Empowering Aboriginal aspirations in Australian university structures and systems

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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

The Commonwealth Government’s recent strategy to encourage a ‘whole of university’ approach to Indigenous HE is being translated across the sector as requiring a mainstreaming strategy of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs. In spite of the continued changes adopted by universities, there has been little progress in the participation rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. In actual fact, the national average of Indigenous student participation at universities across Australia has decreased from 0.61% in 2010 to 0.55% in 2014 (Commonwealth Department of Education, 2015). Australian Aboriginal HE has a relatively recent history, largely commencing in the early 1980s following the establishment of academic and cultural support programs, commonly referred to as ‘Aboriginal enclaves’. Today a new era of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and research has emerged, one that has the potential to redefine the nature and scope of the relationship that Aboriginal peoples have with the academy. After introducing the evolution of Australian Aboriginal HE, the paper responds to the vision of the Review of HE Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. A case study on Aboriginal HE within an Australian university will introduce an example of a successful structure that delivers sustainable outcomes in all facets of Aboriginal HE within the university environment. The paper reveals how universities can move beyond an environment of hegemonic control and mainstreaming, identifying options for the provision of a culturally affirming and intellectually engaging space within the academy.

Keywords: Aboriginal; governance; culture