07 SES 14 B, The Access to University of Vulnerable Groups
In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are still poorly represented at Universities, making up only 1.4 % of the student body and only 1.1% of higher degree enrolments (Berendht, et. al., 2012). We begin this paper by reporting on recent activities to improve access, participation and graduation of Indigenous students. We then turn our attention to Higher Degree Research, examining first-hand how Indigenous research students should be better supported, by accepting new Indigenous research methodologies, and developing more culturally safe ethical protocols from an Indigenous perspective (Shay, 2017). Perspectives This paper takes an Indigenous standpoint, a voice often invisible in the Academy. The authors’ longstanding collaboration illustrates principles of ‘leading from behind’ whereby non-Indigenous ‘allies’ take their cues from expert Indigenous colleagues. The paper is also influenced by Critical Race Studies in its acknowledgement that underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at universities is not coincidental, but influenced by inequitable practices and structures related to racism and race politics. Methods While this paper also draws on the wealth of literature, census data and personal accounts of Indigenous tertiary students, the Indigenous voice is self-reflexive and auto-ethnographic, privileging personal, lived experienced over ‘fact-finding’ in order to connect this autobiographical narrative to wider cultural, political, and social understandings. Results There is little question that Indigenous Australians are still underrepresented at Universities in Australia for reasons including racism, poverty, poor access to quality teaching in earlier years, and low expectations of schools in building aspiration. In Australia, initiatives such as the More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative (MATSITI) and the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program address some of these inequities. However, there are more insidious issues. Once enrolled, students often find there is little understanding, and often obstruction, of cultural ways of being and knowing, such as prioritizing obligations to community. Scholarly significance Clearly, within a tertiary education system that purports to support social justice and equity, improving Indigenous students’ experience is significant. While the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008) declares that all Australians must ‘have the confidence and capability to pursue university or post-secondary vocational qualifications leading to rewarding and productive employment, a more political examination of Indigenous experiences at university note not just confidence and capability, but focus on the institutional barriers that make university complex spaces no matter how much confidence or capability an individual might have.
Barr, A., Gillard, J., Firth, V., Scrymgour, M., Welford, R., Lomax-Smith, J., & Constable, E. (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. PO Box 202 Carlton South Victoria, 3053, Australia. Berendht, L., Larkin, S., Griew, R. & Kelly, P. (2012). Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Australian Government: Canberra, Australia. Shay, Marnee (2017) Our mob are researchers too! The story of an Aboriginal researcher seeking new paradigms. In McMaster, Christopher, Murphy, Caterina, Whitburn, Benjamin, & Mewburn, Inger (Eds.) Postgraduate Study in Australia: Surviving and Succeeding. Peter Lang Publishing Inc, New York, NY, pp. 127-136
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