The incorporation of Indigenous Australian content into all Charles Sturt University undergraduate programs requires a systematic and pedagogically sound approach. It is vital to ensure cultural appropriateness and accountability of all Indigenous Australian content produced and taught by the University. An integrated governance mechanism ensures that CSU has a coherent approach to the development of teaching Indigenous Australian Studies, especially with regards managing the shared responsibilities between the School of Indigenous Australian Studies and the Faculties and Schools.
The mechanism for enabling an integrated governance mechanism is the Indigenous Board of Studies (IBS).
The Director of the School of Indigenous Australian Studies chairs the Indigenous Board of Studies. This Board is responsible for monitoring the development and implementation of the Indigenous Australian content in undergraduate programs policy at CSU and is the approval body for all Indigenous Australian Studies subjects.
CSU Academic Manual (B3.2.1 Indigenous Board of Studies) Attestation of approval for Hybrid and Discipline-specific subjects need to be documented before these subjects can be approved by relevant Faculty Courses Committees or the Academic Program Committee. The membership of the Board includes the entire School of Indigenous Australian Studies academic staff at Level B or above, and two Indigenous Australian academic staff from each of the Faculties, the Executive Officer from the Faculty of Arts and Education. All Level A Indigenous Academics and the Indigenous Curriculum and Pedagogy Coordinator have Right of Audience and Debate.
Contact details for the Academic Governance are:
Minutes Officer Amy Towney
School of Indigenous Australian Studies
Phone: (02) 6885 7347
Internal Phone: 57347
When developing the curriculum for inclusion in CSU degrees, the following aspects need to be considered. These aspects relate to the design of courses and subjects, student experiences such as field trips, cultural experiences, and Institutional support such as cultural awareness and competency of staff, sustainability and succession planning.
The development of relevant skills and understanding will only be possible if it is based on a sound understanding of the cultural, historical and contemporary frameworks which have shaped and continue to shape the lives of Indigenous Australians. This background understanding should include (at least):
Indigenous cultures and individuals should not be the only focus. Many of the difficulties concerning relationships between Indigenous peoples and professions derive as much from the nature of the profession as from the lack of understanding about Indigenous cultures and people. It is essential that students are provided with the tools and opportunities to critically explore the major paradigms of their discipline and how these paradigms influence the impact of the profession on clients from diverse backgrounds.
The teaching of knowledge, skills and values can occur simultaneously, especially the interlinking of values with the other components. Knowledge and skills can be taught in such a way that it requires the students to examine their own values at every point. This is important because the historical events that occurred (for instance, colonisation, dispossession and the Stolen Generation) were based on cultural value assumptions (such as that the Indigenous people were/are primitive or sub-human), and the mere presentation of the historical facts requires the students to assess whether they agree with these values. With regards to skills, it can be made explicit that effective interaction with Indigenous people cannot occur without an examination of the values that professionals hold in relation to their own or Indigenous culture.
There are specific issues which need to be understood by students as future professionals. These include, for example:
It is important to try to integrate Indigenous content from Year 1, not just in separate subjects, but across the whole study program. This integration needs to be planned carefully, since there is a danger that fully-integrated content may lose coherence, and some academics may not possess the required skills, understanding, or value systems to teach this material in a culturally appropriate way. A mixture of 'stand-alone' content and integrated material is probably the best option where this is possible. However, stand-alone subjects also need to be taught carefully, since they run the risk of reinforcing concepts of 'them and us' and if taught badly can worsen existing stereotypes and attitudes rather than improving them.
It is important to try to integrate Indigenous content from Year 1, not just in separate subjects, but across the whole study program. This integration needs to be planned carefully, since there is a danger that fully-integrated content may lose coherence, and some academics may not possess the required skills, understanding, or value systems to teach this material in a culturally appropriate way. A mixture of 'stand-alone' content and integrated material is probably the best option where this is possible. However, stand-alone subjects also need to be respectfully taught and carefully planned, since they run the risk of reinforcing concepts of 'them and us' and if taught badly can worsen existing stereotypes and attitudes rather than improving them.
It is important to have research based learning experiences, supported by a sound, culturally responsive pedagogical rationale, so that the Indigenous-related material is seen as an essential and integral component of the program rather than standing alone as some kind of curiosity. For instance, a discussion of the impact of colonisation in Australia can be related to colonisation or other modes of oppression in other countries or other contexts, with often similar consequences (such as trans-generational trauma or cultural trauma) to other groups of people as well as Indigenous Australians. This can be especially useful, for instance, in understanding and working with refugees and other migrant groups
The CSU Indigenous Education Strategy identifies four models for the incorporation of Indigenous Australian content into undergraduate programs. It is acknowledged that the incorporation of Indigenous Australian content into professional discipline specific undergraduate programs which are co-provided or require accreditation from professional bodies will require negotiation with the co-provider or accrediting body to ensure that Indigenous Australian content is incorporated in ways which meet professional and pedagogical requirements and guidelines.
The four models described in the Indigenous Education Strategy are:
The inclusion of Indigenous Australian Studies or content in University curriculum has a relatively short history and until recently has predominately been taught by non-Indigenous academic staff from disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology and the social sciences. The question of 'who should teach Indigenous Studies?' has been the subject of much discussion and debate, particularly as more Indigenous academics take their place in Australian Universities.
It was not until the late 1960s, the decade in which the United Nations made colonialism a crime against humanity, that any academic interest was shown toward Indigenous issues and/or interests or that Indigenous Studies became available as an area of study in Australian Universities. At this time in history, Australia, like other signatory countries to that UN Convention, theoretically moved into an era of post-colonisation and self-determination in which the voices of the former colonised Indigenous minority became empowered to challenge the institutional racism and exclusivity of dominant ways of knowing and doing, both generally and within academia. More recently, the process of Reconciliation, along with the findings of national inquiries such as the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1991) and the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (1997), brought Indigenous issues to the Centre, providing further space for the growing voices of Indigenous peoples challenging and deconstructing colonising practices and articulating epistemologies and histories counter to that of the coloniser as a part of the process of self-determination.
Over the past decade there has been an increase in the number of Indigenous students graduating from higher education institutions and subsequently of Indigenous academics employed within Australian universities. There has followed a challenge to the dominance of non-Indigenous academics and their role in constructing and teaching knowledge about Indigenous Australian cultures, histories and contemporary realities. The question of 'who should teach Indigenous Studies?' was addressed at the March 2008 meeting of the National Indigenous Higher Education Network (NIHEN) held at the Dubbo campus of Charles Sturt University.
The five major NIHEN determinations:
Indigenous Australian Studies subjects, as defined above, should be the responsibility of the School of Indigenous Australian Studies. Indigenous academic staff employed within Faculties and Schools across CSU but not within the School of Indigenous Australian Studies may be assigned to teach Indigenous Australian studies with the approval of the Director of the School of Indigenous Australian Studies and relevant Dean. In such cases responsibility for academic management of the subject will remain with the School of Indigenous Australian Studies but the funding for the subject will be assigned to the School in which the staff member is employed to recognise the proportion of their teaching load contribution.
Discipline-specific Indigenous Australian Studies will be managed and taught by the relevant Schools, unless otherwise negotiated between the relevant Dean and Director of the School of Indigenous Australian Studies. It is expected that Faculties and Schools will employ Indigenous Academics in the professions to teach discipline-specific Indigenous Australian Studies wherever possible.
All hybrid Indigenous Australian Studies subjects should be team taught by academic staff from the School of Indigenous Australian Studies and relevant Schools. The School of Indigenous Australian Studies should have responsibility for teaching Indigenous Australian Studies content while the relevant Schools have responsibility for the discipline-specific Indigenous Australian Studies component. The management of such subjects will remain the responsibilities of the relevant Schools, unless otherwise negotiated between the relevant Dean and the Director of the School of Indigenous Australian Studies. The Relevant Head of School and Director of the School of Indigenous Australian Studies will jointly oversee the teaching of the subject. Funding for the teaching of hybrid Indigenous Australian subjects will be assigned proportionally to the Centre/Schools based on teaching load contribution.
As mentioned earlier, many of the attempts in the recent past to include relevant Indigenous content and understanding in undergraduate programs have faltered because they have relied on a few relatively isolated individual academics. Hence, it is important to put in place the factors to ensure that Indigenous Australian Studies subjects and programs are sustainable in the long term. The following will help with sustainability.
Long-term sustainability requires the appointment of new staff from time to time. Having more than one person from your school involved in course and subject development and teaching, even if others may only have a relatively minor role (for instance, delivering a few lectures, or doing some tutoring), is a good strategy since it shares the load and enables other people to continue with teaching if the initiator retires or takes leave. It also helps to create a positive culture within the school and sets the scene for inter-generational continuity. Having a small team of tutors rather than only one or two can be a good training ground for potential future lecturers and subject coordinators. In the longer term, the students themselves may be your future educators. From experience, a substantial proportion of students become very engaged with the area and want to do work with Indigenous people when they graduate. Some of them may wish to pursue an academic career in this area.