Team wins national award for advancing academic development

9 NOVEMBER 2021

Team wins national award for advancing academic development

A Charles Sturt University learning and teaching team has won a national award for excellence for their online culture immersion program.

  • A Charles Sturt University Wiradyuri Cultural Immersion program has received a national award for its innovative adaptation for online learning and teaching during COVID-19
  • Program delivers a deep, rich and personal experience run in small cohorts available to staff across Charles Sturt and other universities
  • Each program experience tailored to suit the specific audience, and interactivity allows for fine tuning, nuanced conversations to be explored in a dynamic way

A Charles Sturt University learning and teaching team has won a national award for excellence for their online culture immersion program.

The Charles Sturt Gulaay First Nations Curriculum and Resources Team and local Bathurst Wiradyuri Elders won the Council of Australian University Leaders in Learning and Teaching (CAULLT) the Advancing Academic Development overall award.

The team won against a very strong field for their Wiradyuri Online Cultural Immersion Experience.

The Wiradyuri Cultural Immersion program was developed to provide an opportunity for university staff and students to learn about local Aboriginal culture and involve them in first-hand experience on Country with Australian Aboriginal Elders and/or cultural guides.

Associate Professor Barbara Hill is Lead, First Nations Curriculum, and Lead of Gulaay First Nations Curriculum and Resources Team in the Charles Sturt Division of Learning and Teaching.

Professor Hill said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wiradyuri Cultural Immersion program was transformed into an online environment in a way that still allowed the rich transfer of information and a sense of importance of Country from a First Nations People’s perspective.

“Transforming the experience to online has allowed significantly increased reach in a cost-effective way and facilitates the inclusion of Indigenous content into curriculum in an authentic way,” she said.

“Development of cultural competence and the journey to providing culturally-safe environments in teaching, as in all environments, requires not just knowledge, but engagement of attitudes, values, and skills.

“The immersion experiences are set up under a cultural safety framework to allow participants to truly make the most of access to Elders and consist of pre-recorded videos of sacred and culturally significant sites along with live interaction and narration.”

Professor Hill said participants are given the opportunity to ask questions that they may not feel comfortable to ask outside of the cultural safety framework.”

“The program delivers a deep, rich and personal experience being run in small cohorts made available to staff across the University, and it has also been delivered to students and staff at other universities,” she said.

The Elders and Gulaay tailor each experience to suit the specific audience, and interactive ‘check-ins’ and ‘mentimeter’ activities (which gives the audience the chance to interact with the presenter) allow the Elders and Gulaay facilitators to measure the trajectory of each online cultural immersion in real time.

This allows for fine tuning and nuanced conversations to be given space to develop, and for ideas and questions to be explored in a fluid and dynamic way. The experience concludes with a reflection and participants sharing what they have learned.

Senior Wiradyuri Elder Uncle Brian Grant said this work also acknowledges Nyieempaa Elder Aunty Beryl Philp Carmichael and her contribution to the University in ‘Journey West to Menindee’ which the Elders and the Gulaay team hope to reinvigorate in our new COVID-19 world.

“Aboriginal culture is based on the tangible and the intangible dreaming stories of the important events and places and are all encapsulated in the songlines and the life events of the oldest living culture in the world,” Uncle Brian said. “Our way of teaching is linked to all of the human senses.

“COVID-19 interrupted how this is done and prompted us to embrace modern technology to allow us to continue to present a culturally authentic-based series of programs.

“We aim to continue to work with Associate Professor Barbara Hill, and the Gulaay First Nations Curriculum and Resources Team and with the students of Charles Sturt University.”

The Gulaay team consists of Associate Professor Barbara Hill, Mr Lloyd Dolan, Mr Yanha Flynn, Mr Bernard Higgins. The Bathurst Wiradyuri Elders are Uncle Brian Grant, Uncle Bill Allen, Aunty Leanna Carr-Smith, and Ngiyeempaa Elder Aunty Beryl Philip-Carmichael. The team also acknowledges the work of Ms Melinda Lewis with Gulaay.

See other finalist institutions.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Associate Professor Barbara Hill contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or news@csu.edu.au

Photo: Near Kinchega National Park near Menindee, western NSW, by Yanhadarrambal Jade Flynn.


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