Michael Donovan


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Personal profile


I am a Gumbaynggir man from the north coast of NSW, but I grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney. I have a mixed academic history starting with completing my HSC then training to be an Enrolled Nurse at Concorde Repatriation Hospital, from enjoying health I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). After moving to the Hunter valley after a few years practicing TCM I worked in a primary school as an Aboriginal Education Assistant (AEA) and began a teaching degree through a residential program.

My Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) and Bachelor of Teaching (Honours) at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) were completed through an Aboriginal identified residential program, Aboriginal Residential Education Program (AREP). This meant that my studies were completed in an away-from-base mode but also, I was away from the University setting and distanced from my academic support and my academic supervision. These issues did make some aspects of studies difficult. I am also the first male Aboriginal Honours graduate at UWS. I am also the only graduate to complete an Honours program through the AREP or away-from-base mode. As I completed my degree I started working in higher education (HE) at the Wollotuka institute at the University of Newcastle in 1996 as a short-term change from schools, primarily focussed on teaching, including across all the courses in the Bachelor of Aboriginal Studies and the mandatory Aboriginal studies course within all education programs at University of Newcastle.

Research interests

In 2004 I started my journey into research particularly around Aboriginal educational research through winning a position as an Academic Partner for the Australian Government Quality Teacher Program (AGQTP), this project included, providing professional learning about the NSW Quality Teaching model, supporting teaching practice and identifying means of developing teaching perspectives, reflecting on and analysing actions resulting from professional development and supporting the preparation of the final action research report. This project was with the Nyngan schools cluster. These schools were introducing to the Quality Teaching Framework and I supported their understandings and worked with them to incorporate this into various key learning areas across the Primary and High School curriculum.

I started my PhD in 2006 on examining QT and it's engagment with Aboriginal students. This work was supported through winning an ARC Discovery (Indigenous) grant but this work lead to me changing my topic to a larger focus on 'What form(s) of pedagogy are necessary for increasing the engagement of Aboriginal school students?' I asked secondary school Aboriginal students what they believed was best to engage them to schools, their teachers and their curriculum and used their voices as the evidence to justify positive pedagogical practice.

Pedagogical understandings has been a focus through much of my research history but the focal point I related to has changed from comparing Information Communication Technolgies (ICT) pedagogy with Aboriginal pedagogical practice, examining mathematics, sciences and STEM and their connections to Aboriginal communities. With much of this relating to engagement of Aboriginal peoples through Aboriginal Cultural Knowledges (ACK).


Research student supervision

I have graduated 2 Phd students;

  • 2012 “Capturing cultural requirements in the design of a website for an Aboriginal community”
  • 2016 “The development of Aboriginal education policy in Australia - voices of the National Aboriginal Education Committee (NAEC)”

Community engagement

I have been invovled in a variety of organisations both community and academic, these include; 

  • 1992 NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) - Life member, State executive, Regional executive and Local Executive member.

  • 2018 Australian Research Council - Detailed Assessor; Discovery and Linkage grants

  • 2018 Longitudinal Study Indigenous Children Education Committee - Inaugural Committee member
  • 2018 World Indigenous Network Higher Education Consortium - Academic Accreditation reviewer

  • 2014 World Educational Research Association International Research Network Coordinator

  • 2013 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada - External Reviewer

  • 2012 - 14 National Indian Educational Association member 

  • 2011 Australian Association for Research in Education member
  • 2010 -2012 NSW Indigenous Human Rights Network Representative

  • 2010-12; 2017-18 University of Newcastle Human Research Ethics Committee member

  •  2009-18 UN Accredited Non-Government Organisation Coordinator; Wollotuka School of Aboriginal Studies

  • 2008-08 Inaugural Awabakal Local Land Council Board member
  • 2001-09 NSW Board of Studies  - Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee; Stage 6 Mathematics Board Curriculum Committee 2006-08 & Science & Technology K-6 Board Curriculum Committee 1993

Research engagement


ARC Discovery (Indigenous) grant 2007-2009

United Nations (UN) Non-Government Organisation (Wollotuka School of Aboriginal Studies) Coordinator 2009

World Education Research Association (WERA) International Research Network (IRN) Coordinator 2014

ARC Reviewer (Discovery and Linkage grants) 2018

ARC College of Experts 2019-2021 

Education/Academic qualification

Aboriginal education, PhD (Education), University of Newcastle

30 Nov 200618 Oct 2016

Award Date: 18 Oct 2016

External positions

University of Newcastle

19 Sep 199628 Aug 2018


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