achieve in every aspect of their education
- TSR is committed to increasing knowledge and understanding of the histories, cultures and experiences of First Nations people as the First Peoples of Australia
- TSR will provide First Nations cultural competencies training for all staff
- In TSR’s programs, the strength, diversity, ownership and richness of Indigenous cultures and Custodianship of Country are respected, valued and promoted
- When delivering its First Nations programs, TSR is committed to collaborative decision making with First Nations peoples, parents, caregivers, families and their communities.
3.3 Curriculum Context
TSR supports the Australian Curriculum’s standards to improve learning outcomes for all Australian students, and it acknowledges the gap in learning outcomes between Indigenous and non Indigenous students. Throughout its Arts Learning programs, TSR strives to uphold the two distinct needs of First Nations education, as set out in the Curriculum:
- that First Nations students are able to see themselves, their identities and their cultures reflected in the Curriculum of each of the learning areas, can fully participate in the Curriculum and can build their self-esteem
- that the First Nations Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority is designed for all students to engage in reconciliation, respect and recognition of the world’s oldest continuous living cultures.
In recognition of this, TSR’s specific First Nations program Deadly Arts strives to achieve the content descriptions below, taken from the Australian Curriculum in each area of the Arts:
- Drama – Identify intended purposes and meaning of drama, starting with Australian drama, including drama of First Nations peoples
- Dance – Identify how the elements of dance and production elements express ideas in the dance students make, perform and experience as an audience, including exploration of First Nations dance
- Music – Identify intended purposes and meanings as students listen to music using the elements of music to make comparisons, starting with Australian music, including music of First Nations peoples
- Visual Arts – Identify intended purposes and meanings of artworks using visual arts terminology to compare artworks, starting with visual artworks in Australia including visual artworks of First Nations peoples
- Media Arts – Identify intended purposes and meanings of media artworks, using media arts key concepts, starting with media artworks in Australia including media artworks of First Nations peoples.
For the purposes of this document the definitions below apply:
Aboriginal – People who are descended from, and identify as, Aboriginal and are accepted as such by the Aboriginal community with which they associate.
Torres Strait Islander – People who are descended from, and identify as, Torres Strait Islander and are accepted as such by the Torres Strait Islander community with which they associate.
First Nation – With the exception of reference to international First Nations peoples, the term ‘First Nations’ specifically refers to the Indigenous people of Australia who are otherwise known more broadly as ‘Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait people’.
Indigenous – With the exception of reference to international Indigenous peoples, the term ‘Indigenous’ specifically refers to the Indigenous people of Australia who are otherwise known more broadly as ‘Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait people’.
Acknowledgement of Country – The formal recognition of traditional custodians of the land at the commencement of a significant TSR event by a senior representative of the TSR who is not a First Nations person.
Welcome to Country – The formal ceremony at the commencement of a significant TSR event to welcome guests and recognise the traditional custodians of the land. The ceremony is performed by a First Nations Elder or other recognised First Nations person from that area and with authority to Welcome.
Significant TSR Event – Formal events or gatherings, including conferences, meetings and celebrations hosted by TSR at which large numbers of students, staff and/ or members of the community are present.
*Since this policy has been written in Western Australia on Nyoongar Wadjuk land, it has sought the assistance of the Aboriginal learning centre Kurongkurl Katijin at Edith Cowan University in the wording of these definitions. The above definitions have been taken from the document “Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Country Policy” published by Edith Cowan University.
For the purpose of this document, First Nations is the preferred use of term to define the First Peoples of Australia. However, in all TSR documentation, the use of specific language groups, and nation names will always be used when referring to the local Traditional Custodians of the land.
The following Principles underpin all TSR activities in the pursuit of the objectives, set out in section 3 of this policy:
TSR supports the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in their document Ethical conduct in research with First Nations Peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders. As the NHMRC suggest, these guidelines are useful not just for research but for other organisations who work closely with First Nations communities. TSR agrees with the NHMRC in defining reciprocity as one of its underlying principles.
First Nations Peoples’ way of shared responsibility is based on their kinship networks. These responsibilities include caring for Country, and involve sharing benefits from the land, redistribution of resources; and sharing food and housing. Accordingly, in all TSR initiatives reciprocity enables working relationships where all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have equal rights and power. Valuing reciprocity ensures that any First Nations person involved in a TSR program or initiative will benefit from the program outputs.
In accordance with the Australian Human Rights Commission, TSR recognises the principle for self determination of First Nations peoples. TSR acknowledges First Nations peoples as Australia’s first peoples as recognised by law in the historical Mabo judgement (Mabo vs Queensland, 1992). TSR believes that self-determination is an ongoing process of choice to ensure that First Nations peoples are able to meet their social, cultural and economic needs.
Within the context of TSR, self-determination means the right of First Nations peoples to celebrate their cultures and identities and to determine the direction of the commitment of TSR to First Nations cultures. This is subject to the established rules, management and governance structure of TSR.
This policy achieves this by integrating the values of First Nations peoples into TSR’s governance and planning framework.
As part of its commitment to self-determination for First Nations people, TSR is committed to the following implications:
- TSR will develop support options and mentoring opportunities for Aboriginal Teaching Artists and staff where appropriate
- TSR is committed to being respectful of the cultural needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, e.g. leave provisions and family obligations
- When recruiting for First Nations staff TSR will utilise recruitment approaches to engage with the local First Nations community, such as face-to-face information sessions, advertising on specific sites or Facebook noticeboards that are supported by local Aboriginal Land Councils etc.
5.3 Equitable Education and Employment
TSR is committed to the achievement of equitable outcomes, conditions and targets in First Nations employment. TSR will ensure that the implications for self-determination of First Nations staff listed in point 5.2 above are specifically included in all major TSR strategies and plans.
5.4 Ethical Research
TSR is committed to ethical First Nations research principles grounded in ongoing respect for Indigenous peoples’ inherent right to self-determination, including the control and maintenance of their culture and heritage. Research that involves First Nations people will adhere to the guidelines set out by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC, 2018) in their document Ethical Conduct in Research with First Nations Peoples and Communities: Guidelines for Researchers and Stakeholders. It is essential that First Nations peoples be informed and active participants in any TSR related research project that concerns them.
5.5 Cultural Competency
TSR is committed to developing cultural competency and education about First Nations histories and cultures amongst its non-Indigenous staff in order to achieve the organisation’s First Nations objectives.
5.6 Respect and Acknowledgement
TSR acknowledges First Nations peoples as the original Australians and Traditional Owners of Country. TSR values First Nations cultures as some of the oldest continuous cultures in the world and respects the unique knowledge that First Nations staff bring to TSR. Therefore TSR seeks to develop an institutional identity that takes pride in, and actively seeks to identify with, First Nations peoples.
5.7 Informed Policy Development
TSR will consider this policy in the preparation and review of all TSR initiatives, programs and strategies.
5.8 Identity, Respect and Recognition
In seeking to develop an institutional identity that takes pride in, and actively seeks to identify with, First Nations peoples, TSR is committed to the following:
- ‘Welcome to Country’ and ‘Acknowledgement of Country’
In acknowledging the unique position of First Nations peoples, an ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ or a ‘Welcome to Country’ will be provided by TSR staff (and where appropriate, by a First Nations member of staff) at all significant TSR public events and at all TSR staff meetings. At culturally significant events, TSR will invite a Traditional Custodian, or designated representative, to undertake a ‘Welcome to Country’. Should this not be possible TSR will invite a respected local member of the First Nations community to give an ‘Acknowledgement of the Traditional Custodians’.
- First Nations Elders
In being respectful of knowledge systems and the important role that Elders hold within First Nations communities, TSR will continue to engage with First Nations Elders in seeking guidance, insight and participation in programs and policies presented by TSR.
6. Roles and responsibilities
6.1 The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the TSR
The CEO is personally responsible for the implementation of this policy and is accountable to the Board of TSR in relation to the progression of the commitments contained within this policy.
6.2 Arts Learning Managers
All TSR Arts Learning Managers are responsible for the implementation of this policy within the wider scope of the Arts Learning programs they manage. Implementation of this policy is a part of their position description and they are accountable against these expectations to their CEO. Program managers are responsible for the hiring and support of all First Nations teaching staff.
6.3 First Nations Teaching Artists
First Nations teaching artists will be consulted in relation to planning and delivery of all First Nations programs and initiatives. Any TSR Arts Learning programs or initiatives which contravene First Nations cultural or ethical concerns should be brought to the Arts Learning manager for discussion.
7. Related Policy Statements and Documents
7. 1 The National Australian Curriculum
The National Australian Curriculum, published by ACARA recognises First Nations cultures in its standards framework as a cross-curricular priority. Learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures must be embedded in every subject area taught.
7. 2 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Adopted by General Assembly Resolution 61/295 on 13 September 2007, The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a set of principles describing equality, non-discrimination, partnership, consultation and cooperation between Indigenous peoples and governments and their institutions. The Australian Government officially endorsed this document on 3 April, 2009.
7.3 Australia Council for the Arts: Indigenous Protocols
The Australia Council for the Arts has produced five protocol guides which set out the legal, ethical and moral considerations for the use of Indigenous material. The protocol guides endorse the rights of Indigenous people to own and control their cultural heritage. These rights are confirmed in the 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The five guidelines relate to media arts, music, performing arts, visual arts and writing.
7.4 The National Health and Medical Research Council: Ethical Conduct in Research with First Nations Peoples and Communities: Guidelines for Researchers and Stakeholders.
The NHMRC has created a multifaceted document suitable not only for researchers but for any stakeholder or organisation working closely with First Nations communities. TSR uses this resource to guide the way it works with, employs, collaborates with and works alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.
7.5 Teaching First Nations Content and Concepts, by lbijerri Theatre Company and Drama Victoria
Written by First Nations teachers, artists, Elders and theatre directors, this is a comprehensive set of protocols for teaching First Nations content in the drama class. These protocols, founded in cultural responsiveness and authenticity, can be adapted for other art forms and provide guidelines for TSR’s Teaching Artists, Arts Learning staff, schools and communities.
NHMRC. (2018). Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council