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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Addressing the challenges: Indigenous students in Australian Higher

Anita Lee Hong, Dr Jane Cousins.

In 2002 the results of two Australian Government inquiries into tertiary education revealed that Indigenous access to tertiary institutions continues to fall alarmingly short of the national average. This lack of access has its roots in a range of historical, social and political factors, the effects of which continue to be felt and the cause of which cannot be addressed by business as usual within mainstream educational institutions. In this paper we discuss some of the barriers that must be overcome by mature Indigenous students wanting to begin tertiary study, the ongoing challenges they face while undertaking study towards a degree, and then some of the strategies for meeting these challenges that have been developed by Curtin University's Centre for Aboriginal Studies. Located in Western Australia, this Centre is one of the most successful in Australia and has been at the forefront of change in Indigenous tertiary education through the development of innovative educational programs and policies since 1974.

Based on research conducted with 3rd year students in the Indigenous Community Management and Program, we examine what motivated these Indigenous students to undertake mature-age study, what obstacles they faced prior to and during their study, and what enabled them to be successful tertiary students. In the light of the findings we discuss the enabling strategies employed by the Indigneous Community Management and Development Program and evaluate how successful they have been in facilitating not only the participation and, crucially, the success of Indigneous students in Australian tertiary institutions, but also in bridging the gap between current andragogical educational thinking and future directions.


Anita Lee Hong  (Australia)
Associate Lecturer
Curtin University of Technology Centre for Aboriginal Studies

Anita is a Badjalla person who has lived in Cairns, Queensland, Australia all her life and relocated to Perth, Western Australia in March 2002. She joined the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in 2002 as an Associate Lecturer in the Indigenous Community Management and Development Program. She graduated in 2001 on the Vice Chancellor's List. Priot to moving to Perth, Anita worked in the Federal Public Service for 11 years in various positions with Aboriginal people from remote, rural and urban communities throughout North Queensland

Dr Jane Cousins

  • Indigenous andragogical Educational thinking
  • Future directions.

(30 min Conference Paper, English)