Searching for the Songlines of Aboriginal education and culture within Australian higher education
The introduction of spaces that encouraged the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in higher education became a reality in the early 1980s. Since then, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators and leaders have worked tirelessly to find their ‘fit’ within the Western academy, which continues to impose a colonial, Western educative framework onto Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. More recently, universities are attempting to move towards a ‘whole of university’ approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education. To achieve such a major shift across the academy, Indigenous values, perspectives and knowledges need to be acknowledged as a strong contributor to the environments of universities in all core areas: student engagement, learning and teaching, research and workforce. In a move to achieving a ‘whole of university’ approach which revolves around Aboriginal culture and knowledges, the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle developed a set of cultural standards, as part of an international accreditation process, to guide a culturally affirming environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff. This environment acknowledges the unique cultural values and perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In this paper, the authors explore, from an Indigenous Standpoint, the creation of a university environment that privileges Aboriginal values, principles, knowledges and perspectives. The paper exposes how traditional Aboriginal Songlines, particularly in Aboriginal education, were disrupted, and how the creation and emergence of a contemporary environment of Aboriginal educational and cultural affirmation works towards the re-emergence of Songlines within higher education.
KeywordsHistory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education Culture
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