Summary

In 2009, Universities Australia  in collaboration with the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council (IHEAC), obtained support and grant funding from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to undertake a two year project on Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities.

The aim of the project was to provide the Australian higher education sector with a best practice framework comprising the theoretical and practical tools necessary to embed cultural competency at the institutional level to provide encouraging and supportive environments for Indigenous students and staff, whilst producing well-rounded non-Indigenous graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary for providing genuinely competent services to the Australian Indigenous community.

The Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities Project comprised of three primary stages:

  1. A stocktake of existing Indigenous cultural competency initiatives and programs in Australian universities to establish a clear baseline for Indigenous cultural competency activity
      
  2. Four pilot projects of different aspects of cultural competency identified through the stocktake process as gaps in current knowledge and practice
      
  3. The development of a National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities, informed by the stocktake of Australian institutions, the pilot projects and international and national examples of best practice

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Stage One: National Stocktake of Indigenous Cultural Competency Activities in Australian Universities

Stage One of the Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities Project involved a stocktake of current Indigenous cultural competency activities in Australian universities. The stocktake was undertaken over a three month period at the end of 2009 and targeted the thirty nine university members of Universities Australia, including the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. According to the Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities Stocktake Draft Report (Universities Australia, February 2010: 3-4), the stocktake involved:

  1. Targeted questionnaire sent to Indigenous Centre Directors of each of the 40 participants. Twenty nine institutions responded for a response rate of 73 per cent. The themes covered in the questionnaire were:
    - University governance
    - Teaching and learning
    - External engagement
    - Research capacity
    - Human resource management
  1. Consultations and semi-structured on-site interviews at 29 universities, taking in both University Indigenous Centres and (where possible) human resources departments and other stakeholders. Three universities declined to participate in the study, while the remaining eight institutions were not able to be reached for logistical or timing reasons 
  1. A web-based search of university Indigenous resources
  1. A desk review of existing cultural competency activities and literature
  1. Correspondence to key non-university stakeholders requesting their input on cultural competency within the university sector. This resulted in a number of follow-up meetings including with Reconciliation Australia, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association

Discussion of the findings of the National Stocktake of Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities survey is included in the section following the literature review.

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Stage Two: Indigenous Cultural Competence Pilot Activity Projects

A total of four universities were funded to develop were funded to develop Indigenous Cultural Competency Pilot project intitiatives that address gaps in current knowledge and practice identified from Stage One findings, within one or more of the five identified themes of university governance, teaching and learning, research capacity, external engagement and human resource management. The successful universities were:

  1. Edith Cowan University - Cultural Competency @ Edith Cowan University (Graeme Gower (Project Leader), Professor Martin Nakata, Dr. Matt Byrne and Professor Colleen Hayward)
     
  2. University of Wollongong - Using Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning to Encourage Storytelling about “Country” with Student-created Animations (Associate Professor Garry Hoban, Mr. Anthony McKnight, Dr Wendy Nielsen, Ms Debbie Wray and Ms Carol Thomas)
     
  3. University of Newcastle - The University of Newcastle Indigenous Cultural Competency Model (Leanne Holt, Dr Kathleen Butler, Mr. Paul Dodd, Professor John Maynard, Professor Peter O’Meara, and Associate Professor Anne Young)
     
  4. University of Western Australia - Indigenous Dialogues – Towards Cultural Competence (Professor Jill Milroy, Associate Professor Darlene Oxenham, Ms Marilyn Strother, Associate Professor David Paul, Mr. Rod Dewsbury, Professor Denise Chalmers, Mr. Malcolm Fialo and Mr. Adam Casey)

Pilot Project Summary

The following presents a summary of the four Pilot Project Activities. The work undertaken by the Project Teams and the outcomes they produced makes a valuable contribution  to the growing body of knowledge and resources in the area of Indigenous cultural competency and has broad relevance to the higher education sector.

Details of the findings, outcomes and resources developed by the four Project Teams is embedded throughout this document within relevant sections of the discussion of the available literature and the full reports can be accessed via the Universities Australia website.

Edith Cowan University: Cultural Competency @ Edith Cowan University

The Pilot Activity undertaken by Edith Cowan University addressed the themes of University Governance, Human Resource Management and Teaching and Learning. The project aimed to strengthen the university’s commitment to Indigenous cultural competency through:

  • The delivery of cultural competency workshops to university staff;
      
  • Offering a cultural competency unit to law & physiotherapy students during 2010, together with negotiating to include cultural competency in public health courses;
      
  • Inclusion of cultural competency in university corporate statements, core values, student attributes, procedures and practices;
      
  • Making cultural competency a standing item in all university reporting mechanisms establishing guidelines for curriculum writers on culturally competent pedagogy, content and assessment.

The Edith Cowan University project team developed a ‘bottom up’ or ‘Engagement Model’ for trial in 2010 as part of the Indigenous Cultural Competency Pilot Activity project. The Engagement Model involved three primary stages:

Stage One: Developing an awareness of Indigenous cultural competency across the university
Stage Two: Design and development of curriculum
Stage Three: Developing university wide acceptance.

Among the outcomes of the Cultural Competency @ Edith Cowan University Pilot Activity was the development of a useful model for guiding institutions in practical ways of how to embed cultural competency across a university institution. This model allows the aligning of university priorities with graduate attributes whilst assuring the relevance and effectiveness of the curricula to industry, profession and community issues.

Companion to, and influencing the model, is a comprehensive review of the literature which outlines the current literature on developing an engagement model of cultural competency at the institutional level. Of particular value is the inclusion of discussion of the literature in relation to pedagogical models, development of cultural competency curricula and appropriate strategies for teaching and assessing student and/or staff learning and engagement. The literature review by Ellen Grote (2010) is included as Appendix 1 to this document.

The Cultural Competency @ Edith Cowan University Pilot Activity model is outlined and discussed later in this document.

The University of Wollongong: Using Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning to Encourage Storytelling about “Country” with Student-created Animations

The Pilot Activity undertaken by the University of Wollongong addressed the theme of Teaching and Learning. The Project Team developed an innovative pedagogy based upon the principles of a Rational Knowledge Approach for engaging student learning and development of Indigenous cultural competencies through the medium of technology. Whilst this focus was on pre-service and early childhood student teachers, the model has adaptability to other audiences and contexts and thus provides a valuable resource for the sector.

The process and deliverables of the project include:

  • Develop pedagogy based on the Relational Knowledge Approach from which non-Indigenous and Indigenous pre-service teachers will be able to engage with Indigenous knowledge systems through their own experiences and develop their identities from reflecting upon their own experiences of country and its elements.
      
  • Pilot the approach in a new elective EDWA401 Aboriginal Ways of Knowing and Learning including a two day excursion to a sacred site with a local Aboriginal elder.
      
  • Pilot the approach in a second new elective EYEK402 Developing Culturally Appropriate Teaching Resources.
      
  • Develop one module (2-3 text pages) for the web site explaining how to use this approach in other Indigenous subjects.
      
  • Disseminate findings of project outcomes via publication and presentation at the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference in Melbourne in December 2010. (Publication details: McKnight A., Hoban, G. & Nielsen W., (2010) Animated storytelling about “My Special Place” to represent non-Aboriginal preservice teachers’ awareness of “relatedness to country”. Proceedings ascilite Sydney 2010. Weblink  http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney10/procs/Mcknight-full.pdf

The findings and outcomes of the Using Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning to Encourage Storytelling about “Country” with Student-created Animations is embedded within relevant sections of the discussion pages of this document. The Project Team have developed a website for further information which can be accessed at: http://slowmation.com  

The University of Wollongong Full Pilot Activity Project Report

The University of Newcastle: Indigenous Cultural Competency Model

The University of Newcastle’s Indigenous Cultural Competency Pilot Activity Project addressed the theme of Teaching and Learning with a focus on preparing students for the workforce in the fields of Health and Business. The primary aims of project were to:

  • embed Cultural Competency principles in graduate attributes in specific disciplines and programs
      
  • develop and/or compile a body of resources for the development of Cultural Competency in diverse teaching and learning contexts
      
  • develop resources for developing business relationships that promote the value of Indigenous Cultural Competency and graduate attribute. Resources include the development of a CD-ROM, information website and a business package to help promote cultural competency as a graduate attribute for the workplace
      
  • Creation and dissemination of standards and guidelines for employers to become a ‘Recognised Employer in Indigenous Collaboration’

Whilst the resources developed by the Project team from the University of Newcastle primarily focus on addressing the needs of Business and Health disciplines they have broader application across disciplines offered by the higher education sector institutions. The resources include a literature review, a set of sample Indigenous case studies suitable for teaching in these discipline areas and practical examples of appropriate subject design and content. The project also resulted in the production of the University’s Indigenous Cultural Competency: Our Way website. This website is designed for diverse learning and teaching contexts and includes a body of resources including practical examples and case studies from the University of Newcastle’s Faculties of Business and Health, audiovisual and text resources for students and staff, a glossary of terms relating to Indigenous Cultural competency, self awareness and reflective exercises, links to other online resources, multimedia kits and training packages, and a bank of resources for Academic staff designed to inform them about Indigenous cultural competency and a guide for incorporating Indigenous Australian knowledges into diverse courses. The project team established a separate website for industry that includes the Industry Evaluation Tool for Cultural Competency package.

University of Western Australia: Indigenous Dialogues – Towards Cultural Competence

The University of Western Australia’s Pilot Project Activity: Indigenous Dialogues – Towards Cultural Competence focused on the Indigenous Cultural Competency Project themes of Human Resource Management and External Engagement; however, the work has broader relevance and application, including within the theme of Teaching and Learning.

The primary aim and deliverable of the Pilot Activity was the development of a ‘Cultural Competency Kit’ and associated resources for the professional development of university staff, in keeping with the university’s recognition that cultural competency and knowledge and understanding of Indigenous issues is a critical attribute for a global university striving for international excellence.

The Cultural Competence training Kit developed by the Project Team at the University of Western Australia includes a variety of useful resources such as Indigenous Australian learning and teaching protocols, culturally relevant policy and regulatory frameworks and related information, strategies and methodologies for inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in the curriculum and guidelines for working effectively with Indigenous students and staff.

The Cultural Competence Kit was piloted with four groups across four University sites:

  1. A group of participants drawn from one Faculty
  2. A group of participants employed at the Albany combined universities site
  3. A group of early-career academics 
  4. A group of participants drawn from a broader range of staff classifications and work areas.

Participants of the program engaged in two workshops and an experiential exercise delivered in partnership with local Aboriginal communities. The foundation workshop entitled Courageous Conversation about Race, offered participants the opportunity to unpack their unique racial story within a global and national context and to understand the dynamics and influence of race, power and privilege, and how to use these insights to inform social and cultural transformation in relation to both personal and professional spheres of influence.

The second workshop focused on building participant knowledge and understanding of key issues related to Indigenous Australian diversity, history, contemporary realities. The workshop also addressed matters of cultural safety and professional practice, startegies for working effectively with Indigenous and staff and students, policy frameworks relevant to Indigenous Higher education and strategies for incorporating Indigenous perspectives into curricula and teaching and learning strategies. The final component of the Cultural Competency Kit training program engaged participants with local Aboriginal community members through a ‘Working on Country’ experiential program under the guidance of Nyungar Elders.

The Pilot Project team produced a number of valuable resources and information, including a very useful sectoral overview of current Indigenous Cultural Competence staff training, polices and protocols related to teaching Indigenous Australian Studies and examples of Indigenous Australian Studies curriculum.

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Stage Three: The Development of a National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities

In 2010, Universities Australia, in collaboration with the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council, invited tenders for the consultancy to develop the National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities. The consultancy, or Stage Three of the Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities Project  commenced late October 2010.

The primary aim of Stage Three was to provide Universities Australia, the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council (IHEAC) and the higher education sector with a comprehensive framework comprising the theoretical and practical tools necessary to enable Indigenous cultural competency to be embed systematically and systemically within and across Australian universities, based upon the principles of sustainability, accountability and national and international examples of best practice.

The development of the Draft National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities is based upon the premise that a fundamental pre-condition for the development of cultural competence and long-term sustainable change is commitment to a whole of sector and institution approach, including but not limited to, the review and implementation of appropriate accountability and reporting structures, policies and procedures, cultural competency training of university staff, increasing institutional engagement with Indigenous communities and organisations, Indigenisation of the curriculum within sound pedagogical frameworks, pro-active provision of support and services to Indigenous students and staff, and the widening of Indigenous involvement in the life and governance of the University through the inclusion of Indigenous cultures and knowledge as a visual and valued part of University life and decision-making.

Stage Three: Scope

The primary aim of Stage Three was to develop a National Best Practice Framework to guide the implemention of Indigenous Cultural Competency in the Australian higher education sector. The National Best Practice Framework therefore showcases current Australian and international best practice in Indigenous cultural competency, sets out mechanisms at the sectoral and institutional level for the wider adoption of best practice. The Framework and its guiding principles for implementation is supported by a companion website comprising theoretical and practical tools and resources, including an extensive annotated bibliography of further readings, audiovisual resources and examples of Indigenous cultural competency activities and initiatives.

The National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities has a particular focus on integrating Indigenous Australian perspectives into curriculum across a range of university disciplines and the inclusion of Indigenous cultural competency as a graduate attribute. The National Best Practice Framework includes examples, from both Australian and comparable international practice, in the areas of:

  • Training and development of university academic and professional staff in cultural competency, including, for academic staff, appropriate pedagogy for Indigenous students.
      
  • Engagement with local Indigenous communities to give these communities a visible place in campus life and a effective voice in university affairs.
      
  • Establishment of more robust frameworks for the regular reporting of Indigenous staff and student outcomes and/or inclusion of Indigenous staff and students in university planning and the development of corporate documents.
      
  • Deepening connections between university Indigenous centres and other organisational units, including faculties, research centres, graduate schools, student services, chancelleries.
      
  • Development of ethical models for Indigenous research, including mechanisms for ensuring that research on Indigenous subjects is culturally safe and appropriate.
      
  • Programs targeted at moving Indigenous staff towards population parity across all levels of university employment.

Parameters of Scope: Filling the Gaps

Whilst the embedding of Indigenous cultural competency systemically within a university provides the foundation for culturally supportive environments for Indigenous students and staff, the National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities does not focus on specific issues of support for Indigenous students or the achievement of parity for Indigenous students and staff in higher education. This is the subject of the Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People recently established by the Minister for Tertiary Education and the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People is due for completion in 2012. It is overseen by a Panel of experts, chaired by Professor Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Panel Members include  the Chair of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council, Professor Steven Larkin, and senior executive representatives from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science and Research (DIISR). The Panel will consider and incorporate the advice of key stakeholders, especially the IHEAC, and will be supported by a joint DEEWR/DIISR Secretariat.

The Review Report will propose a strategic framework to enable the Government and the higher education sector to collectively address higher education access and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure parity in the sector. The strategic framework will identify key priorities and actions and opportunities for consideration by the Government and the higher education sector to reduce the gaps between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous university students and staff across a range of outcomes.

Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People: Terms of Reference

The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People will contribute to the Government’s achievement of the COAG Closing the Gap targets for Indigenous education and deliver on the Government’s commitment to Recommendation 30 of the Bradley Review of Higher Education that: ‘the Australian Government regularly review the effectiveness of measures to improve higher education access and outcomes for Indigenous people in consultation with the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council (IHEAC).’

The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People is to provide advice and make recommendations to the Minister for Tertiary Education and the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research  in relation to:

  • achieving parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, researchers, academic and non-academic staff;
      
  • best practice and opportunities for change inside universities and other higher education providers (spanning both Indigenous specific units and whole-of-university culture, policies, activities, and programs);
      
  • the effectiveness of existing Commonwealth Government programs that aim to encourage better outcomes for Indigenous Australians in higher education;
      
  • the recognition and equivalence of Indigenous knowledge in the higher education sector

The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People will complement and fill current gaps in the National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities, particularly in relation to Indigenous students and staff outcomes.

Stage Three: Methodology

The National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities is informed by the national Stocktake of Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities and the four Pilot Projects, as well as international examples of best practice. The methodology employed in the development of the National Best Paractice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities included:

  1. an analysis of the Stocktake of Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities and the four pilot projects commissioned by Universities Australia to identify and document activities and current national exemplars of practice in embedding Indigenous cultural competency within the higher education sector, including in the area of:
    - curriculum
    - research
    - cross-Centre and Faculty collaborations
    - Indigenous employment
    - student experience
    - community and external engagement
    - institutional governance and accountability mechanisms

    This analysis is provided a framework for the comparative analysis of international examples of best practice emerging from the literature review and database search of international institutions.
  1. A literature review and data base search  of cultural competency in the higher education sector of comparable countries, including New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Hawai’i, and South Africa to identify and document international examples of best practice in embedding indigenous cultural competencies within and across institutions including in the area of:
    - curriculum
    - research
    - cross-Centre and Faculty collaborations
    - indigenous employment
    - student experience
    - community and external engagement
    - sectoral and institutional governance and accountability mechanisms

    The comparative analysis of national and international data allowed for the identification of similarities and differences in approach and where international methods of best practice may be appropriately incorporated or adapted to the Australian context to enhance outcomes and current activities.
  1. The development of an extensive bibliography and database of theoretical and practical tools and resources related to the implementation of cultural competency activities. This has further enhanced the bibliography developed from the national and international literature review and stocktake analysis. The tools and resources associated with the bibliography are categorised according to professional or discipline area and topic for ease of use. The bibliography and associated tools are incorporated as an Endnote Resource Library into the Universities Australia National Best Practice Framework in Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities website and included in the appendixes to this publication (see Appendix 2: Endnote Resource Library).
  1. Drawing upon the findings of Stage One, the analysis of national and international examples of best practice and the review of current reporting requirements and governance structures, identify and make recommendations in relation to the establishment of practical and sustainable mechanisms for wider adoption of best practice in Australian universities, as well as appropriate governance mechanisms to ensure accountability and quality assurance at the sectoral and intuitional levels, including the role of Universities Australia and the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council in this process, and the inclusion of Indigenous cultural competency within the new Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency framework.
  1. The development of companion web resource to provide a practical and accessible ‘one stop shop’ to assist Australian universities in their implementation of Indigenous Cultural Competency in the higher education sector. The web site is designed to have cross-faculty and cross-discipline application and showcases current Australian and international exemplars of practice in Indigenous cultural competency. It includes a set of curriculum guidelines for the incorporation of Indigenous Australian knowledge and perspectives into curricula and an extensive bibliography of further readings and practical tools related to the implementation of cultural competency activities. The web site is designed to sit in concert with the written publication and is enhanced by resources and digital objects that will enable collaboration across the sector.

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