Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Refiguring sustainability education: Reckoning with relationships to place and Country on unceded urban Lands
    Belcher, Fiona Margaret ( 2021)
    Sustainability education is a dominant site for the production of ideas about place and Country. At the international level, Education for Sustainability broadly references social justice; however, place-based pedagogical frameworks neither stem from nor centralise Indigenous concerns and futures. Similarly, in the Australian National Curriculum, the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority is represented as commensurable with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, without the associated foregrounding of sovereign claims. At the same time, First Peoples of the place known as Melbourne have long storied possible futures in which invader/settlers take seriously the protocol of not harming Country. As a white invader/settler researcher, I respond to this tension between sustainability curriculum and sovereignty. This thesis investigates the possibility held in curriculum and its enactment; that of producing in a generation of young people specific ideas about their relationships and responsibilities to place and Country. This thesis is therefore grounded in the question, what relationships to place and Country are produced through the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority in secondary schools on the Country of the Kulin Nations? This thesis is an original contribution to knowledge about the ways white invader/settler logics are produced via sustainability praxis. In doing so, it contributes to a deepened understanding of the relationship between Education for Sustainability and Land education. While the field of Land education identifies place-based education as a site of possibility, this thesis contributes to an understanding of the specific ways these possibilities are delimited by the influence of the priorities and assumptions of Education for Sustainability frameworks on sustainability education practice in Victoria. By employing white possessive logics as a key conceptual framework, this thesis contributes to increasing the theoretical possibilities of Land education. This theoretical contribution enables further analysis of how patriarchal white sovereignty operates through sustainability education to produce incommensurable imaginings of not only the future, but of the past. Curriculum texts alongside secondary school and sustainability hub educators across Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung Country form the sites on which this thesis is located. My research findings emerge from analysis of the material and representational elements of sustainability education on these school grounds, revealed through walking interviews, go-along methods, photovoice, and policy analysis within a critical place inquiry approach. In this context, I find that sustainability education as represented in policy and curriculum reduces the concepts of place and Country to resources, framed by the problematisation of scarce environmental resources between nation states. This policy emphasis on resources is mirrored in classroom settings, whereby students’ relationships to displaced objects, such as single use waste, is framed through a moral lens. The final finding of this thesis is that educators’ impetus for sustainability praxis is for establishing an affective re-connection between students and place. This educational assumption of students’ disconnection amplifies an investment in cultivating an imagined return to love of place. The primary argument of this thesis is that white invader/settler benevolence is produced through sustainability education in secondary schools, while contested relationships to Country are disavowed. Sustainability education at the sites on the Country of the Kulin Nations produces two related affects that stem from the central concept of the environment. First, an investment in displaced objects is cultivated as a way for students to inhabit a moral subject position in relation to unceded Country. This thesis argues that the reduction of place and Country to resource relations enables moral positions to be assigned to consumer choices. As a result, students who choose keep cups and Boomerang Bags are able to inhabit not just an innocent but a moral subject position. Further, invader/settler relationships to place are rendered innocent, framed in terms of a depoliticised love. The depoliticisation of relationships to Country and emphasis on individual relationships to displaced moral objects work in tandem in an attempt to secure patriarchal white sovereignty. This thesis contributes to an understanding of the ways these two affects work in concert to produce benevolent settler subject positions, reinscribing postcolonising processes through sustainability praxis. The implications of this are significant and also Country-specific. In contrast to the language of resources, the affective enactment of Education for Sustainability on Kulin Country reveals the ways that students’ futures and histories are produced to actively deracialise relationships to Country. Such enactments work in an attempt to legitimise white invader/settler replacement of First Peoples across the past, present and future. Despite these attempts, the materiality of Country – such as the extractive histories revealed through landfill – continues to work against this attempted reinscription of relations.
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    Practices of professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care: Long day care educators at work
    Jackson, Phyllis Joy ( 2021)
    There is an emerging corpus of Australian research, both qualitative and quantitative, inquiring into how early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators experience and understand their work. This qualitative case study traces the lived experience of a group of centre-based long day care educators working in communities experiencing high levels of social and economic disadvantage. Set within the context of the Australian ECEC reform program, the study investigates what constitutes ECEC professionalism and how educators experience and practise it every day. Analysing data drawn from two quality centre-based long day care settings, it was found that educators predominantly frame professionalism in terms of pedagogic practice—what they do, how they use their knowledge and skills and how they enact professional identities they value. Thus, for many of the study’s participants, a commitment to social justice, of wanting to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families and, a belief in quality ECEC services as having the potential to ameliorate the socio-economic inequities many families in their community experience, was the basis on which their practice and professionalism was constructed. Altogether, the argument is made that educators’ understandings of their work practice, value commitments and the qualities and dispositions they privilege offer a nuanced and multifaceted view of professionalism, one that potentially widens the policy-based discourse of ECEC professionalism and requires that acknowledgement be made of the range and complexity of educators’ work in contemporary ECEC. The identity(ies) of relational and ethical professionalism that is both child-centred and family and community-centred most particularly requires recognition and support.