Critical Public Conversations: What does success in Indigenous higher education look like?

Webinar series Semester 2, 2020. More information, registration and recordings.

All webinars will be conducted via Zoom. Register for each webinar via the Eventbrite links below, and the Zoom link will be emailed to you on the day.

In her chapter in the book Questioning Indigenous-Settler Relations, Dr Nikki Moodie asks ‘What does success in Indigenous higher education look like?’ (2019, p. 107). She notes that while there is data that shows there are very real, very positive achievements, she still finds herself asking ‘what is this all for’? (2019, p. 110). Is it enough for universities to simply enrol more Indigenous students? Is it enough for more Indigenous students to be completing qualifications? Have ‘our ideas of success [been] adopted simply because they are easy to measure?’ (2019, p. 113) Challenging the reader to think beyond metrics and parity targets, to ‘a challenge at the heart of Indigenous-settler relations’ (2019, p. 117), Moodie says: ‘I want to open up a more expansive conversation about what the purpose is of a university that properly recognises Indigenous peoples, land and languages’ (2019, p. 116).

In the second program of the Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration’s Critical Public Conversations series, the ISRC has invited Indigenous and settler scholars and educators to contribute to this conversation and to discuss Moodie’s call to ‘seize the future and imagine bold, new – Indigenous – futures’ (2019, p. 121).

Keynote: Dr Nikki Moodie

Wednesday 12 August 12pm

In this keynote address, Dr Nikki Moodie opens the Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration second Critical Public Conversations series by questioning what success really means in Indigenous higher education. After a decade of failure, the new Closing the Gap targets suggest that 70% of young Indigenous people will have a tertiary qualification in a decade. How will the sector respond to the rapid structural changes necessary to enrol and retain Indigenous young people in Australian universities, at least doubling current rates? In this address, Dr Moodie suggests that what we mean when we say ‘Indigenous education’ must be urgently clarified if young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities are to be better served by the sector. As calls for universities to decolonize their curriculum and built environment increase, how can we imagine more culturally relevant ways of understanding our relationships between settler and Indigenous systems and knowledges to achieve Indigenous aspirations in higher education?

Watch recording.

Recording transcript.

Savaging the Disciplines: reflections and futures for Indigenous higher education

Wednesday 9 September 12pm
Professor Martin Nakata and Associate Professor Sana Nakata

A conversation between Associate Dean (Indigenous) of the Faculty of Arts Associate Professor Sana Nakata and Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Education and Strategy at James Cook University Professor Martin Nakata. The discussion centres around the aspirations Professor Nakata had for his work when his book Disciplining the Savages, Savaging the Disciplines was published in 2007 and the ways in which those aspirations have and have not been realised.

Watch recording.

Recording transcript.

The Endemics of Pandemics: Life and Death in/of the Settler University

Wednesday 21 October 10am
Professor Sandy Grande

This presentation provides an analysis of the coterminous events of the global pandemic and the viral uprisings against fascism, anti-Black racism, and state violence as they differently but relatedly elucidate the failures of racial capitalism and the settler state and thus, by extension, the promise and prospect of the university. The states of illness, precarity and unfreedom laid bare by these events further expose colonialism and white supremacy as the most virulent pre-existing conditions. Within this context, the university marches on, committed to ‘business-as-almost-usual’ despite the risk to (some) lives and wellbeing.

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Resisting the violence of the settler colonial university: Complicating "success" through generative teaching practices

Wednesday 4 November 12pm
Lilly Brown and Fi Belcher

In this conversation, Fi and Lilly reflected on their experience as co-educators who have actively sought to create generative learning experiences for Indigenous young people while resisting the neoliberal demands of the settler colonial university. They responded to the question: what is our responsibility and obligation as educators to unsettle or complicate the ways that Indigenous young people have been conceptualised by harmful educational systems in which we are also implicated? How do we move from a theoretical cognisance of the violent educational context to generative pedagogical practice that enables students to both make meaning of their diverse experiences in relation to these systems while also determining success for themselves beyond those circumscribed by the institution? In honoring a politics of citation, they discussed the key concepts and theories that enable them to develop and model practices that respond to the above. They reflected on the process and pleasure of working together and in relation to the brilliant, critical and strategic young people who have travelled through the Bachelor of Arts Extended program since 2016.

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Doing Indigenous Work in the Academy or Living with the virus in an imperfect world

Wednesday 25 November 12pm
Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Professor Elizabeth McKinley

Education institutions in settler colonial countries are contradictory and challenging places for Indigenous peoples. Whilst they have largely excluded Indigenous peoples’ language, knowledge, culture and values until recently, they are also seen as having transforming potential. In Aotearoa New Zealand we identified education systems early in our resurgence as sites to create meaningful spaces for Māori. The strategies used have been multilayered, working from early childhood and schools to higher education, and including the associated institutions through which universities work (such as research and funding organisations).

Overall, we have employed innovative and positive strategies in an attempt to make space within the academy and across education systems in pursuit of transforming outcomes that reflect Māori aspirations. At the same time a lifetime of work in the field has shown us that we live in a constant state of precarity. The recent pandemic has exposed unstable and insecure ‘successes’ one might have thought we had made over the years. Important in all this work has been Māori educational leaders critically reviewing our own assumptions and ideas and developing an understanding of why strategies and interventions have failed. Today Professors Smith and McKinley reflect on the experience of more than 40 years of Indigenous work in education systems in Aotearoa New Zealand has looked like, with a focus on the academy. In looking back we will discuss the successes, identify what we think we have learned, and discuss how we see some pathways forward.

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More Information

Claire Akhbari

+613 8344 1276