I was asked to prepare an edition of the Queensland Researcher devoted to Torres Strait Islander education before the Torres Strait Islanders' demand for sovereign independence became headline news in the media and the subject of journal articles (e.g. Sydney Morning Herald Magazine, 9 January 1988, pp. 12-17). I presented a paper to ANZAAS at Townsville in 1987, 'Teacher Education for the Fourth World: A North Queensland Perspective', which dealt primarily with the need to provide more appropriate teacher education for the Torres Strait Islanders, pointing out that this was but one of the many urgent needs they confronted as a result of European imperialist expansion. I concluded:
It would be tragic for Australia if the Torres Strait Islanders were forced by white Australian neglect and insensitivity to reject fourth world idealism and replace it with third world aspirations and the realpolitik of a third world struggle against social, economic and political imperialism.Events in the Torres Strait have moved at such a bewildering pace that this conclusion seems ironically dated. It would not now surprise me if the Torres Strait Islanders set up a Government in Residence.
The articles in this and subsequent editions of the Queensland Researcher indicate how educationally disadvantaged the Torres Strait Islanders are in comparison with other Australians. Even in Secondary school, they are taught by teachers, no matter how well intentioned, who are generally ignorant of their culture and their historical experience (Osborne). On many islands the primary schools have been staffed by local teachers whose qualifications have not been adequate for the task of preparing them for a satisfying participation in mainland Australian society or for attaining effective control over their islands (Castley and Osborne; Miller). Their achievements in Higher Education and their entry to the skilled work force and to the professions has been greatly inhibited by the mismatch between the complex language situation in the Torres Strait and the language of instruction in the schools, colleges, and universities (McDonald). There are a number of dedicated people working to improve the educational opportunities for the Torres Strait Islanders. Indeed, the School of Education at James Cook University has increasingly directed the energy and resources of its staff to this end. The trail-blazing work of Osborne and those he is training is giving a new understanding of what is happening in the classrooms in the Torres Strait by the use of ethnographic techniques. A 'Proposal for Teacher-Education Programs for Indigenous Students Living in Remote Communities of the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland' has been developed by Greg Miller with the indigenous people concerned. Helen McDonald is attempting to reveal the problems implicit in higher level language acquisition. And Frank York is making Torres Strait Islander music available for the education process in the Torres Strait and beyond. We are fortunate to be able to present the perspectives of two Torres Strait Islanders. Robert Bann laments the loss of traditional knowledge that is part of the culture change that the Torres Strait Islanders are experiencing. Evelyn Anson has presented a Torres Strait Islander perspective of child rearing on Darnley Island, and, in so doing, tells us a great deal about the importance of kinship in her community and the values that are inherent in it. It is exciting to be in the midst of all of this activity. Let us hope that the Torres Strait Islanders do not find these and similar efforts in other areas too little and too late.
Department of Social and Cultural Studies in Education
James Cook University
|Please cite as: Loos, N. (1988). Guest Editorial 4(3). Queensland Journal of Educational Research, 4(3), 3-4. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr4/guest-editorial4-2.html|