External Engagement

Indigenous Cultural Competency in External Engagement:
Guiding Principles

National stocktake

The Stocktake survey contained four questions related to external engagement with Indigen ous communities and organisations:

  1. Does the university have established mechanisms for engaging with & obtaining the views of local Indigenous communities on an on-going basis?
      
  2. Are there established programs that encourage Indigenous access to university formal & ceremonial occasions?
      
  3. Does the local Indigenous community have a role in university formal & ceremonial occasions?
      
  4. Is there a central university website for Indigenous activities undertaken by the university which is easily accessible, well presented & current?

External Engagement: Summary of Findings

All but two Universities identified that they had various mechanisms in place for engaging with and obtaining the views of local Indigenous communities on an on-going basis (Appendix 7a).

While much of the external engagement with Indigenous commmuities and organisations continues to rely on the Indigenous Centres and individual Indigenous staff networks, there are notable examples of university wide approaches and commitment to meaningful institutional engagement.

For example, Griffith University signed a formal Agreement (1998) with the local traditional owners, the Kombumerri People to work collaboratively together in a range of areas including the naming of university spaces in Kombumerri language, incorporation of Kombumerri history and culture into the university’s curriculum, scholarships for Indigenous students, and the conduct of a survey of flora and fauna and sites of significance to the Kombumerri People. Griffith University also has an Elders-in-Residence Program and Kombumerri Elders provide leadership and direction in University policy development, community engagement, research, cultural protocols through the Indigenous Community Engagement, Policy and Partnership office, which focus on developing community engagement and partnerships. A few universities are developing Memorandums of Understanding between the institution and Indigenous organizations, including the University of New England which has established MOUs with a total of fourteen Aboriginal Land Councils. Charles Sturt University has a university wide Indigenous Education Strategy which encompasses community engagement and the University of South Australia are in the process of developing an Indigenous Community Engagement Plan.

As identified in the discussion under Theme 1: University Governance, a total of ten institutions have Indigenous membership on University Council. The majority of the institutions who responded to the Stocktake survey also report having Indigenous Advisory Groups with external membership, either at the Indigenous Centre level or aligned to the university’s Equity and/or Employment Committees, or, as in the case of the James Cook University and the Universities of the Sunshine Coast and Western Sydney, to the Vice Chancellor or University Board of Trustees.

Charles Sturt University has a fulltime Indigenous Community Relations Officer and Outreach Program to facilitate engagement with Indigenous individuals, communities and organizations within the institution’s geographical footprint. Edith Cowan University has also recently appointed a ‘Cultural Consultant’ within the university’s Kurongkurl Katitjin centre for this purpose. The majority of Indigenous academic staff employed across the sector holds active membership on National, State and Territory, and/or local Indigenous organizations and groups.

A total of twentyone institutions responded that local Indigenous communities and Elders had a role in university formal and ceremonial occasions while sixteen Universities had specific programs that encouraged access in this regard, including in the form of Memorial Lectures, Orations and Symposiums, inclusion in official graduation and flag raising ceremonies, ‘Welcome to Country’ at official events and Indigenous Alumni events, NAIDOC celebrations and the like (Appendix 7b and 7c). A total of sixteen universities have centralized websites for Indigenous activities undertaken by the university which is easily accessible, well presented and current, while a further four institutions are in the process of developing a centralized site for the dissemination of information (Appendix 7d).

Current Exemplars of good practice

Whilst whole-of-institution models of external engagement have still to emerge, the national Stocktake revealed a significant move toward meaningful and sustainable engagement with Indigenous communities and organisations across the sector with the majority of institutions demonstrating elements of exemplar practice.

Inclusion of established mechanisms for engaging with & obtaining the views of local Indigenous communities on an on-going basis

Example 1. The University of South Australia has a University Policy (A-38.6 Advisory Structures) on the role of Advisory Committees ensures that the views of the local Indigenous community are sought on an ongoing basis.

The University has two Indigenous Advisory Committees :

1. The Indigenous Employment Advisory Committee with Terms of Reference to:

  • Provide advice in relation to employment matters concerning Indigenous Australian and Torres Strait Islander people, both internally and externally to the University. 
      
  • Provide advice to the Pro Vice Chancellor: Organisational Strategy and Planning about the Indigenous Employment Strategy within UniSA. The Consultant: Indigenous Employment will be responsible for coordinating recruitment and retention strategies, professional development and mentoring.
      
  • Provide advice and information to the University Senior Management Group. The Pro Vice Chancellor: Organisational Strategy and Change will facilitate feedback about the Indigenous Employment Strategy between the Advisory Group and the Senior Management Group to ensure consistency of strategies across the University, while allowing flexibility at Divisional and Portfolio levels.
      
  • Facilitate positive relationships with the UniSA Indigenous Network and working groups including the Indigenous Education Working Group, and contribute to appropriate synergies that link the work of the Advisory Group with these parties.

2. The David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research Advisory Committee with Terms of Reference to:

  • Provide independent expert external advice to individuals and groups responsible for decisions about educational and research programs.
      
  • Provide advice about relevant trends in the demand for graduates and the graduate qualities required by employers and the community.
      
  • Comment on the structure and content of existing programs that are under review and on proposed new programs.
      
  • Provide advice on research trends and strategic opportunities for research. 

Example 2. At Griffith University Indigenous Elders provide leadership and direction in University policy development, community engagement, research, cultural protocols and support student activities. They contribute to continuing strategic partnerships and collaborative arrangements including the Brisbane MURRII Court, the Family Resource Centre in the Redlands Shire and adjacent bay islands supporting ‘at risk’ youth and their families,  the Aboriginal Education Clinic facilitating the return of truant/suspended/excluded students to school, the Doomadgee Community Rejuvenation Project and MURRII Makeovers, focussing on the wellbeing and development of Indigenous women and providing practical assistance in accessing resources. The Indigenous Community Engagement, Policy and Partnership (ICEPP) office focuses on providing advice and consultancy in key policy areas—internally and externally—and developing community engagement and partnerships that will enhance life opportunities for Indigenous peoples.

The Elders-in-Residence Program appoints an Indigenous Elder to support the activities of the ICEPP and more broadly by representation/participation in various University forums and activities. Aunty Delmae Barton was appointed Elder-in-Residence at Griffith University in 2005, and Uncle Graham Dillon was also appointed to this role in 2009 as a senior Elder of the Kombumerri People with a particular focus on the University’s Gold Coast campus.

An important aspect of engagement with Indigenous people has been the signing of an Agreement in 1998 between the University and the Kombumerri People, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, in which the University undertook to work collaboratively with the Kombumerri to name facilities; include Kombumerri history and culture into the curriculum; provide scholarships for Indigenous students; and survey flora and fauna and sites of significance in the area. The Kombumerri undertook not to oppose the transfer of land from the Queensland Government to the University. The Cape York Institute (CYI) is a strategic initiative to facilitate the development, engagement and sustainability of communities in the Cape York region. It develops Indigenous students as future leaders.

Example 3. The University ogf New England The University uses a variety of strategies to foster meaningful external engagement with Aboriginal communities and organisations including:

  • 3 Local Aboriginal Community representatives on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Access and Participation Committee.
      
  • 3 Local Aboriginal Community representatives on the Panel on Ethical Research Involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (PERATSI).
      
  • 2 Oorala Aboriginal Staff represented on Gayinyaga Aboriginal Community Advisory Committee.
      
  • 2 Oorala Aboriginal Staff represented on the local Aboriginal Interagency Committee.
      
  • MOU between 14 Local Aboriginal Land Councils of the State’s North West Region and the University of New England.

Example 4. Charles Sturt University has aCommunity Relations Officer position to facilitate CSUs engagement with Indigenous communities and organisations within the geographical footprint of CSU, including the Wiradjuri Nation, and the Kamilaroi Nation in the north east, the Murrawarri, Ngemba and Barkandji Nations in the north west and the Nyampa and Wangkamarra Nations in the far west. CSU has a strong working relationship with the Wiradjuri Council of Elders and local Elders groups, including the Thubbo Elders. Senior Indigenous representatives from CSU are members of the Wiradjuri Council of Elders and local and State AECGs. CSU hosts many of the Elders and AECG functions and meetings and is currently working with the Wiradjuri Council on language revival and and the development of CSU programs (undergraduate and post graduate) on Wiradjuri language and Culture. CSU also has Memorandums of Understanding with key Indigenous organisations within its geographical footprint.

Example 5. Several Faculties research centres at Flinders University have various Indigenous community engagement mechanisms.The Flinders University Community Engagement Reference Group provides a forum for advising the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International) on strategic and policy issues affecting the community engagement operations of the University including the strategic directions for Flinders community engagement activities, Community Engagement plans, and strategic documents and promotion of Flinders community engagement and communication with the community. The Group consults widely with Indigenous members of the University community and outside Indigenous agencies. In addition, Flinders University’s Yunggorendi First Nations Centre for Higher Education and Research has staff who are members and collaborators with key national Indigenous Research benchmarking agencies including the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Committee, AIATSIS, Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC) and the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Example 6. Edith Cowan University The University has  an Indigenous Consultative Committee (ICC) to provide advice to the Equity Committee on matters which impact on the university’s service provision, outcomes and reputation in relation to Indigenous Australians. The ICC meets at least twice a year and its Chairperson is a member of the equity Committee. Kurongkurl Katitjin has also recently appointed a ‘Cultural Consultant’ to provide advice on local Noongar issues.

Example 7. The University of Western Sydney has an Indigenous Advisory Council which is a committee of the Board of Trustees, the University’s governing body. This comprises not only of indigenous staff and students as well as a majority of Indigenous community members.

Inclusion of local Indigenous community in university formal and ceremonial occasions and established programs that encourage Indigenous access to university formal & ceremonial occasions

Example 1. At Griffith University inclusion in university formal and ceremonial occasions is managed on a case-by-case basis depending on the event or activity. For example, Griffith’s Multi-Faith Centre by the very nature of its work engages Elders and other community representatives in its events involving dialogue on reconciliation and cross-cultural perspectives. The University invites the participation of Elders in many functions and events to represent the Traditional Custodians of the land on which the University’s campuses are located and to provide a Welcome to Country. The Office of External Relations coordinates invitations to community representatives to official University events, such as the recent launch of the Gold Coast Bridge cultural markers that celebrated the Agreement between the Kombumerri People and the University. Elements such as GUMURRII SSU and the Office of Indigenous Policy & Community Engagement routinely involve community in their activities, as matters of procedure and protocol. The Elders-in-Residence Program provides a ready presence for the University to call on.

Example 2. The University of Western Sydney’s Indigenous Education Policy specifically acknowledges the three traditional owner groups of greater western Sydney region. Under  the section headed Protocols, UWS Acknowledges:

  • As a matter of Indigenous cultural protocol and out of recognition that its campuses occupy the traditional lands of the Darug, Gandangarra and Tharawal peoples and thanks them for their support of its work in Greater Western Sydney. 
      
  • UWS, as appropriate, will either seek a "Welcome to Country" or give”Acknowledgment of the Traditional Owners” at all significant UWS events. These may include but are not limited to graduation ceremonies, conferences, seminars, workshops, presentations, open days and other public events.
      
  • UWS will display the Australian national, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags beside each other at a prominent location on each UWS campus. The flags will also be displayed in each UWS Boardroom. The flags are also to be displayed at all significant UWS events such as graduation ceremonies, conferences, seminars, workshops, presentations, open days and other public events.

Example 3. Charles Sturt University has established protocols for the inclusion of Indigenous Australians in its formal and ceremonial occasions including an Indigenous Welcome to Country at the commencement of all formal occasions. At various junctures in its recent history CSU has bestowed Honorary Doctorates on Indigenous Elders and Indigenous Professionals in recognition of their contribution to the University community of scholars, the contribution to their field of expertise and in recognition of the vital role they play in The University learning environment. Protocols have been established to encourage the acknowledgment of traditional owners of the land, Indigenous Elders past and present in meetings of significance throughout the University and in all CSU documentation and publications including guides for student who study at CSU. NAIDOC and other events on each campus.

Example 4. At the University of Victoria the Chair and CEO of the Gathering Place are invited to participate in various University forums and events, normally via email invitation by Moondani Balluk.   Wurundjeri Elders are asked to undertake Welcome to Country at University events.

Example 5. Charles Darwin University actively engages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in formal and ceremonial occasions and observances of cultural celebrations, such as National Day of Healing, Mabo Day, Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture.

Example 6. Edith Cowan University actively engages in NAIDOC week celebrations. A Nooongar welcome to country is included in all University’s formal and ceremonial events, e.g., graduation ceremonies. Kurongkurl Katitjin also hosts an Open Day, “Kambarang” (a showcase of Indigenous programs offered by the University & by outside organisations) to welcome on campus Indigenous high school students & community members.

Example 7. At James Cook University Traditional Owners have for several years been increasingly invited into formal occasions such as graduations, conferences and professorial lectures to provide do a “Welcome to Country for etc. Several events throughout the year are designed to specifically engage the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities where our programs are located. Specific graduation activities are undertaken to encourage engagement and recognition of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates, their families and the broader Indigenous community. Specifically, several years ago the university introduced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural sashes for graduation, along with a ceremony where graduates are presented their sashes by the Chancellor, and in the Torres Strait “Graduation Celebration” is held along with a
JCU Torres Strait Alumni Dinner.

Inclusion of a central university website for Indigenous activities undertaken by the university which is easily accessible, well presented and current

Example 1. The University of South Australia operates within in a comprehensive, modern and active online environment. The David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research website www.unisa.edu.au/ducier has recently been redesigned as an Indigenous portal in order to consolidate its developing role as the central site for Indigenous Education and Research and for connecting with the community, internal and external stakeholders and key governance organizations such as the National Indigenous Higher Education Network (NIHEN) and the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC).  Additionally, all news, events and headlines are included and updated regularly on the UniSA corporate site which connects to all Divisions Schools and Units.

Example 2. At Griffith University the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander: First Peoples website is accessible from the Griffith home page via a prominent ‘First Peoples’ button. It is designed to raise awareness of the cultural significance of the lands on which Griffith is located and the University’s work towards achieving Indigenous equality in educational access and outcomes.

Example 3. The University of Sydney has a Koori Centre website which acts as the Indigenous student portal ( Also events are put up on University splash page- emailed through all staff email – Uni News website and magazine).

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International stocktake

The national Stocktake of Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities survey contained four questions related to external engagement with Indigenous communities and organisations which guided the web-based search of international higher education institutions. The four questions were:

  1. Does the university have established mechanisms for engaging with & obtaining the views of local Indigenous communities on an on-going basis?
      
  2. Are there established programs that encourage Indigenous access to university formal & ceremonial occasions?
      
  3. Does the local Indigenous community have a role in university formal & ceremonial occasions?
      
  4. Is there a central university website for Indigenous activities undertaken by the university which is easily accessible, well presented & current?

Summary of Findings

Whilst little evidence or information was available on university websites in the United States, the web-based search of universities in New Zealand, Canada and Hawai’I revealed high levels of engagement with local indigenous communities. The universities each have well-established structures and mechanisms to ensure that indigenous involvement with the university transcends tokenism and is conducted in culturally appropriate and respectful ways. Universities in New Zealand have formal Strategic Statements,  Memorandums of Understanding or other strategic documents which enshrine the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and guide the university in its engagement with Māori peoples in all spheres of operation. Universities in New Zealand and Canada generally have a formal indigenous body to oversee matters related to indigenous cultural, knowledges and protocols, and act as an advisory to the university.

The web-based search of international university websites in comparable countries demonstrated that the majority of higher education institutions have information included on their central website for indigenous students and potential students. The exeption was the United States where, in most States, little or no evidence was found.

Current exemplars of good practice

Inclusion of established mechanisms for engaging with & obtaining the views of local Indigenous communities on an on-going basis and encourage their access to university formal & ceremonial occasions

Example 1. The University of Otago in New Zealand has a formal Memorandum of Understanding (Nōku te korikori, nōu te korikori tahi) with the South Islands iwi Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, which honours and enables at the institutional level, the Treaty of Waitangi. The Principles of the Memorandum are:

1. Partners: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the University of Otago.
  1.1 The University of Otago was founded in 1869 by an Ordinance of the Otago Provincial Council. The Charter of the University of Otago states the institution's commitment to the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
  1.2 For the purposes of this Memorandum, Ngāi Tahu are the tangata whenua of the boundary defined within the 1996 Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Act and the 1998 Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act. In particular the Crown clearly recognises Ngāi Tahu status as tangata whenua in the 1998 Act, which states: Part 1,6.(7).
  1.3 The Crown apologises to Ngāi Tahu for its past failures to acknowledge Ngāi Tahu rangatiratanga and mana over the South Islands within its boundaries, and in fulfilment of its Treaty obligations, the Crown recognises Ngāi Tahu as the tangata whenua of, and as holding rangatiratanga within, the Takiwā of Ngāi Tahu Whanui.
 2. Purpose
  2.1 Both Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, as the Treaty partner, and the University of Otago agree that the purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding is to establish a protocol that gives effect to a Treaty of Waitangi based partnership. This Memorandum of Understanding will give effect to Ngāi Tahu's aspirations and allow the University of Otago to realise their Treaty obligations.
  2.2 Ngāi Tahu as tangata whenua recognise the responsibility to provide manaakitanga for the interests of all people within the takiwā of Ngāi Tahu whānui . Ngāi Tahu also recognise that the University of Otago is both a national and international university, that its campus extends outside the Ngāi Tahu boundary and that the University is developing relationships with other tangata whenua/iwi within their respective tribal takiwā as appropriate. The University of Otago will recognise Ngāi Tahu rangatiratanga and mana within the takiwā of Ngāi Tahu whānui. 
3. Principles
  3.1
Both partners acknowledge and respect the statutory autonomy of the other.
  3.2 Both partners acknowledge the principles of academic freedom and the University's role as a critic and conscience of society.
  3.3 Either party has the right to enter into other agreements with other iwi/tertiary institutions.
  3.4 The University will seek and receive advice from Ngāi Tahu on the exercising of kawa and tikanga within the Ngāi Tahu takiwā.
  3.5 In areas of mutual agreement, the partners will explore the joint development and evaluation of programmes and initiatives.
  3.6 Both partners make a commitment to open discussion, positive negotiation and a problem-solving approach to all matters related to fulfilling the purpose of this partnership.
  3.7 Both partners recognise and respect the diverse strengths and contributions each brings to the partnership.
  3.8 Both partners recognise and respect the obligations of financial accountability which each brings to the partnership.
  3.9 Both partners commit themselves to striving for excellence in education for all students.
  3.10 Both partners will have equal status in decision making on all matters related to fulfilling the purpose of this partnership.
  3.11 Both partners undertake to inform the other of new information and developments which could impact on the fulfilling of the purpose of this partnership.
  3.12
Effective channels of communication and regular opportunities for dialogue and the establishment of formal mechanisms for input are essential to the success of the partnership.
4.   Cooperation
  4.1 Both partners agree to co-operate in the implementation of the purpose and principles that will give effect to the Memorandum of Understanding.
  4.2 Nominees of the University of Otago Council and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to meet at least biannually to review progress on this memorandum and to identify priority issues and tasks.
5. Mechanisms and Processes for Cooperation
  5.1 Both partners agree to put in place mechanisms and processes through which the purpose and principles of this agreement can be fulfilled.
 6. Review of Agreement
  6.1 The memorandum of understanding will be reviewed every three years.

 See http://www.otago.ac.nz/about/otago005277.html

Example 2. The Traditional Peoples Advisory Committee at the University of Manitoba in Canada is the primary body for fostering university engagement with indigenous peoples and communities, including cultural activities on-campus. The Traditional Peoples Advisory Committee comprises Traditional Aboriginal faculty and staff of the University who oversee the observance of Traditional Protocols, including the engagement of Elders for formal and ceremonial occassions to ensure that the Elders, as Traditional Teachers of indigenous cultures knowledges and worldviews, are treated in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner.
See: http://umanitoba.ca/student/asc/tpac/index.html - The Traditional Peoples Advisory Committee

Example 3. The University of Winnipeg in Canada has a number of structures and procedures in place to ensure that the university is an accessible, community based institution. Approximately 10 per cent of the 9,200 students at the University are First Nations, Métis or Inuit peoples, making it one of the top four universities in the country for Aboriginal participation.

See: http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/index/future-welcome-aboriginal-education

Example 4. University of Regina in Canada hosts a monthly seminar that invites Traditional and Cultural Advisors to share their knowledge, expertise, and perspectives for the purpose of education, lifelong learning, and community engagement. Rediscovering the Path (RTP) is an initiative that showcases the mixture of customs and practices from neighbouring communities and First Nations of Saskatchewan.
See: http://www.uregina.ca/asc/

Example 5.The University of Auckland’s Office of Pasifika Advancement maintains and facilitates relationships with many organisations of iimportance to the Pasifika community, both internally and externally.  Through these relationships, strong foundations of trust and joint purpose can be built. These then lead to increased opportunities to find sustainable solutions for community issues.

See: http://www.aut.ac.nz/community/pasifika/community-engagement

Example 6. Te Ropū Manukura is the Kaitiaki (guardian) of the Treaty of Waitangi at the University of Waikato. The Te Ropū Manukura contains many guiding principles for Māori engagement with the university and  acts to ensure that the University works in partnership with Iwi to meet the tertiary needs and aspirations of Māori communities.
See: http://www.waikato.ac.nz/manukura/index.shtml

Example 7. The University of Victoria Wellington in New Zealand actively seeks to meet its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi. The University has a formal Statute which gives expression to these obligations and responsibilities.
See: http://policy.vuw.ac.nz/Amphora!~~policy.vuw.ac.nz~POLICY~000000000746.pdf

Inclusion of a central university website for Indigenous activities undertaken by the university which is easily accessible, well presented & current

Example 1. The Waikato University in New Zealand has a central Māori website through which access can be gained to a number of related sites including Māori mentoring units located within each Faculty, key staff in other divisions including the Library and Māori Counselling and Disability services. The website is comprehensive and allows students, staff and community to be informed of kaupapa Māori social & cultural events and hui being held across the university. The library website provides a wide range of library information and services, in Māori or English, and free download of a Māori dictionaries into MS Word.
See: http://www.waikato.ac.nz/tautoko/welcome.shtml
See: http://www.waikato.ac.nz/library/services/Māori.shtml
See: http://help.waikato.ac.nz/training/info_docs/Māori_macrons.shtml

Example 2. Massey University in New Zealand has a centralised Māori website as well as a number of informative sites for students, staff and community, including the Māori News at Massey and the Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. As well as coverage of Te Wiki o Te Reo, the Māori News at Massey website includes links to the university’s other Māori focussed websites and includes latest news featuring Māori students, graduates and staff. Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi have also developed a customised Student Online Learning and Management System called ‘eWānanga’ which contains a set of Māori e-Learning Guidelines.
See: http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/Māori/Māori-news/Māori-news_home.cfm - Māori news at Massey.
See: http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/student-life/albany-campus/services-for-students/student-learning-centre/pasifika.cfm - Centre for Teaching & Learning Albany – Pasifika
See: http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/research/library/the-library-for/Māori-services/Māori-services_home.cfm - Massey University Library services for all Māori staff and students.
See: http://elg.massey.ac.nz/index.php?title=Ng%C4%81_Kaupapa_M%C4%81ori_Arataki_mo_te_eW%C4%81nanga - Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi

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