Cultural factors affecting tertiary education access for Bundjalung men

Todd Phillips

Research output: ThesisMaster (Research) Thesis


Despite documented changes to mainstream educational systems, Indigenous educational achievements are still at critically low levels across all phases of formal education. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011) Indigenous students are still less likely than non-Indigenous students to complete their final years of schooling (45% compared with 77% in 2009); tertiary level entry and outcomes are also significantly lower than non-Indigenous entry and outcomes.

Although significant research has focused on the area of Indigenous education, in particular, identifying and making recommendations on how to close educational gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, these studies have failed to bring about the change needed and to engage successfully with Indigenous communities and draw on Indigenous communities’ insights for best practice.

This thesis focuses on Indigenous perspectives and takes a closer look at the cultural factors that impact on tertiary education access for Indigenous young men who come from a Bundjalung community on the far north coast of northern New South Wales. To date, this community has not been the focus of serious postgraduate study. Their experiences and the values and ideas of their community have not been investigated.

To do this, the study uses an Indigenous methodological framework. It draws on Indigenous Standpoint Theory to analyse data through concepts of the cultural interface and tensions (Nakata, 2007, pp. 195-217). The study’s framing also draws on decolonising methods (Porsanger, 2004; Smith, 1999) and Indigenist research methods (Rigney, 1997). Such methodologies are intended to benefit both the research participants (community members) and the researcher. In doing so, the study draws on Creswell’s (2008) methods of restorying and retelling to analyse the participants’ interviews and yarns about their lives and experiences relating to tertiary educational access.

The research process occurred in multiple stages: (1) selection of research sites, (2) granting of access which was requested through consultation with local Aboriginal Elders and through the local Aboriginal Lands Council, (3) conducting of interviews with participants/ data collection, (4) analysis of data, (5) documentation of findings, (6) theory development, and (7) reporting back to the nominated Indigenous community on the progress and findings of the research.

The benefits of this research are numerous. First, this study addresses an issue that has been identified from within the local Aboriginal community as an issue of high precedence, looking at the cultural factors surrounding the underrepresentation of Indigenous people accessing tertiary education. This is not only of local significance but has been identified in the literature as a local, national and international area of concern amongst Indigenous peoples (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2009; Herbert, 2010; King, 2011). Secondly, the study draws on local Indigenous knowledges and learning processes from within a Bundjalung community to gain inside perspectives, namely the cultural factors that are being expressed from a range of Indigenous community members – young men, community Elders and community members – and finding out what they perceive inhibit and/or promote tertiary education participation within their community. Such perspectives are rarely heard.

Finally, recommendations made from this study are aimed at revealing investigative styles that may be utilised by Western institutions to improve access for Indigenous young men living in the Narlumdarlum1 region in the tertiary context.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • Ewing, Bronwyn F., Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Jun 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Bundjalung
  • Indigenous
  • Education
  • Bundjalung Jugun (Bundjalung country/nation)
  • Bundjalung Yanha (bundjalung way/learning)
  • Deadly
  • Fella
  • Gammin
  • Gumbaynggir
  • Indigenist
  • Indigenous knowledges
  • Indigenous standpoint theory
  • Jarjums
  • Koori
  • Mob
  • Murri
  • Tribe
  • Widjabul
  • Yaegl
  • Yarn
  • Yarning
  • Yugem


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