"Aspirations, experiences and outcomes of being a student at the School of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, Kangaroo Point College of TAFE, for nine Indigenous Queenslanders during the period 1982-1992”

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Presenter:  Noel Finch, Doctor of Philosophy Candidate, Northern Institute

Date: Dec 09, 2015

Time: 11:00am to 12:00pm

Contact person:  LEBA Research and Postgraduate Office
T: 8946 6156
E: lebaresearch@cdu.edu.au

Location:  Yellow 1.2.48, Casuarina Campus, CDU

In 1982, the first TAFE accredited Welfare Certificate Course (later upgraded to Assoc.Dip.) specifically for Indigenous adult students commenced at the Kangaroo Point College of TAFE in Brisbane - a first in Australia. This course was developed and begun as the result of the lobbying of post-school institutions by an Indigenous Community group seeking training in welfare skills within a culturally supportive environment for Indigenous workers in its growing Community Organizations. The College’s Principal and his Senior Technical Teacher in charge of Welfare courses supported the program. I was appointed the program’s co-ordinator, then Senior Technical Teacher.

Over the following decade the single program quickly grew into a Unit, Section and then the School of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Education of which I became Head of School and a College Associate Director, supported by a full-time staff of eleven Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers plus part-time teachers covering Part-time Literacy classes, TAFE Indigenous Teacher Trainee mentoring, Certificates of Basic Education, Junior and Senior Access, Vocational Preparation, Tertiary Preparation, Indigenous Welfare and Administration Associate Diploma courses - all within a culturally safe, supportive environment.

Throughout this period, the unit remained in close collaboration and consultation with the Indigenous Communities which were officially represented by the College’s Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee, first formed in 1982 from the Community lobby group. ATSIC Regional Council was also a strong supporter.

This thesis examines this decade historically through the lens of post-school Indigenous Education since colonization and through the first person narratives of nine Indigenous Queensland graduates of those courses of the eighties.

Current Indigenous academics and researchers, for example, Nakata (1997), West (2000), Bin Salik (2003), Langton (2004), Yunkaporta (2009) and Rigney (2011), are providing a range of contemporary theories and recommendations for closing the gap of educational disadvantage of Indigenous people in Australia.

The approaches taken to teaching and learning, skill training for employment, cultural identity, belonging and appropriateness by the School during that decade were not the result of theoretical deliberations but experience and practical androgogical solutions to endemic problems in Indigenous post-school education by dedicated Indigenous and non-Indigenous professional practitioners.

It is the contention of this thesis that that uncodified approach of thirty years ago mirrored much of today’s best practice recommendations by contemporary theorists. It is further argued that the ex-student narratives and other research data shown here concur with the view that what should work now for reconciliation and closing the Indigenous disadvantage gap did work two and three decades ago.

Noel Finch
My relevant background and experience includes the following:

  • Part of my childhood in Camooweal, with my Police Officer father’s Aboriginal Tracker, an initiated Waanyi man becoming my mentor and lifelong friend; and at boarding school with mates from Palm Island and Yarrabah
  • Primary Teacher, Thursday Island, 1955
  • Principal, Camooweal State School, including High Top, Qld,
  • OIC, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Teacher Education at Kedron Park Teachers’ College, Brisbane
  • Principal, Aboriginal Community College (now Tauondi), Adelaide
  • Head of the School of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies, Kangaroo Point College of TAFE, Brisbane
  • Assoc. Director (Academic Development) Batchelor College, NT

In retirement:

  • Life Member, Indigenous Community Advisory Council, School of Indigenous Australian People, Southbank Institute, Brisbane
  • Voluntary Mentor to Schools at Saibai Island in the Torres Strait, and at Aurukun on Cape York,

and with Pacific Island experience as:

  • Director of Education and Secretary for Health & Education for the Republic of Nauru,
  • Director, University of the South Pacific Centre for the Republic of Kiribati, Tarawa.

My M.Ed.Stud. Thesis (UQ), 1975, was entitled: Torres Strait Island Education: Past, Present and a Proposal for the Future Re-organization of the Primary School System.