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The Anangu Tertiary Education Program in remote northwest South Australia : a CHAT perspective
chapterposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 authored by Denise Wood, D Tedmanson, B Underwood, M Minutjukur, K Tjitayi
The need to improve the education outcomes of remote Indigenous learners in Australia and to improve the participation of Indigenous students in post-compulsory education has been the focus of considerable research over the past two decades (McLoughlin, 2000; Price & Hughes, 2009). Recent reports suggest that some progress has been made in improving Indigenous student access to, participation and retention in education (Price & Hughes, 2009; Ottmann & White, 2010; Asmar, Page, & Radloff, 2011). However, "the continuing under-representation of Indigenous people in higher education and the low rates of success, retention and completion for Indigenous students" (DEEWR, 2009, cited in Price & Hughes, 2009; James & Devlin, 2006, p. 2) remain areas of major concern. The More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative, which is a project focusing on improving the retention, success, and graduation rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teacher education students (Patton et al., 2012, p. 7), has identified several strategies likely to improve the achievement of these outcomes. These include "supporting Indigenous students through enrolment; providing smooth transition into university life; supporting students culturally, social,academically and with financial assistance when required"; as well as "flexibility in course progression" and the provision of "professional development and awareness-raising of non-Indigenous staff and faculty" (p. 7). The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Advisory Council (ATSIHEAC), which provides advice to the Australian Government on enhancing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in higher education and research, has emphasized the leadership role that Australian universities must play in ensuring that Indigenous Australians have equality of access to higher educational opportunities. James and Devlin (2006) also note the interrelationship between education and the need for social, cultural, and economic development of Indigenous communities. Yet the discussions about appropriate strategies for achievement of these aspirational goals need to be understood within the broader cultural historical conteJ..1: with a legacy of Australia's colonial past and the ensuing struggles of Indigenous people to assume self-management and control over their own affairs (McDonald, 1993, cited in McLoughlin, 2000). In her" A letter to Australians'', Makinti Minutjukur (2006) echoes these concerns, asserting that "our people and our communities are being systematically disempowered" and "held back by a lack of thoughtful, respectful and culturally aware consultation and planning between us Anangu, and governments and their agents on whom, unavoidably, we depend". This discussion highlights the complexity of issues impacting on educational outcomes in remote Indigenous communities, and this chapter attempts to unpack these complexities through the lens of third-generation Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) (Engestrom, 2001). Such an analysis recognizes that Indigenous students and teachers' mediated activities are complex and situated within a context in which relations and rules impact on their actions (Wells, 1999). The Anangu Tertiary Education Program (AnTEP) was established by the University of South Australia (UniSA) - formerly the South Australian College of Advanced Education - in several Anangu communities located across the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in remote northwest South Australia (see Figure 3.1) 30 years ago. The aim of the program is to enable Anangu people to undertake tertiary studies, particularly teacher education, without leaving their homelands. In this way the program seeks to address issues of "cultural isolation, lack of appropriate support, homesickness and other factors'', which have led to students returning to their homelands prior to completing their course (Report of the Select Committee on Pitjantjatjara Land Rights, 2004). The following analysis draws on the reflections of the Program Director and members of the Anangu community who were consulted about this chapter, based on a published report (Osborne & Underwood, 2010 ), using CHAT as a framework for understanding the complexity of teaching and learning in remote Indigenous communities.