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For many Queer and Gender Diverse (QGD) Indigenous Australian people, there is little to no separation between our queer or gender identity, and our cultural identity. We are increasingly calling upon institutions to consider and cater to our identities and the needs which correlate with such identities. This paper discusses the findings of a project that investigated the ways in which QGD Indigenous Australian students are included, or not, in the Australian higher education space. Our findings suggest QGD Indigenous Australians are often overlooked in these spaces. We explore the consequences for university access, retention and personal impact for this cohort of students.
Although there have been repeated calls for empirical evaluations focused on if and how the activities of Indigenous Education Units contribute to Indigenous student success at university, data demonstrating the outcomes of these activities remain scarce. As a first step in addressing this gap, a case study of the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre is presented which documents the development and implementation of its student success strategy. Informed by research that identifies a range of different barriers and enablers of Indigenous student success, the strategy was built around a ‘whole-of-university’ approach which focuses on influencing across multiple levels of the university (governance and management, teaching and pedagogy and direct student support). The success of the strategy is described in relation to changes in Indigenous student retention and pass rates. The case study offers insight into the activities of an Indigenous Education Unit, which can inform future models of practice in this area and raise awareness of the need for more comprehensive and nuanced evaluation of Indigenous higher education initiatives.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remain significantly under-represented in higher education systems. There are significant disparities in university completion rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students compared with their non-Indigenous counterparts. The poor-retention and high-attrition rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students come at significant financial and personal cost for the individual, families, community, universities and governments. Existing evidence in relation to attrition has identified complex and multifaceted reasons including ill health, family and community responsibilities, financial difficulties, lack of social support, academic disadvantage and issues surrounding personal well-being. The current study aimed to add to evidence of the academic, financial, social support and well-being factors affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student's decision to continue or withdraw from their university studies. Contrary to expectation, students' decision to withdraw was not related to academic and social factors. It was found that students between 22 and 25 years old strongly agreed they were likely to withdraw from studies. There was a significant association between withdrawal and type of enrolment. This study provided important insights into the factors that contribute to a students' decision to withdraw from their university studies, with implications for future educational interventions.
To improve healthcare practices and increase cultural safety when working with First Peoples, it is essential that students engage with challenging discourses that critically engage their social, political, personal, professional and historical positioning. Such engagement may provoke emotional responses in students. However, little is known about the nature of non-indigenous students’ emotional engagement when learning First Peoples health content that integrates cultural safety principles. The pedagogy of discomfort is a process of self-examination that requires students to critically engage their ideological assumptions and may be useful in examining the emotional dimension that occurs when learning this content. Eighty-two non-indigenous health students gave permission for their critical reflective essays, submitted as an assessment requirement of a First Peoples health course to be analysed. Elements of the pedagogy of discomfort informed the analytical and theoretical framework. The emotional engagement by students was captured in the following overarching themes: Acknowledging preconceived ideas; Uncomfortable emotions; Fragile identities; Spectating and Witnessing. Findings highlight how students' emotional engagement may contribute to changes in perspective and frames of reference, transpiring to a ‘call to action’ that challenges systems of differential privilege. While many students expressed discomfort when learning about key cultural safety concepts, the extent of transformative potential varied.
Australian higher education policy espouses the need to expose students to Indigenous knowledges, cultures and pedagogies by embedding appropriate content into the curriculum. One way to overcome the challenges of guest speakers, lack of capacity and a crowded curriculum is to use digital materials regularly during lectures and tutorials. Videos have been shown to create empathy and emotional connection between students and the storyteller. The Voices project consisted of 12 semi-structured conversations with local Indigenous people covering a range of topics, each of which was edited for particular topics and courses to avoid student resistance to difficult material and avoid homogenous representations of Indigenous peoples. The edited video clips were shown in class and evaluated. This research reports on formal anonymous student feedback on teaching, questionnaire responses from 115 students and 10 in-depth interviews. Findings include the authenticity, emotional connection and empathy the storytellers provide, and the need for cultural courage to reflect on one's own positionality and privilege. We argue that digital storytelling is an effective pedagogy that also engages the community and helps further the higher education agenda for culturally inclusive knowledges and perspectives.
The following paper argues for a critical creative paedagogy as a means of meaningfully engaging with Indigenous and decolonial philosophies. We showcase our critical frameworks and pathways for teaching a decolonial and Indigenous university course where philosophy and arts meet to engage with complex colonial, racial and epistemological questions. We first frame our theoretical and philosophical stance within critical postcolonial, Indigenous and decolonial studies. We then describe an epistemological critique within western philosophical discourse that will gesture towards a decolonial pathway to arts and discuss our creative teaching approach grounded in decolonial and Indigenous theories. Lastly, we reach to a critical and decolonial space where ‘southern’ philosophies can be ‘heard’ in their fullest complexity. We contend that creative writing and visual arts grounded in critical decolonial and Indigenous theories provide a space in which a decolonised knowledge seems possible.
Working in an Institute that centres Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies provides a challenge for the ongoing development of our understandings of Indigeneity and how we embed and embody these understandings. It also creates the opportunity for reflection and development both of pedagogical principles, as well as construction. Trends within the Institute to move to a new degree offering, led the University of Newcastle and the Wollotuka Institute to revisit questions of how to have these conversations together, how to create shared ideas about appropriate approaches and how to translate these shared understandings into real-time outcomes for students studying our courses. These processes are observed here with some examples provided to illuminate the challenging processes taken by experts involved with embodying Indigenous ontologies and epistemologies in this area through all processes of an indigenous centred unit in an Australian university.
Yarning scholarship is emerging in the Australian context. There are a growing number of Indigenous scholars who advocate for using yarning in research and this paper aims to contribute to this methodological discussion. In this paper, I outline the development of a methodology, which I have named Collaborative Yarning Methodology (CYM). CYM extends on the current yarning scholarship available to researchers through critically addressing the issue of data collection and analysis. The methodology was developed in undertaking my doctoral study in alternative school settings. In developing CYM, I discuss and analyse the implications of using Indigenous methodologies in institutionalised education settings and some of issues that may arise, and some explicitly for Indigenous researchers. Through analysing the current discourses that exists when undertaking Indigenous-focused research in education institutions, there are clearly connections in how Indigenous people are positioned politically, racially and socially when assuming the role of a researcher. I propose that in Indigenous education focused research, there continues to be an over-reliance of positivist ways of collecting yarning data, such as audio recording. I offer an alternative to audio recording, which incorporates collaborative approaches to data collection with participants underpinned by the principle of self-determination.
Contemporary scholarly critique in Indigenous research spaces has tended to focus on binary dualities, including the purpose of Indigenous-focused research, and the legitimacy of researcher identity, research knowledge and truth. Yet, perhaps unintentionally, such interrogation has led to the continued (re)construction and maintenance of false race-based dichotomies. In this paper, one way in which we seek to step beyond binary race-based discourses is by advocating for the advancement of cross-cultural research practices that interweave traditional and contemporary communication practices. We put forward the case that by knitting together Eurocentric and Indigenous research methodologies, Lawrence-Lightfoot's (2005, Qualitative Inquiry 11, 3–15) portraiture method, and Aboriginal practices of storytelling/yarning, the cross-cultural oral narrative portraiture method enables co-construction of more holistic, culturally nuanced and responsive stories, where meaning, context and reason resonate. In the 21st century research space, we open dialogue for thinking about data as stories, and advocate for contemporary intercultural research processes that are inclusive, engaging and promote co-construction of narratives for storying.
Campfire sessions are springing up at conferences and educational institutes as an alternative to PowerPoint presentation workshops. As an educational tool, the campfire session is presented as innovative pedagogy, yet sitting around an open fire, telling stories, talking and ‘yarning’ has long been practised in Indigenous societies. This paper reflects on story-telling as an Indigenous educational method with a focus on traditional Māori society in Aotearoa/New Zealand. More specifically, the authors reflect on a campfire session facilitated at the Ako (reciprocal teaching and learning) Aotearoa (Māori name for New Zealand) Conference in Christchurch in November 2018. The campfire session was designed to draw on participants' experiences and stories of biculturalism and their own bicultural journeys. Its intention was to enable participants to explore what it means to be bicultural in Aotearoa/New Zealand and how being bicultural manifests in practices of ako across a range of disciplines and fields of practice. The paper endeavours to be an instructional article for educators interested in experimenting with the Indigenous teaching method of campfire sessions. Detailed explanations and descriptions of the campfire method are provided to assist teachers to design their own campfire sessions. The campfire method was well received by the initial audience, as evidenced by their full engagement and participation. All participants fed back that they felt enabled to design their own campfire sessions. The main benefit of this method is its engagement and appreciation of Indigenous wisdom. The main challenge is its unpredictability as just like fire, it can produce a wonderful warmth and transformation, but also engender inflamed discussions. It requires skilful facilitation and appreciation of potentially diverse views and opinions.
This paper explores the possibilities of designing a Wik pedagogy, drawing on the language and culture of the remote community of Aurukun on Cape York. The research was inspired by the emergence of Aboriginal pedagogy theory in recent decades, along with a resurgence of interest in cognitive linguistics indicating an undeniable link between language, culture and cognition. We are Aboriginal researchers, relatives with strong family ties in the Aurukun community and beyond. We are bound by community obligations and cultural protocol and so the methodology privileged the local cultural and language orientations that inform Indigenous knowledge production. It involved participating in knowledge transmission in cultural contexts and undertaking a relationally responsive analysis of local language. The methodology enfolded Indigenous standpoint theory, yarning methods and auto-ethnography, a rigorous process that informed the development of a Wik pedagogy. We found that Wik knowledge transmission is embedded across multiple disciplines and modalities, such as weaving, fishing, carving, stories and images in both male and female cultural activities. The observed patterns of these activities revealed an example of a structured learning cycle. Some elements of this proposed Wik pedagogy may be generalisable to other language groups, such as the tendency for listening to be equated with understanding and cognition. This is a feature of many Aboriginal languages and cultures along with narrative, place-based and group-oriented approaches to knowledge transmission. In terms of implications for Indigenous research, the use of Indigenised methods such as umpan and relationally responsive analysis represent potential ways forward in Indigenous standpoint theory and methodologies.
More than 4000 Indigenous Australian students enrol and take up a placement at boarding school each year. While reasons for attending boarding school vary, the impetus for many remote and very remote-dwelling students is restricted secondary educational opportunities in their home communities. A large multi-site study is being undertaken across Queensland to understand the conditions required for these students to be resilient while studying away from home. This paper reports on levels of student satisfaction with Queensland Department of Education's Transition Support Service (TSS) that provide assistance to remote-dwelling Indigenous students in the transition to boarding schools. A survey instrument administered to students included 22 close-ended questions to elicit levels of student satisfaction with TSS. Data were collected electronically using SurveyMonkey™ and analysed in SPSS v24. Descriptive statistics were calculated for variables assessing service support, student perceptions and experiences. A total of 294 primary, secondary and re-engaging students across 21 sites responded. Nearly all primary students (97%) anticipated that TSS would assist their move to boarding school. All secondary students identified that TSS had assisted their transition to boarding school. All re-engaging students agreed that TSS support had increased their capacity to cope when things go wrong. Lower scores related to students’ ability to access TSS when needed. Very high levels of satisfaction with TSS were countered by constraints of distance between TSS and students, and resources available to support the work of TSS. Findings point to the need for equitable provision of transition services in Queensland that emphasise the importance of relationship between service provider and student, and can inform the design of similar transition services across Australia.
This paper is a retrospective exploration of the long-term and deep-reaching impact of an educational aspirations program, Burunga M Gambay (Learning together) (BMG, 2012), on the career pathways and life-long learning of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students. The current project, where are the Ghundus (children)? (2017) follows a phenomenological research design by seeking to describe and interpret the long-term effectiveness of BMG through the experiences of the participants and the career pathways they have followed since the program. Qualitative data were collected through semi-structured interviews and analysed iteratively using nVivo 11. The program influenced the participants positively in four major areas: cultural identity, sharing culture, motivation and future aspirations. Notably, all participants completed senior school and added to their qualifications since school and are currently in paid employment. The implications of these findings suggest that future educational aspirations programs be co-constructed with the community to ensure cultural validity and a sense of connectedness. This will, as a result, ensure that the positive effects of such programs are long-lasting and deep-reaching in the educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
This research article addresses an important issue related to how teachers can support Aboriginal secondary school students' learning of science. Drawn from a larger project that investigated the study of vertebrates using Queensland Indigenous knowledges and Montessori Linnaean materials to engage Indigenous secondary school students, this article focuses on the three-staged lessons from that study. Using an Action Research approach and working with participants from one secondary high school in regional Queensland with a high Indigenous population, there were several important findings. First, the materials and the three-staged lessons generated interest in learning Eurocentric science knowledge. Second, repetition, freedom and unhurried inclusion of foreign science knowledges strengthened students' Aboriginal personal identity as well as identities as science learners. Third, privileging of local Aboriginal knowledge and animal language gave rise to meaningful and contextualised Linnaean lessons and culturally responsive practices.
Improving educational outcomes for Pasifika learners is a national priority in New Zealand. Long-standing mathematics achievement differences between Pasifika and non-Pasifika indicate that looking beyond usual pedagogies may be essential for enhancing Pasifika student learning. Culturally sustaining pedagogy, drawing from the cultural experiences and values of Pasifika learners, offers strong potential for enhancing practice, but is, as yet, uncommon in most school settings. This article describes the results of a narrative literature review exploring the potential dance may afford as a culturally sustaining mathematics pedagogy for Pasifika learners. The review incorporates literature published between 2000 and 2018 from within and outside education. Findings include that dance has the potential to provide Pasifika learners with positive mathematical experiences that can enhance learning, engagement, achievement and wellbeing. Furthermore, using Pasifika dance pedagogically may help strengthen these learners' Pasifika cultural identities through connecting learning with cultural values, experiences and traditions. Dance can also provide opportunities for validating and appreciating Pasifika families' funds of knowledge and strengthening home-school partnerships. We describe one example of a dance relevant to secondary school mathematics learning, the sāsā. Implications for educators using dance as a mathematics pedagogy, including cultural and pedagogical challenges, are discussed.
This research explores media reporting of Indigenous students’ Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results in two national and 11 metropolitan Australian newspapers from 2001 to 2015. Of almost 300 articles on PISA, only 10 focused on reporting of Indigenous PISA results. While general or non-Indigenous PISA results featured in media reports, especially at the time of the publication of PISA results, there was overwhelming neglect of Indigenous results and the performance gap. A thematic analysis of articles showed mainstream PISA reporting had critical commentary which is not found in the Indigenous PISA articles. The three themes identified include: a lack of teacher quality in remote and rural schools; the debate on Gonski funding recommendations and the PISA achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. This study concluded the overwhelming neglect is linked to media bias, which continues to drive mainstream media coverage of Indigenous Australians.
‘Bothways’ was an expression first utilised by Yolŋu educators in the late 1980s to convey the profound intercultural epistemological foundations of Yolŋu society that should also apply to modern Balanda (white) schooling systems. Despite the pressures from national, standardised curriculum and assessment regimes, ‘Bothways’ has not been abandoned by remote Yolŋu communities in the 21st century. In this paper we briefly revisit the first iterations of the ‘Bothways’ philosophy to demonstrate its symmetry with the Yolŋu transculturation heritage (of the Warramiri in particular), developed through many centuries of contact with sea-faring visitors. Lastly, we present data from community research at Gäwa, a Warramiri homeland on Elcho Island, which demonstrates that through a series of ‘multiple balances’, negotiation around issues of bilingual pedagogy, cultural knowledge transmission, parental engagement and student–teacher dynamic continues to renew the ‘Bothways’ approach.
‘Sounds, Words, Aboriginal Language and Yarning’ (SWAY) is a school-based oral language and early literacy programme based on Australian Aboriginal stories, knowledge and culture. It was developed by a multidisciplinary team in collaboration with Australian Aboriginal community members. SWAY aims to strengthen and support the communication skills of educators to facilitate language and literacy development of children in the early school years, particularly Australian Aboriginal children, within rural communities in New South Wales. Key features of SWAY include capacity building of educators and small group speech-language pathology intervention sessions, delivered remotely via telehealth. This study explored educator perceptions of SWAY training, mentoring and implementation, using a mixed methods approach. Findings revealed: use of culturally responsive strategies; positive educator perceptions of the SWAY programme, training and mentoring and positive changes to the confidence and behaviours of educators both supporting language and early literacy development, and embedding Australian Aboriginal perspectives in the classroom. Positive findings support and encourage the ongoing provision of SWAY. Findings also have implications for the future collaborative development and implementation of culturally responsive language and literacy programmes.
This case study details the impacts of an Aboriginal-led adult literacy campaign in Brewarrina between 2015 and 2017. Forming part of a wider investigation into literacy as a social determinant of health, the study explores the relationship between involvement in the literacy campaign and the capacity of graduates to take greater control of the conditions affecting their lives. Empowerment is used here as the central explanatory construct despite robust criticism of theoretical slippage. We argue that empowerment remains relevant particularly in the context of ongoing and entrenched disenfranchisement of the low-literate in Australian Aboriginal communities. Drawing on in-depth ‘yarning’ interviews, we find strong evidence of individual empowerment among graduates of the adult literacy campaign, particularly in terms of increased self-control and confidence. However, collective change such as increased participation and organisation at the community level is less apparent. This finding underscores two important aspects of empowerment. Firstly, like learning to read and write, the task of regaining personal and collective power can be a slow and difficult undertaking. Secondly, achieving empowerment is intimately linked to addressing the causes of disempowerment. This ultimately means tackling those power relations which impact choices, opportunities and well-being beyond the borders of individual's lives and communities.