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Perspectives on enabling education for Indigenous students at three comprehensive universities in regional Australia
chapterposted on 22.05.2018, 00:00 by Bronwyn FredericksBronwyn Fredericks, Susan KinnearSusan Kinnear, Carolyn DanielsCarolyn Daniels, P Croft-Warcon, Julie MannJulie Mann, Pamela CroftPamela Croft
Indigenous students, particularly those from regional and remote areas, are under-represented in both higher education and vocational education in Australia. Enabling programs seek to address this under-representation. They offer pathways to higher education, are important in lifting participation rates and potentially encourage mobility between the sectors. However, strategic development of enabling programs is based on little evidence about student or staff experiences. This chapter presents a qualitative research project underpinned by the strengths-based approach of conscientisation, exploring how Indigenous learning journeys via enabling programs can respect and grow cultural identity, while simultaneously developing study skills. The research considered interpretations of ‘success’ from the perspectives of students and teachers participating in enabling courses. The research found that enabling programs were an ‘important’ and ‘exciting journey’ for students that brought about transformation of the inner self through the building of ‘resilience’, ‘strength’, ‘confidence’, ‘self-esteem’, ‘self-worth’, ‘cultural understanding’ and ‘identity’. Success was experienced across multiple dimensions of students’ lived experience including ‘cultural identity’, ‘voice’, self-realisation, self-acceptance and ‘pride’. Staff suggested that enabling programs imparted an ‘underlying layer’ of skills. Recognition of Indigenous people as ‘yarners’ and ‘story tellers’, along with ways of incorporating ‘both-ways’ methodologies, need to be considered when developing the curriculum. This chapter reports on research which will be used to inform the development of a best-practice framework for Indigenous education enabling programs in Australia, particularly in regional and comprehensive education settings.