Call to foster reconciliation and social justice

1 JANUARY 2003

Australian universities should play a central role in promoting reconciliation and social justice through education to meet the needs of Indigenous Australians, according to a CSU academic.

Ms Wendy Nolan, Deputy Director, CSU Centre for Indigenous StudiesAustralian universities should play a central role in promoting reconciliation and social justice through education to meet the needs of Indigenous Australians, according to a Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic who delivered a recent public lecture at the CSU Dubbo Campus.
 
In her lecture, Reconciliation and Social Justice: The Role of Australian Universities in Educating for Change, Ms Wendy Nolan, senior lecturer and Deputy Director of the CSU Centre for Indigenous Studies, discussed the benefits of incorporating Indigenous content into university curriculum.
 
Ms Nolan argued that Australian universities have a responsibility to educate the future generation of professionals to dispel ignorance and build an informed society, improve policy provision and service delivery and be culturally competent.
 
“Many national reports show Indigenous disadvantage is compounded by cross-cultural ignorance, resulting in ineffective policy and service provision. Achieving reconciliation relies on building a knowledgeable and mature society committed to achieving social justice for Indigenous Australians,” Ms Nolan said.
 
“There is a clear need to equip non-Indigenous university graduates with knowledge and understanding of Indigenous Australian cultures, histories and contemporary realities to help them work effectively with Indigenous people.
 
“Thousands of students, the majority of whom are non-Indigenous, graduate each year to become the future professionals, service providers and policy makers of Australian society.
 
“Most have little or no knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultures, histories or the contemporary issues which affect Indigenous Australians and they lack cross-cultural skills essential for working effectively with Indigenous Australians.”
 
Ms Nolan drew attention to the fact that the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Council has previously supported the principle that all Australian higher education students should receive some understanding of Indigenous knowledge systems, cultures and values as an integral part of their studies. They recognised that there are benefits from greater numbers of students gaining an understanding of Indigenous issues, and that implementing this principle will help equip students with skills for living in the modern Australian society.
 
“However, there is no national higher education policy ensuring inclusive education and institutional commitment to Indigenous community engagement,” she said.
 
Ms Nolan also provided an overview of CSU’s commitment to reconciliation and social justice, highlighting that the University acknowledges that improving Indigenous educational outcomes requires commitment by the whole institution.

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