Having studied Australia’s Indigenous languages through LING366 and the Aboriginal English dialect through another LING unit, I’ve found that schematic theory features heavily in understanding how we view the world. While examining schema theory and how it is reflected in Aboriginal language, I began thinking about what schema govern my thought patterns, and how this influences my understanding of Aboriginal culture.
Put simply, ‘Schemata [schema plural] are the structures by which people perceive, remember and respond to information’ (Turton, 2016). So what are the schema through which non-Indigenous Australians perceive Aboriginal Australians? From personal experience, my first encounter with Aboriginal culture was discovering that my home town was also home to the Darug people. During primary school, I learned about the heritage status of my local area as well as the prestige and benevolence of our colonial forebears. I also learned that Aboriginal Australians possessed an unrivaled knowledge of navigation, survival, tracking, and bush skills. Through the NSW primary school HSIE syllabus, I inferred that the demise of Aboriginal Australians may have had something to do with Australia’s colonisation. Later, I learned how Aboriginal Australians were oppressed, mistreated and almost totally wiped out through genocide.
These formative concepts shaped my thinking about Aboriginal Australians, making me think of them as victims who suffered the loss of their land, knowledge and relationships. But, it also caused me to see Aboriginal culture through a ‘past tense’ lens. And this limited my ability to comprehend that Aboriginal culture and language, although oppressed and embattled, was still living, breathing, developing, and thriving. During the course of my research, one of the most valuable resources I discovered was Dr. Nicola Henry’s ‘Misconceptions About Indigenous Australians’ (2013). Henry’s article essentially debunks commonly held non-Indigenous assumptions about Australian Aboriginal culture, and is a must read for anyone new to the subject.
Posted by: Jessica Riley LING366, 18 May 18
Dr Henry’s article can be found at: http://www.australiancollaboration.com.au/pdf/FactSheets/Common-misconceptions-Indigenous-FactSheet.pdf