Information for teachers - Returning or Ancestors

Every care has been taken to discuss the complexities in Returning our Ancestors as sensitively as possible. However, it must be acknowledged that even while taking this care, there is deep sorrow and pain involved, especially for Aboriginal People.

We are mindful of the emotional, spiritual and psychological wellbeing of our young People when watching and discussing Returning our Ancestors. It is essential that they receive the support of their family and community to sit with their fellow students and discuss this resource.

To ensure the cultural safety of our classrooms and wellbeing of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, it is essential that before using this resource and screening the film, Returning our Ancestors, you seek permission from parents of these students.

For our People across Victoria there are cultural sensitivities that should be discussed and managed through families and community support structures. Whether they are sensitivities around sites in the film, images in the resources, discussion of Cultural practices or the ongoing grief and distress felt by the removal of Ancestors from their graves; these considerations must be made by the parents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their permission granted.

It is recommended that, in seeking permission, these parents are provided with the full education resources and link to the film to view to make their decision. Educators need to start a conversation with these parents to understand their concerns. It is important for educators to understand the elements that cause distress however such discussions themselves can be distressing and should be undertaken with sensitivity and cultural awareness.

To help parents and educators, an abridged version of the education resources has been developed that may be more appropriate.

If parents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children believe that the subject matter of both the film and the abridged resources is not appropriate for their children to participate in, it is essential that these students are not removed from the class. Students should remain part of their peer group and part of their community, not isolated, particularly when it is their heritage being discussed.

As students not participating would necessarily mean that the film is not taught to their class, we encourage teachers to understand the nature of their parent’s concerns.

If concerns are raised by a number of parents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council would like to support them in discussing the film with their children and community. It is recommended that educators contact the Council to discuss a screening and discussion event with parents, attended by a member of Council.

To further support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their communities, it is recommended that a respected member of the local Aboriginal community attends the screening and intensive discussions. Their presence will provide a support for students and an environment of cultural safety. In asking community members to participate; be they parents, Elders, members of the areas Registered Aboriginal Party or another, financial consideration for their time should be considered.

Additionally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families must be encouraged to seek counselling or support through Elders, respected persons or other community members if they do find these issues upsetting. They may also wish to contact community agencies such as Aboriginal co-operatives, Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations, Beyond Blue(opens in a new window), Lifeline(opens in a new window) and Headspace(opens in a new window).