Indigenous Cultural Competency in External engagement: Guiding Principles

Meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities and organisations beyond the university is the primary foundation for building Indigenous cultural competency in university governance, teaching and learning, research and human resources.

Universities also have an important role in disseminating cultural competency practice and attitudes through to its non-Indigenous communities.

On this basis, the Guiding Principle for External Engagement is:

Universities should operate in partnership with local Indigenous communities and should help disseminate culturally competent practices to the wider community

The following recommendations and examples can assist Australian universities in implementing this Guiding Principle.

Recommendation 1: Create a Reconciliation Statement and/or a Reconciliation Action Plan which reflects the university's Indigenous Education Strategy and commitment to meaningful engagement with local Indigenous communities and organisations.

Recommendation 2: Establish mechanisms, cultural protocols and codes of conduct to guide the University in its engagement with Indigenous peoples and communities.

Recommendation 3: Create formal structures, such as an Indigenous Advisory Committee, to obtain the views of local Indigenous communities on an on-going and regular basis.

Recommendation 4: Establish procedures and protocols to ensure the inclusion of Indigenous Elders and community members in formal and ceremonial university occasions.

Recommendation 5: Create campus environments which are culturally welcoming and inclusive of Indigenous cultures, such as prominent displays of Indigenous art and language and the establishment of on-campus community events.

Recommendation 6: Display an ‗Acknowledgement of Country' in a prominent location on major university documents and marketing materials and university websites.

Recommendation 7: Create a centralised university website for information and Indigenous activities undertaken by the university that is easily accessible, well presented and regularly updated.


The recommendations for Best Practice in Indigenous Cultural Competency in External Engagement  are born of the findings of the literature review and influenced by current national and international exemplars of practice. They are based upon the premise that meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities and organisations is the primary foundation for the building of Indigenous cultural competency in university governance, teaching and learning, research and human resources.

Whilst many universities in Australian higher education sector are engaged with local communities, the available evidence demonstrates that Australian universities are lagging behind universities in countries such as New Zealand where Māori peoples and culture are a highly visible, celebrated and valued aspect of the life and governance of all universities.

The AUQA Report (2006 p iv) rightly asserted  that ‘the traditional owners of the land on which the institution is located, play a central role in the wellbeing of Indigenous students’ and staffregardless of whether the student or staff member is traditionally descended from that particular group’s land or not. The establishment of an Indigenous Meeting Place and/or Elders in Residence program provides the unique opportunity to engage local Indigenous communities and Elders in the life  and governance of the University whilst enhancing the learning, research and engagement of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and staff. The establishment of effective working relationships with Indigenous communities and agencies is a critical element in the long-term success of these initiatives. In the words of AUQA (2006):

Involving the representatives of the Indigenous communities in advisory committees, seeking their views on curriculum to incorporate Indigenous units, tapping on the knowledge resources of the Indigenous communities to teach Indigenous issues, facilitating interaction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities… [is an] important mechanism through which universities can discuss with representatives of Indigenous communities the relationship between themselves and the University and serves the cause of Indigenous issues and reconciliation (AQUA Report: ‘Serving the Cause of Indigenous Issues’ September 2006 p.6).

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