Indigenous Cultural Competence Pilot Activity Projects

A total of four universities were funded to develop were funded to develop Indigenous Cultural Competency Pilot project intitiatives that address gaps in current knowledge and practice identified from Stage One findings, within one or more of the five identified themes of university governance, teaching and learning, research capacity, external engagement and human resource management. The successful universities were:

  1. Edith Cowan University - Cultural Competency @ Edith Cowan University (Graeme Gower (Project Leader), Professor Martin Nakata, Dr. Matt Byrne and Professor Colleen Hayward)
  2. University of Wollongong - Using Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning to Encourage Storytelling about “Country” with Student-created Animations (Associate Professor Garry Hoban, Mr. Anthony McKnight, Dr Wendy Nielsen, Ms Debbie Wray and Ms Carol Thomas)
  3. University of Newcastle - The University of Newcastle Indigenous Cultural Competency Model (Leanne Holt, Dr Kathleen Butler, Mr. Paul Dodd, Professor John Maynard, Professor Peter O’Meara, and Associate Professor Anne Young)
  4. University of Western Australia - Indigenous Dialogues – Towards Cultural Competence (Professor Jill Milroy, Associate Professor Darlene Oxenham, Ms Marilyn Strother, Associate Professor David Paul, Mr. Rod Dewsbury, Professor Denise Chalmers, Mr. Malcolm Fialo and Mr. Adam Casey).

Pilot Project Summary

The following presents a summary of the four Pilot Project Activities. The work undertaken by the Project Teams and the outcomes they produced makes a valuable contribution  to the growing body of knowledge and resources in the area of Indigenous cultural competency and has broad relevance to the higher education sector.

Details of the findings, outcomes and resources developed by the four Project Teams is embedded throughout this document within relevant sections of the discussion of the available literature and the full reports can be accessed via the Universities Australia website.

Edith Cowan University: Cultural Competency @ Edith Cowan University

The Pilot Activity undertaken by Edith Cowan University addressed the themes of University Governance, Human Resource Management and Teaching and Learning. The project aimed to strengthen the university’s commitment to Indigenous cultural competency through:

  • The delivery of cultural competency workshops to university staff.
  • Offering a cultural competency unit to law & physiotherapy students during 2010, together with negotiating to include cultural competency in public health courses.
  • Inclusion of cultural competency in university corporate statements, core values, student attributes, procedures and practices.
  • Making cultural competency a standing item in all university reporting mechanisms establishing guidelines for curriculum writers on culturally competent pedagogy, content and assessment.

The Edith Cowan University project team developed a ‘bottom up’ or ‘Engagement Model’ for trial in 2010 as part of the Indigenous Cultural Competency Pilot Activity project. The Engagement Model involved three primary stages:

Stage One: Developing an awareness of Indigenous cultural competency across the university
Stage Two: Design and development of curriculum
Stage Three: Developing university wide acceptance.

Among the outcomes of the Cultural Competency @ Edith Cowan University Pilot Activity was the development of a useful model for guiding institutions in practical ways of how to embed cultural competency across a university institution. This model allows the aligning of university priorities with graduate attributes whilst assuring the relevance and effectiveness of the curricula to industry, profession and community issues.

Companion to, and influencing the model, is a comprehensive review of the literature which outlines the current literature on developing an engagement model of cultural competency at the institutional level. Of particular value is the inclusion of discussion of the literature in relation to pedagogical models, development of cultural competency curricula and appropriate strategies for teaching and assessing student and/or staff learning and engagement. The literature review by Ellen Grote (2010) is included as Appendix 1 to this document.

The Cultural Competency @ Edith Cowan University Pilot Activity model is outlined and discussed later in this document.

The University of Wollongong: Using Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning to Encourage Storytelling about “Country” with Student-created Animations

The Pilot Activity undertaken by the University of Wollongong addressed the theme of Teaching and Learning. The Project Team developed an innovative pedagogy based upon the principles of a Rational Knowledge Approach for engaging student learning and development of Indigenous cultural competencies through the medium of technology. Whilst this focus was on pre-service and early childhood student teachers, the model has adaptability to other audiences and contexts and thus provides a valuable resource for the sector.

The process and deliverables of the project include:

  • Develop pedagogy based on the Relational Knowledge Approach from which non-Indigenous and Indigenous pre-service teachers will be able to engage with Indigenous knowledge systems through their own experiences and develop their identities from reflecting upon their own experiences of country and its elements.
  • Pilot the approach in a new elective EDWA401 Aboriginal Ways of Knowing and Learning including a two day excursion to a sacred site with a local Aboriginal elder.
  • Pilot the approach in a second new elective EYEK402 Developing Culturally Appropriate Teaching Resources.
  • Develop one module (2-3 text pages) for the web site explaining how to use this approach in other Indigenous subjects.
  • Disseminate findings of project outcomes via publication and presentation at the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference in Melbourne in December 2010. (Publication details: McKnight A., Hoban, G. & Nielsen W., (2010) Animated storytelling about “My Special Place” to represent non-Aboriginal preservice teachers’ awareness of “relatedness to country”. Proceedings ascilite Sydney 2010. Weblink

The findings and outcomes of the Using Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning to Encourage Storytelling about “Country” with Student-created Animations is embedded within relevant sections of the discussion pages of this document. The Project Team have developed a website for further information which can be accessed at:  

The University of Wollongong Full Pilot Activity Project Report

The University of Newcastle: Indigenous Cultural Competency Model

The University of Newcastle’s Indigenous Cultural Competency Pilot Activity Project addressed the theme of Teaching and Learning with a focus on preparing students for the workforce in the fields of Health and Business. The primary aims of project were to:

  • Embed Cultural Competency principles in graduate attributes in specific disciplines and programs;
  • Develop and/or compile a body of resources for the development of Cultural Competency in diverse teaching and learning contexts;
  • Develop resources for developing business relationships that promote the value of Indigenous Cultural Competency and graduate attribute. Resources include the development of a CD-ROM, information website and a business package to help promote cultural competency as a graduate attribute for the workplace;
  • Creation and dissemination of standards and guidelines for employers to become a ‘Recognised Employer in Indigenous Collaboration’.

Whilst the resources developed by the Project team from the University of Newcastle primarily focus on addressing the needs of Business and Health disciplines they have broader application across disciplines offered by the higher education sector institutions. The resources include a literature review, a set of sample Indigenous case studies suitable for teaching in these discipline areas and practical examples of appropriate subject design and content. The project also resulted in the production of the University’s Indigenous Cultural Competency: Our Way website. This website is designed for diverse learning and teaching contexts and includes a body of resources including practical examples and case studies from the University of Newcastle’s Faculties of Business and Health, audiovisual and text resources for students and staff, a glossary of terms relating to Indigenous Cultural competency, self awareness and reflective exercises, links to other online resources, multimedia kits and training packages, and a bank of resources for Academic staff designed to inform them about Indigenous cultural competency and a guide for incorporating Indigenous Australian knowledges into diverse courses. The project team established a separate website for industry that includes the Industry Evaluation Tool for Cultural Competency package.

University of Western Australia: Indigenous Dialogues – Towards Cultural Competence

The University of Western Australia’s Pilot Project Activity: Indigenous Dialogues – Towards Cultural Competence focused on the Indigenous Cultural Competency Project themes of Human Resource Management and External Engagement; however, the work has broader relevance and application, including within the theme of Teaching and Learning.

The primary aim and deliverable of the Pilot Activity was the development of a ‘Cultural Competency Kit’ and associated resources for the professional development of university staff, in keeping with the university’s recognition that cultural competency and knowledge and understanding of Indigenous issues is a critical attribute for a global university striving for international excellence.

The Cultural Competence training Kit developed by the Project Team at the University of Western Australia includes a variety of useful resources such as Indigenous Australian learning and teaching protocols, culturally relevant policy and regulatory frameworks and related information, strategies and methodologies for inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in the curriculum and guidelines for working effectively with Indigenous students and staff.

The Cultural Competence Kit was piloted with four groups across four University sites:

  1. A group of participants drawn from one Faculty
  2. A group of participants employed at the Albany combined universities site
  3. A group of early-career academics 
  4. A group of participants drawn from a broader range of staff classifications and work areas

Participants of the program engaged in two workshops and an experiential exercise delivered in partnership with local Aboriginal communities. The foundation workshop entitled Courageous Conversation about Race, offered participants the opportunity to unpack their unique racial story within a global and national context and to understand the dynamics and influence of race, power and privilege, and how to use these insights to inform social and cultural transformation in relation to both personal and professional spheres of influence.

The second workshop focused on building participant knowledge and understanding of key issues related to Indigenous Australian diversity, history, contemporary realities. The workshop also addressed matters of cultural safety and professional practice, startegies for working effectively with Indigenous and staff and students, policy frameworks relevant to Indigenous Higher education and strategies for incorporating Indigenous perspectives into curricula and teaching and learning strategies. The final component of the Cultural Competency Kit training program engaged participants with local Aboriginal community members through a ‘Working on Country’ experiential program under the guidance of Nyungar Elders.

The Pilot Project team produced a number of valuable resources and information, including a very useful sectoral overview of current Indigenous Cultural Competence staff training, polices and protocols related to teaching Indigenous Australian Studies and examples of Indigenous Australian Studies curriculum.