Skip to main content Skip to search
Respect for Culture—Social and Emotional Learning with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth
Format: Journal Article
Publication Year: 2017
Source ID: shanti-sources-91486
Abstract: International research into the benefits of social and emotional learning (SEL) is frequently cited in support of incorporating universal approaches to SEL in schools. However, the SEL competencies widely applied have not been investigated for their cross-cultural applicability. In this chapter, we investigate the role of culture in the social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and the implications for SEL. We begin with an illustrative vignette that raises questions of culture and cultural difference and introduces a review of the policy and practice domains pertinent to our inquiry. A cultural analysis reveals the reasons why standardised approaches to SEL are inadequate for supporting social and emotional development amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and their communities. Drawing on our own work in schools, we highlight the crucial role of culture and identity in mediating self-awareness and social development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. This is demonstrated through discussion of findings from the ‘Indigenous adaptation’ of KidsMatter and from the implementation and evaluation of the Aboriginal Girls’ Circle (AGC) initiative. An examination of the ASPIRE principles underpinning the AGC demonstrates the ways that SEL has been integrated with support for cultural identity, and the benefits of doing so. We conclude that culturally responsive SEL requires a ‘two-way’ approach negotiated with local communities on the basis of mutual learning and respect for Indigenous cultures.