Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in the Gallery and the classroom

Wednesday, 3 July 2019
Kylie Neagle

In 2018, the Art Gallery of South Australia welcomed over 320 educators to 4 separate professional development sessions on ‘how to teach Aboriginal Art’. As each participant listened to artists and curators, quickly they realised the teaching of Aboriginal Art was not on the agenda. Instead, educators used works of art as a starting point for learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. 

The blatant copying of artists’ works continues to be common practice in some classrooms across South Australia. Our sessions showed educators how to respond to works of art, whilst recognising the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Through discussion and practical application, and a focus on cultural understanding educators explored artists’ themes, concepts and ideas, from which they made connections to their own students’ histories and cultures. 

These sessions challenged educators’ preconceived ideas and has helped to shape a national publication due for release in October 2019. This will support educators navigate the teaching of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures in an inclusive and meaningful way, whilst engaging with cultural institutions.