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Assessment 1: Critical Reflection Journal Content

Task description

This is an ungraded assessment that is intended to contribute to your personal and professional development during this course. This ungraded assessment will allow you to critically explore your own thoughts and learning in a safe and honest way and receive progressive personal feedback and support from the teaching team. For this task you will submit 3 x 300 word journal entries to the journal submission point in the Assessment 1 folder, in the course L@G site.

Requirements: This assessment must be completed to a satisfactory level in order to pass this course. You must submit a total of three journal entries across the trimester. Each journal entry will be marked as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory”. You must submit all three journal entries and receive a “satisfactory” result for at least two out of the three journal entries to pass this course. You will have the opportunity to submit a “second chance” journal entry at the end of the trimester if you have not achieved the minimum of two satisfactory journal entries during the trimester.

Reflection framework: You will be provided with a framework for critical reflection at the beginning of the trimester. You will have the opportunity to learn about and practice using the framework through this journal assignment. See the Assessment 1 folder for more information.

Journal questions: Each journal entry should respond to a set question that will be provided to you in the Assessment 1 folder.

Progressive assessment: You cannot rush ahead with this assignment. It is intended to support you to progressively explore your thoughts and learning over time.

Due dates: Journal entries will be due at 11:30 PM on Friday of Weeks 3, 7, and 11. A “second chance” entry will be available to those who need it at the end of trimester.

Please note this assessment task must be completed to a satisfactory level in order to pass this course. This condition applies even if the due date for submission has passed.

Marking criteria
Each journal entry will be marked as satisfactory on unsatisfactory in relation to the following marking criteria:

1. Effective use of the required critical reflection framework

2. Evidence of critical reflection on personal experience and examples with specific reference to the course content

3. Evidence of honest reflection and engagement with course content

4. Journal entry directly answers the journal question set for that entry

Each journal entry must meet a satisfactory level for all of the above criteria to receive a satisfactory mark overall.

Length: Each journal entry should be 300 words long excluding reference list.

Embodied critical reflection process – Assessment 1, 2032HSV

You should use this reflection process to prepare all of your journal entries this trimester. Remember: you will be marked on whether there is evidence that you have used this required reflection process.
Please note, this process will help you to think through your response to the journal questions in a deep and critical way. You should not simply answer each question in your written answer. You should instead follow the reflection process outlined here and then construct a 300 word written response that captures the most intense and relevant aspects of your resulting reflections.
You must stick to the required word count for each journal entry. Anything above the 300 words will not be read or marked as per Griffith University Health Group policy.
Please refer to the task description in your course profile and on the Learning@Griffith site in addition to these instructions.
What is embodied critical reflection? Why should we practice it?
This reflection process may differ from other critical reflection processes you have used in the past in that it asks you to be critically aware of the deep embodied dimensions of your experiences. For example, what physical, emotional, and intellectual reactions have you had when working with or encountering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or issues in the past? Where do you think these reactions came from? How might they have shaped your attitudes and experience?
Being aware of your default, automatic, or unconscious physical and emotional reactions to experience is a deeper form of critical reflection than merely “intellectual” or “rational” critical analysis. It is also an anti-oppressive form of analysis that does not merely privilege dominant rational and intellectual ways of knowing, being, and doing. Remember our brains are not disembodied organs: We exist as a holistic entity that incorporates body, mind, spirit, and country.
Our attention to embodied experience in this journal task is in keeping with our overall anti-oppressive and Indigenous-inspired course approaches and will assist you to be deeply aware of your own reactions to course content and future practice in the human and social work professions.
Reflection process
Please work through the following questions in regard to each required journal topic. You may wish to do some expressive writing as you work through the process or you may wish to do your reflection as a form of meditation and take notes afterward. Remember you should not use these questions as headings in your written journal entry. You should instead draft and edit a 300 word entry that summarises the most relevant and intense aspects of your reflection process whilst still responding to the marking criteria.

Please ask yourself the following questions:
1. What are my honest “default” thoughts about this topic?
2. Why do I think what I think about this topic?
3. What personal experiences have I had or observed that could relate to this topic?
4. What did I feel physically and emotionally during those experiences?
5. Why did I feel what I felt?
6. How does my experience relate to course content that is relevant to this journal entry?
7. How do I feel now that I have finished this reflection process?

Course Overview

Topic 1 provides you with necessary background information on what is involved in this course. It includes discussion of:

Acknowledgement and welcome to country
Terminology used to represent First Australians
Social justice in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The approach that this course will take

Learning Objectives

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At the completion of this Topic, you should be able to:

Explain the importance of acknowledgement and welcome to country
Explain the terminology used when speaking of First Australians
Describe social justice in relation to First Australians
Explain the approach that this course will take

1.1 Acknowledgment of Country

Before we begin, we would like to respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of this land. We will do this at the start of each topic. This is something that is done in a range of cultural, work and social settings. It’s important to realise that there is a difference between welcoming a person or group to country and acknowledging country. A welcome to country can only be done by a person who is a traditional custodian of that piece of land. If the person doing the welcoming is a traditional owner of a different region than the one they are giving a welcome to, they would say ‘acknowledgement’ of country rather than ‘welcoming’ to country. Anybody, regardless of race or ethnicity can do an acknowledgement of country whereas only traditional custodians of that land can welcome to country.

Although acknowledging country is a fairly new practice amongst non-Indigenous people, welcoming and acknowledgement of country is a traditional practice of Indigenous Australians and has been done for hundreds of years. Many Indigenous peoples from around the world have a similar practice.

Griffith University includes acknowledgement of country on it’s website for all the campuses, and has a map indicating the names of the clan groups that are the traditional owners of the land that the campuses sit on.

South Bank, Nathan and Mount Gravatt campuses are situated on the land of the Yugarabul, Yuggera, Jagera and Turrbal peoples.Logan is situated on the land of the Yuggera, Turrbal, Yugarabul, Jagera and Yugambeh peoples.The Gold Coast is situated on the land of the Yugambeh / Kombumerri peoples.

As you become more familiar with this process, you will probably find you become more comfortable with it and hopefully, feel able to offer an acknowledgement of country yourself.
Explaining the Course Title

Let’s clarify the course title, ‘First Australians and Social Justice’. The first thing to consider is that all the terminologies that we will explore have been imposed in one way or another. Before the British came to Australia, there was no such thing as an Aborigine or Indigenous person. Instead, the land was made up of a multitude of Indigenous nations (as depicted by the map below). One of the challenges with using terminology like ‘First Australians’ is that it tends to homogenise what was a multicultural continent. It’s a little like looking at a map of Asia and saying that all the various ethnic groups within that large land mass are ‘Asian’. This is incorrect and doesn’t really mean a lot. A Japanese person is quite different from a Korean person for example. They have different language, cultural practices and identities that the term ‘Asian’ doesn’t capture.

indigenous map

Here are some of the terms used to describe First Australians:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Indigenous Australians
Australia’s first peoples
First Nations
First Nations peoples

These are all generally accepted terms but do not reflect the diversity of Indigenous culture and identity throughout Australia. Despite colonisation, First Australians remain a diverse group of peoples. The terms used above have been layered over this diversity, but for Indigenous Australians, the map above is a contemporary truth. In terms of which word to use, any of the above terms is generally accepted. For the purposes of writing in this course, it’s best to choose one of the above terms and stick with it rather than using multiple terms within the one piece of written work.

The map below illustrates the cultural groups in the Torres Strait Islands and you can see that it remains a very multicultural area. Many people are unaware of the significance of the Torres Strait in terms of the movement between it and Papua New Guinea, which has been occurring for centuries as well as trade occurring from this area with peoples as far as China.

torres strait islands

The term ‘First Australians’, whilst tolerated, is still fairly meaningless as the word ‘Australia’ came into existence at Federation in 1901. This is the point where those that colonised the country became citizens of Australia. It’s ironic that at that time, Indigenous people were not considered citizens or indeed considered full human beings and were therefore not considered Australian. The land existed long before the word ‘Australia’ as did the people who lived here. Inappropriate and unacceptable terms include:

‘Aboriginals’: Aboriginal people not Aboriginals
‘Natives’- Historically used in a racist and derogatory way. Indigenous Australian peoples have rejected the term natives.

These terms are historically and currently used in a racist and derogatory way by non-Indigenous Australians and should not be used in the context of this course. Additionally, when referring to Australian Aboriginal people you must always use a capital ‘A’. This is because the word aboriginal, with a small ‘A’ refers to any first peoples from around the world. A capital ‘A’ denotes you are referring to a person from Australia.

Research the names of the traditional clan groups in your location and have a go at delivering an acknowledgement of country. You might like to try this out on your family, in your workplace or on the Discussion Board for this course site.

1.2 Social Justice

By this point in your studies, you should be familiar with the term social justice. Broadly, it describes a situation where people are enjoying their fundamental human rights. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was established in 2007. This document captures fundamental Human Rights as identified and accepted by Indigenous peoples collectively at a global level. It took about 25 years to come into creation and saw the involvement of many Indigenous peoples from around the world who came together to explore and define what they believed their basic human rights to be.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

You might be wondering what the difference is between rights for Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Peoples. Briefly, Indigenous peoples globally have had the experience of mass colonisation. This has resulted in the layering over of traditional Indigenous cultural practices, which continue to exist despite attempts to squash them. This document seeks to acknowledge the pre-existing and co-existing laws, practices and rights of Indigenous Peoples. Australia was not a signatory on this document and it took a significant amount of time for it to be ratified by Australia. Despite signing on to this document, our government breeches it daily, and the UN provides our government with feedback to this effect each year. So on the one level, this document is very important and Australia being a signatory to it matters, but on the other hand, we must move beyond this to critically evaluate what is actually happening in relation to Indigenous rights on the ground. Australia has two reports recently released which highlight what is actually going on in terms of social justice and First Australians. These are the Close the Gap Report (Holland, 2014) and the Social Justice and Native Title Report (Aboriginal and Torres Islander Social Justice Commissioner, 2014).

Both of these reports establish that there is much to be done in relation to the rights of First Australians as they table poor reports on incarceration, health and wellbeing. Indigenous Australians have the highest rate of incarceration of any group that measures incarceration in the world. In Western Australia, the youth incarceration rate is close to 90% Indigenous Australians, despite the population of WA being only 3% Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Islander Social Justice Commissioner, 2014). You can explore these reports in more detail in the links to them under the Web Resources section at the end of this topic. The important point to make is that there is no lack of accurate, reliable information on the lives of Indigenous Australians. Government is well informed about the range of serious issues.

A good starting point in relation to exploring social justice issues for First Australians is to understand that these have historically been defined and controlled by non-Indigenous Australians. Additionally, there is a history of poor results. Issues of suitability, relevance and authenticity remain in regards to focus, action and accountability. Most of what is happening in this realm is still being done by non-Indigenous people to Indigenous Australians. Indigenous peoples have the clearest and most informed understandings regarding the barriers and opportunities for equitable social justice outcomes.
Additional Task

This course is informed and inspired by Indigenous approaches to teaching and learning. The teaching team bring their lived experience and their professional experience to designing and teaching this course. The course recognises that contemporary Australia remains a neo-colonial experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and societies. Senator Peris’ speech in the video above captured this. The course supports the belief that de-colonisation is the only process that will enable equitable social justice outcomes for all people in Australia and it takes an anti-colonial approach to teaching within this course. An example of an anti-colonial approach within this course is not to simply perpetuate the status quo by training you to go out and work within the existing framework, but rather to equip you to be a part of a discussion about building better practices.

Indigenous learning and teaching approaches have a lot to offer mainstream education and you will learn more about what this approach means as we proceed through the course.

Within this course we will be using narrative and story to explore (new) ways of knowing, seeing, doing and being. The experience will be embodied and emplaced and involve compassion and conflict, in recognition that at times, it can ‘hurt to heal’. Some of the content we cover in this course may be very new to you and this may take you to emotional places that feel very uncomfortable and even painful. To be a part of the process of decolonisation, you will need to allow yourself to visit those places, to learn and to grow.

The course is also concerned with cultural safety, non-homogeneity, self-agency, care and respect. If you have previously undertaken 1028HSV, you will have already come across the term cultural safety. Briefly, cultural safety refers to having the willingness and openness to learn about other cultures in a non-judgemental way. It also encompasses the concept that you yourself feel safe to be who you are and express yourself in a way that is true to you. With this comes the idea of self-agency, which means you are responsible for your own cultural safety and feel able to express your needs in an appropriate way. Cultural safety means not assuming sameness but instead assuming diversity. To do this, you will need to have an awareness of your own culture, your level of privilege and how these impact on your values and beliefs.

There are a lot of terms in the above paragraph which might be quite new to you and that’s fine. As we move through the course, you will build your understanding of what these terms and perspectives mean.

The course supports embodied social work practice, which can quite simply be understood as ‘getting out of your head’. As we move through the content, you will be asked to do more than engage with it on an intellectual level. Instead, you will be asked to allow yourself to be moved and changed by both the content and experience of learning and to take this experience with you into your practice. This is a very worthwhile pursuit that you may not have the time or space to do once you are working in the field after university. This course presents an opportunity that you are invited to immerse yourself in.

The teaching team promote engaging with people and communities holistically and flexibly in the recognition that an open mind is a beautiful mind! It’s also important to recognise that Indigenous ways of being, seeing and doing are not just for Indigenous people. This course was developed with consideration of concepts of:

shared power,
respect for Elders and family, eco-sustainability and
deep listening.

These are valuable to all of us both personally and in practice.

As a participant in this course, you will be asked to:

Listen to yourself and others – reflect and be aware of what’s going on for you
Reflect on your personal and particular relationship to an issue or theme. How is it influencing your thinking?
Include and support each other
Ask for help and support
Do the research before challenging the research


Topic 2 provides you with necessary background information on the diversity of Indigenous Australia. It includes discussion of:

Diversity of country
Diversity of people and identity
The deficit paradigm

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this Topic, you should be able to:

Explain intersectionality
Outline the importance of country to Indigenous worldviews
Explain how Aboriginal identity has been constructed and some of the impacts of these constructions on Indigenous Australians
Outline what current statistics tell us about Indigenous Australia and diversity
Explain the Deficit Paradigm

A Quick Recap

quick recap icon

Let’s start with a quick revision of some key points from last week’s lecture. We saw that:

There is a difference between a Welcome to country and an Acknowledgement of country and this traditional practice has been in existence for hundreds of years
There are a range of appropriate terms you can use when referring to First Australians, but it should be understood that all terminology is flawed
Social justice in relation to First Australians
As a participant in this course, you will be asked to allow yourself to be moved and changed by both the content and experience of learning and to take this experience with you into your practice

2.1 Intersectionality

We will start this topic by briefly explaining the concept of Intersectionality, ad depicted in this graphic below:


Intersectionality refers to the situation where a person belongs to a number of different groups that aren’t treated very well in society. It captures the idea that different types of discrimination interact. When we look at the diagram above and think about Indigenous peoples in Australia, we can see that the disadvantage they experience might be felt in many or all of the areas in this diagram (education, race, class, culture etc). For example, an Indigenous Australian who is disabled, gay and Christian will find themselves layered with multiple levels of disadvantage in our society. People experience sameness and difference in the intersections of their identity and this cuts across all the areas of our lives. We will discuss this more in detail when we cover content on privilege in Topic 5.


You may have heard or read about the importance of Country to Indigenous Australians. The notion of Country, the relationship of Country and the identity with Country is the absolute cornerstone of Indigenous Australian cultures and identities. Australia is recognized internationally as having one of the most diverse biological land and water masses in the world. Aboriginal people in Australia have shaped and sustainably managed one of the world’s most biologically unique and diverse regions uninterrupted in human history. This biodiversity has sadly been threatened through environmental degradation and unsustainable practices. For Indigenous Australians, country forms the basis of a range of cultural practices and relationships. This is evident in many of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages that have the same word for people, identity and country. When you go to the north of Australia, some of the Creole languages see people being referred to as country. So if you’re saying hello to someone, you might say ‘hello country’. There is a term to capture the inclusion of country into community and this is ‘Eco-kinship’. This demonstrates that people relate to their physical environment in the same way they relate to family and kin, as opposed to them being separate spheres. Relationship to country, care of country and having access to country is critical for many Indigenous Australians.


Culture is very closely related to country. You will know from your studies in the first year that culture refers to ways of thinking, seeing, doing and valuing. Remember that culture is a fluid concept. We can all be part of various cultures at the same time. Indigenous Australian culture is not a static thing but rather it changes and moves over time. There is no one authentic Indigenous culture and it can be frustrating for Indigenous Australians to feel that they must be locked into a cultural identity from the past and judged on whether they are being ‘cultural authentic’.

The map above illustrates that there are currently 250 nations representing 250 distinct languages. This map has seen changes over our colonial history with the suggestion that there was likely double this many nations and languages at the point of colonization. Language tends to be a good indicator for culture and many languages often equal many different cultures. The global move to English as a ‘world language’ suggests to some that we are seeing the homogenization of culture around the globe. As an international phenomenon, we are also seeing that the loss of language is happening at the same time as the loss of biodiversity. Those areas that have the least diversity in language also have the least biodiversity and this suggests some kind of relationship between the two.

You might like to look at the map above and name the nations where you were born or have lived on.

What’s imagined?

Without looking at any reference sources, for the next 5 minutes, write down what you know about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures. You can include historic and current information.

Keep this piece of writing. You will be referring back to it as part of your future Assessment 1 journal questions.
2.2 People and Identity

There are currently just under 600,000 Indigenous Australians, as identified by the Census (ABS, 2011). There are likely many people that get missed out on, particularly those in remote areas and those that won’t formally identify as Indigenous Australians, due to past experience engaging with the Australian Government. Prior to colonization, there was no ‘Pan Aboriginality’, which means no broad notion of a unified Indigenous identity. Identity was defined through relationship and identity as opposed to a set concept of ‘race’. The idea of race is a social construct and has been disproved by scientists around the world. The power of race as a social construct however, and the meanings associated with it, is a much harder idea to discredit. Since the idea first took hold, it has been recognised that it has been used to reinforce existing notions of race superiority, that one group is better than another. The science of racism was essentially invented to justify the exploitation of some people and the privileging of others.

For Indigenous people and cultures, the concept of race has never been used, but rather levels of relationship and affiliation exist. If you met someone that wasn’t affiliated with you, the cultural requirement was to affiliate, to include. From an Indigenous worldview, the whole world is connected and there is really no such thing as strangers. You would just work out who people were and where they were connected in the web of interconnectivity. Therefore, culturally, the idea of race is outside of an Indigenous worldview.

Outside of Indigenous society, the notion of who is ‘authentic’ is a common one. Arguments about who is authentic tend to exist outside of Indigenous cultures, and this occurs globally. This leads to Indigenous peoples feeling that both historically and today, they are being defined and identified by others for their own purpose. Within Australia, in the space of a couple of hundreds of years, there has been over 167 definitions of Aboriginality used in various different State and Federal legislation for different purposes. Prior to the Racial Discrimination Act (1975), a person could be identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in one State, cross the border and not be identified in the other. This would have profoundly affected your entire life’s opportunities, choices, experiences and identity. These imposed definitions have created incredible levels of trauma. The system in Australia shaped and re-shaped identities for particular purposes and we will explore more on this during the semester.

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Read the attached pdf on statistics. Statistical overview of current realities for Indigenous Australians

Statistical overview of current realities for Indigenous Australians

Consider the following:

How much knowledge did you already have on these statistics?
Did any of these statistics surprise you?
What are the impacts of these statistics for your future work in the human services?

2.3 The Deficit Paradigm

This paradigm locates people as inherently disadvantaged rather than structurally or purposefully disadvantaged. This captures the belief that people are born disadvantaged based on their race. This notion can be described in a whole range of different ways. It relies heavily on racial archetypes and stereotypes. The deficit paradigm doesn’t take into account the structures that exist outside of the individual that lead to disadvantage. There is no doubt that through a majority of Australia’s history, through the implementation of government policy, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were and are structurally and purposely disadvantaged.

The deficit paradigm places focus on ‘helping’ the disadvantaged rather than stopping the disadvantage occurring. This is an important point for future workers in the human service field, who will be involved in implementing government policy and ‘helping’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Deficit Paradigm is inspired by social and political histories of racism and oppression as people see what they are taught to see. It is supported by mainstream media and dominant governance systems, legislators and policy makers. When that teaching is broad, dominant, powerful and constantly reinforced in our places of learning, it is very easy to accept it.

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