2. Show confidence in your own expertise, credibility and authority

This aspect of Indigenous teaching has many facets. As the Approaches here show, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers can feel - and actually are - challenged on the question of their credibility.

The question of who is entitled to speak, and on which topics, is always a sensitive one for Indigenous people. Non-Indigenous teachers in the field of Indigenous Studies may need to allow time, and plan strategies for establishing their authority and trustworthiness in the field.

There is a fine line between demonstrating academic expertise and professional confidence, whilst also being respectful of students’ views. The need to tread that line may apply to Indigenous teachers whose expertise is in ‘mainstream’ disciplines rather than in Indigenous Studies; or to Indigenous teachers who are – for example – much younger than community Elders in their classrooms.

Alongside demonstrating confidence in their own expertise, teachers in this field will also benefit from acknowledging, respecting and drawing upon the expertise of others - inside and outside the classroom (see 9.2).

2.1 'With every new group we go through each person: "Where I'm from…" "My family…" - and it's very personal, not detached. Then I give them a spiel: "We're all here and we're going to share our own knowledge. No one is better than anyone else". ' (Macquarie)

2.2 'You have to convince students coming in that they have to listen to an Indigenous person teaching them [non-Indigenous subject matter]. This is hard for them to accept. Non-Indigenous students think they are getting ripped off, to have an Indigenous teacher teaching non-Indigenous material or subjects. My expertise is in government, governance.' (Monash)

2.3 'It is harder to teach Indigenous students - it is harder if they are older. If they say: 'My Grandma says this' - how can the academy judge? But I think it is important to be able to stand outside our own culture and history, and talk about it critically, analytically'. (Sydney)

2.4 'It's tough… Elders in the classroom. You've got the concurrent knowledge systems running. You've got the high-level educators in the classroom - in their communities they have the knowledge - and then there's me, the lecturer, who's 20 years younger. It takes a lot of skill to manage that, so I try to incorporate their knowledge in the teaching. I think about my learning outcomes. I try to get through the content, do the scaffolding for the assessments, and at the same time give them the respect they deserve.' (Macquarie)

2.5 'You need to position yourself in a genuinely authoritative position, in spite of not being an Aboriginal person. They need to see that your view is informed and authoritative… It is important to deal with the difficult questions, such as the Stolen Generation. You can do it and still keep people's respect - and not be seen as a ratbag… I want to underline the need for being straight, for not giving in to the pressure to think what other people think… Given that I am an anthropologist, and given that a lot of Aboriginal people see anthropology as an agent of colonisation, I really need to have faith in myself and in my discipline.' (La Trobe)

2.4 'I'm conscious that I'm not Indigenous and I would like someone [who is Indigenous] to talk to the students in my Units. This is something I will try to do in future. My field of research is South Pacific Customary Law, and I would like to get some Māori; people involved too. And I will be asking my [Indigenous] students to come back as guest lecturers after they graduate.' (Macquarie)

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