Decolonising the curriculum: who is in the room?

Howard Sercombe, Carly Stanley, Keenan Mundine, Helen Wolfenden

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter tells the story of how an Aboriginal ex-prisoner, a former Department of Justice worker, also Aboriginal, and a veteran youth worker and academic came together to teach a university course on Indigenous Perspectives in Criminology. The approach was broadly postcolonial, exposing the universal, objective pretentions of colonialist knowledges, the ongoing human, social consequences of colonial dispossession, and the analysis of contemporary policy as an ongoing colonial project. We tried to help students understand how criminology routinely protests against the criminalisation of Aboriginal people, but is also implicated in of a colonial regime of power. Through theory, experience and reflection, we introduced them to Aboriginal ways of seeing the world as coherent epistemological systems, and the importance of translating between these voices and scientific criminology.

The presence of Aboriginal people in the room, and the real confrontation with the stories of their lives, was critical in the process. Students reported that the experience was profoundly moving, and that it took them deeper and further than the statistics that by second year they already know well. The problems are well known: if things are going to change, Aboriginal people need to be ‘in the room where it happens’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching criminology and criminal justice
Subtitle of host publicationchallenges for higher education
EditorsSuzanne Young, Kate Strudwick
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783031148996
ISBN (Print)9783031148989
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Postcolonial
  • Criminology
  • Aboriginal
  • Epistemology


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