Embedding culture at the centre

Leanne Holt, Stephanie Gilbert

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    At the core of the work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education centres is the support of students. Whilst often predominantly focused on supporting the students through their academic journey, what has become increasingly crucial is the management of access to cultural based experiences and education. Young people coming to the university often leave their communities and family home. The University of Newcastle's Wollotuka Institute services over 600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The greater numbers of these are school-leaving students who come to the University to study a wide range of discipline areas.The Wollotuka Institute are witnessing a higher number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students excelling academically, however cultural affirmation, leadership and personal and professional cultural mentorship are still vital to the ongoing development of these students. The cultural backgrounds of Aboriginal students studying at the University is diverse from a recent awareness of identity only, to students with a long history of negative experiences in the form of racism related to their culture and identity, to students who are fortunate to have been embedded in a strong community with Elders and family that have provided lifelong lessons that instil a proud sense relating to their culture and identity. Groome and Hamilton (1995), reinforce this cultural diversity of students and discuss a link between an environment that affirms and promotes a strong sense of cultural identity with high academic achievement, pride and positive self-esteem.One of the issues encountered by students is the misperception of both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities that students that achieve high academic results within a western educational system are forgoing their cultural identity and practices. This attitude results in students not actively connecting with the Wollotuka Institute, believing that they have to prove that they are able to take their higher education journey on their own. A message that ensures that Aboriginal individuals and communities are empowered through education in today's contemporary environment is given an international perspective by Taylor, Crago and McAlpine (1993:1) describing it as a 'delicate balance of maintaining heritage culture on the one hand, and pursuing mainstream values on the other'.The Wollotuka Institute achieves strong outcomes through programs that incorporate Elders, community, national and international Indigenous engagement, networking and mentorship. In this discussion we will examine how embedding cultural practices like the valued presence of Elders have assisted the ongoing dialogue we have in The Wollotuka Institute about ensuring the cultural safety of staff and students.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)83-111
    Number of pages29
    Journal台灣原住民族研究季刊 = Taiwan Journal of Indigenous Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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