Exploring an Indigenous graduate attribute project through a critical race theory lens

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 39: The Shape of Higher Education

July, 2016, 391 pages
Published by
Melissa Davis & Allan Goody

Graduate attributes are a mechanism not only for developing employability skills, but also for fostering graduate abilities to be productive contributors to social change. There is growing recognition that university graduates can and should contribute to enhancing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians signaling the need for dedicated Indigenous curriculum for all university students. Consider the transformative possibilities of significant numbers of graduates empowered to work effectively in partnership with Indigenous Australians. In 2014 almost 10,000 students graduated from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Reflecting the organisational culture, graduate attributes also illustrate the values of an institution. In 2014, responding to the Behrendt Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (2012) call for whole of university approaches, UTS approved the development of an Indigenous Graduate Attribute (IGA) Framework for all university courses. Recognising that resources would be required to support the implementation of such an ambitious project, a proposal was made to establish an Indigenous academic expertise centre to support the implementation of IGAs in all courses. In this paper the Aboriginal academic staff leading the IGA project will draw on Critical Race Theory (CRT), including the work of Ladson-Billings, to reflect on our experiences in the first year of the project. We use CRT to highlight the ways in which institutions might work with Indigenous academics to optimise the success of complex projects such as the UTS Indigenous Graduate Attribute project.

Keywords: graduate attributes, Indigenous Australian, Critical Race Theory