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Delegates explore ways to boost Indigenous participation

By Patrick Nelson

Professor Steven Larkin … Share ideas, facilitate learning, contemplate a way forward Professor Steven Larkin … Share ideas, facilitate learning, contemplate a way forward

A leading Indigenous academic said a national conversation about ways to improve university study prospects among Indigenous Australians had been advanced at a conference in Darwin recently.

Charles Darwin University Pro-Vice Chancellor Indigenous Leadership Professor Steven Larkin was one of several prominent academics to address the two-day conference, hosted at the Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ACIKE) on Casuarina campus.

“We are determined to take the next step to unlock the capacity of the large number of Indigenous people who have the potential, but not the access, to higher education in Australia,” Professor Larkin said.

“This forum provided delegates with an opportunity to explore innovative approaches that incorporate Indigenous knowledges and practices into the development of strategies that will inspire people to attend university.

“In my paper, I argued that institutional change must take place among the tertiary sector to facilitate greater Indigenous participation, and point out the fragility of the argument that the onus rests solely with students.”

Professor Colleen Hayward AM, Professor Lester-Irrabinna Rigney and Professor Martin Nakata also addressed issues central to Indigenous pathways and transitions into higher education.

“Through the keynotes, paper presentations, yarning circles and posters, we shared research, perspectives and ideas, facilitated some learning and contemplated a way forward.”

Professor Larkin said a special issue of the Northern Institute’s journal "Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts" had been prepared to coincide with the forum.

“It includes a collection of peer-reviewed scholarly papers dedicated to the topic of Indigenous pathways and transitions into higher education,” he said.

“And we are about to enter into a publishing contract for a book that brings together national and international researchers, scholars, policy-makers, practitioners, professionals and citizens who have an interest or experience in Indigenous pathways and transitions into higher education.

“The book will aim to critically discuss widening participation questions and issues through a focus on policies, strategies, initiatives, research and experience.”

Professor Larkin said the conference was the result of a successful bid by CDU to the achievements and successes of the many Indigenous-specific projects funded by the Australian Government’s Higher Education Participation Programme.

Conference website: W: heppp2015forum.com.au/
Learning Communities Journal: W: cdu.edu.au/northern-institute/lcj