AEP Goal 6: Understanding and respect for traditional and contemporary culture

6. To provide all Australian students with an understanding of and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional and contemporary cultures.

Your response to this goal needs to address but is not limited to the following points:

  • Details of how and to what extent Indigenous perspectives are reflected in curriculum at your University.
  • How the University addresses the cultural competency of its staff and students.
  • The University’s involvement with Indigenous community members in working toward this goal.
  • Indigenous Education/Support Unit’s role.

Indigenous perspectives in curriculum at UNE

UNE graduate attributes are embedded in course learning outcomes.

  • Ethical Conduct and Social Responsibility is one of the University’s graduate attributes: Graduates will behave ethically and with social responsibility within their discipline and educational context.
  • This is further expanded in the Teaching and Learning Plan 2012–2015: Ensure our graduate attributes promote social and cultural understanding including an appreciation of Indigenous culture and history.

The UNE Graduate Attributes are the generic characteristics and personal qualities that define UNE graduates, together with the core knowledge, skills and capabilities specific to a student’s course of study and are therefore embedded in course learning outcomes. Course mapping is a means by which UNE ensures that graduate attributes are given an appropriate focus which may be discipline-nuanced, are aligned with course content and are achieved. The attribute of ethical conduct and social responsibility instils in UNE graduates the ability to recognise, reflect on and respond appropriately to social, cultural and ethical issues.

In 2014 UNE identified that a whole-of-university approach requires Indigenous cultural content to be included in units and a more inclusive approach to pedagogy. This makes the content more accessible to Indigenous students, as well as increasing the cultural capital and competency of the University as a whole and of students in their learning and qualifications. During 2015, the Oorala Director engaged pro-actively with UNE’s Schools including Arts, Education, Law, Health, Humanities and UNE Business School, to improve linkage and discussion on Indigenous knowledges in curriculum.

The School of Health continues to work in collaboration with Indigenous stakeholder groups such as the peak body CATSINaM (Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives) to ensure that the nursing curriculum at UNE reflects a strong Indigenous health component. The School also adheres to the Australian Nursing and Midwives Association Committee’s accreditation requirement that nursing curriculum include an Indigenous health focus. Several clinical practice settings for students have been available including placement in an Indigenous community health setting, for example Coledale Community, Tamworth. An Indigenous focus is further incorporated into other core units in the pre-registration Nursing program.

Oorala linked with the School of Education’s Indigenous Research Network, which included discussion on Indigenous knowledges in curriculum. This research network aims to increase focus on Indigenous education research, and to support Indigenous people to undertake and be supported in higher degree research programs. A number of academic staff specifically seek ATSI students for HDR. A number of Indigenous HDR students are enrolled and receive additional support through the Indigenous Education Research Network. This network will become the Equity and Diversity Network in 2016, and include a wider membership of staff.

Oorala offers the units OORA100/300: Aboriginal Resilience and the Arts and OORA200/400: Working with Aboriginal People which are included in the TRACKS Program, undergraduate and postgraduate UNE courses as core or listed units as outlined below.

Table 20: 2015 units run by Oorala offered in UNE courses as core, listed or elective units




Bachelor of Nursing

Bachelor of Social Science

Master of Nursing Practice

Bachelor of Education (Primary)

Bachelor of Social Work

Bachelor of Criminology


Bachelor of Criminology/Law




Bachelor of Music

Bachelor of Theatre and Performance


Bachelor of Media and Communication

Table 21: Enrolments in Oorala units in 2015

Unit code

Unit name



Aboriginal Resilience and the Arts



Working with Aboriginal People



Aboriginal Resilience and the Arts



Working with Aboriginal People




The units are offered on campus and online in Trimesters 1 and 2 and attract Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, other domestic students and a significant cohort of international students.

During 2015 there were an additional 21 units of study offered providing specific Indigenous content across UNE courses. These include:

The School of Humanities offers content from ten units to contribute to Oorala’s TRACKS Tertiary Preparation Program. In addition the school offers nine units in history and indigenous studies which solely focus on ATSI content. In 2015, following a whole of School review in 2014, Humanities undertook a review of the Indigenous Studies Major, involving across UNE, including Oorala. The new major will commence in 2017.

  • The EDCX unit Aboriginal Education which is mandatory across all of the School of Education’s Teaching awards at Bachelor and Masters level. The unit is presented in conjunction with Indigenous Education Consultants from the Tamworth office of the NSW Department of Education & Training and at 300 and 500 level requires students to complete 20 days Professional Experience.
  • EDCX 515 Indigenous Australian Education: Issues and Policies, which is a key unit in the Master of Education (coursework) and EDSS328/428 Secondary Education: Aboriginal Studies, offered in Teaching degrees for secondary teachers.
  • The JMP BMed is accredited by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) as meeting AMC Standards for a primary medical program provided by an Australian University. In accrediting the JMP BMed program, the AMC has acknowledged that the graduates of the JMP meet the expected graduate attributes. The ability to work effectively, competently and safety in a diverse cultural environments include Indigenous cultures is one of the graduate attributes expected of a student completing the JMP. Graduates of the JMP are expected to have knowledge, understanding and skills in Indigenous Health. Students are required to complete the Indigenous Health component of the JMP BMed, and undertake the required assessments to demonstrate their knowledge of Indigenous Health and competencies in understanding the Indigenous culture.
  • The School of Law is leading a national Office for Learning and Teaching grant entitled “Indigenous Cultural Competency for Legal Academics Program.” This project will develop a framework, professional development module and teaching resources to support the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and cultural competency in legal education.

There were also units offered with some Indigenous content:

  • Indigenous content is embedded in a number of courses and units through UNE Business School, e.g. GSB722 ‘Managing Diversity’ which includes the main study topic ‘Employing Indigenous Australians’; also MM200 ‘Contemporary Management’ has a broad focus on cultural diversity and social inclusion is addressed. The UNE Business School’s Master of Economic and Regional Development includes a major in Indigenous Futures which seeks to prepare students for a career involved in community and regional development projects.
  • Within the UNE Bachelor of Laws program there are 6 core units and 6 elective units that include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content (LAW101, LAW157, LAW164, LAW 272, LAW281, LAW301, LAW312, LAW313, LAW314, LAW341, LAW358, LAW389, LAW400). For example the core unit LAW101, Law in Context, includes Race and the Law with a focus on the colonisation and the historical treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There are two Indigenous specific elective units – LAW164 Indigenous Australians and the Law; and LLM532 Indigenous Natural Resource Issues. LAW164 Indigenous Australians and Law – was revised in 2015 to include a learning outcome on Indigenous protocols and cultural competency from 2017. In 2015 the LLM unit Innovation Law (LLM537) also introduced a seminar on “Indigenous Innovations and Aspirations: International and Domestic Support”. Indigenous content is also included in LLM553 Australian Common Law System.
  • The School of Behavioural and Social Sciences has 21 units with   some ATSI content including Indigenous languages, linguistics, Language and   the Law, psychology and sociology.
  • All Bachelor of Nursing/Master of Nursing   units in School of Health contain at least one theme of Indigenous Health   focused learning, including understanding and respect for traditional and   contemporary Indigenous culture. The elective unit HSNS527 Rural and Remote Contexts of Practice has a major component of Indigenous content.
  • The Arts School unit Australian Film includes Indigenous cultural contents in the modules on the Language of (Australian) Cinema; and the unit Minorities and Majorities in Australian Theatre explores issues of power and identity (including gender, race, class and sexuality) within the context of recent Australian theatre, covered Aboriginal theatre.
  • Through the School of Environmental & Rural Science, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander perspectives are presented in CANI310/510 ‘Wild Dog Ecology’ in relation to the role of dogs in Indigenous societies, and the influence of customs and culture on wild dog management and dingo conservation. The unit includes teaching materials produced by Aboriginal people and an opportunity for students to gain Aboriginal community experience through participating in a dog health program in the Tiwi Islands.
  • In the School of Science and Technology, two Pharmacy units (PHAR320/360) included cultural awareness training done in 2015 as a 4 hours workshop, with a plan to expand to a full-day workshop in 2016. PHAR450 is a Pharmacy practicum unit and students after completion of their third year undertake a four-week placement in either a community or hospital pharmacy. Students who elect rural and remote placements undergo mandatory cultural awareness training at Oorala. The unit (PHAR460) Rural and remote Pharmacy covers multidisciplinary care, primary care and health promotion, challenges in the provision of accessible, clinically and culturally appropriate health care in rural and remote settings including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

How UNE addresses the cultural competency of its staff and students

Cultural awareness training has been made available to all staff by UNE’s Human Resource Services directorate to improve staff competencies in engagement with students and staff from diverse cultural backgrounds.

A one-day pilot cultural awareness program was offered and delivered to staff across the School of Environmental Rural Sciences. After this initial program it was decided that a more in-depth cultural immersion program would be more appropriate and would affect greater attitudinal change across the University. The immersion program will be run over two days, with one day on campus and the next visiting sites of cultural significance in the local area under the guidance of local Aboriginal Elders and National Parks. Human Resource Services are currently in the process of investigating, costing and implementing such an Aboriginal Cultural Immersion Program.

Cultural awareness training has application to the general UNE student body, especially for those students who may engage professionally with Indigenous people through practical placements or as early career graduates going into their field, and students who benefit from developing their overall professional skills. For example, Medical students who attended University Departments of Rural Health in Tamworth or Taree undertook cultural training. The program has been run a number of times during 2015 and has been successful both in terms of demand and positive feedback from participants.

Cultural competency for UNE students is largely through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content and perspectives in curriculum and involvement by Elders, Oorala staff and community members in a range of professional networks, events, programs and projects. The increased involvement of Aboriginal representatives on UNE Council and the Human Research Ethics Committee also serves to enhance the level of cultural competency in high level consultation and decision-making on governance, teaching and research matters.

UNE’s website includes the link ‘Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community’, accessible on the UNE homepage by public, staff and students. This promotes UNE’s ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ statement, Reconciliation Statement, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy, course and unit information and other relevant information.

During 2015 Members of the Executive of the School of Rural Medicine (SRM) liaised with Oorala Aboriginal Centre to develop a tailored cultural awareness training program for staff of the School. Indigenous health is a core component of the Joint Medical Program (JMP) BMed program delivered by SRM. Students receive training in this component as well in communication skills with culturally-diverse groups, including Indigenous peoples.

UNE’s involvement with Indigenous community members in working toward this goal

Welcome to Country presented by Aboriginal community members or Acknowledgement of Country is a quality standard in UNE official proceedings including meetings of the UNE Council and its committees, graduation ceremonies, orientation days and other major events of Schools and Directorates.

The annual Frank Archibald Memorial Lecture and NAIDOC Week are two key UNE events in the University’s community engagement, coordinated by Oorala. Both events involve a high level of Aboriginal community protocol and participation in official proceedings and associated activities. Established in 1986, the Archibald Lecture is Australia’s longest running university lecture in honour of an Aboriginal person and is dedicated to Mr Frank Archibald, a revered Aboriginal community member of the Armidale area, as well as his descendants and Aboriginal people of the New England region.

Several UNE research projects specifically relate to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander issues and culture, linking with UNE curriculum and extensive community involvement. One example is the ARC research project (commenced in 2012) on 'Indigenous heritage: working ancient wetlands for social benefit and cultural understanding' which focuses on the local New England region, and its archaeology. This research is being carried out in partnership with a number of Local Aboriginal Land Councils and in 2015 involved field trips to sites of significance with participation from UNE’s archaeology discipline, Aboriginal cultural advisors and young Aboriginal people engaging in training and education.

UNE’s Indigenous Education Research Network (IERN) lead by academics in the School of Education (SOE) during 2015 worked in partnership with Oorala, an Aboriginal Advisory Group and researchers from other UNE Schools, to align SOE’s research with Aboriginal-determined priorities. The IERN has worked towards addressing areas such as greater inclusion of Aboriginal perspectives in the Teacher Education curriculum, and how research, pedagogical and institutional practices engage with Indigenous knowledge. The Network also supports development of relevant research projects by SOE staff and HDR students, building research capacity that will contribute to addressing Indigenous disadvantage in education.

Oorala Aboriginal Centre’s Role in Cultural Competency at UNE

  • The School of Education (SOE) at UNE runs a joint program with the NSW Department of Education to provide scholarships for students to teach in high Aboriginal student enrolment schools, and to undertake a program to prepare them for this context. In this program students take two units, one through Oorala, and in the School of Education, to address specific issues in working with Aboriginal children in schools and with their local communities. Placements in 2015 included Moree, Grafton, Dubbo, and Gilgandra. This is a highly successful program that involves excellent partnerships between Oorala, SOE and schools and communities throughout NSW.
  • Since 2015, Oorala has supported the Enhanced Teacher Education Internships, a Department of Education Initiative which places high achieving teacher education students in schools with a high Indigenous student population. As part of their program, 10 students were required to enrol in OORA200 in 2015.
  • OORA units offered through Oorala have enhanced the opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students to study Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content within their degrees.
  • Oorala includes Aboriginal guest presenters in lectures for OORA units and input from the Elder-in-Residence and other Aboriginal staff into cultural perspectives for the Centre’s TRACKS Program. Program activities included excursions to local sites of cultural significance with community presenters.
  • Oorala Aboriginal Student Support staff provide input to UNE First Year Advisors on cultural awareness training.
  • Oorala’s Elder-in-Residence presents Welcome to Country at official UNE events and in Oorala’s student activities, also participating on several local community committees and boards and providing consultation to UNE projects such as the ‘Ancient Wetlands’ project.
  • Oorala and Aboriginal staff continued to support the East Armidale Community Garden, a postdoctoral research project Nourishing Culture and Developing Social Capital in a Community Garden. The project leader collaborates with members of Armidale's Aboriginal community and local organisations as partners, to develop a garden in East Armidale on the border of Narwan Village, a former Aboriginal reserve, with a focus on positive engagement with place through caring for Country. The East Armidale Indigenous Community Garden is a collaborative project with involvement of the Aboriginal Oorala Centre, TAFE New England, Jobs Australia, Best Employment, the Clontarf Academy (Armidale High School), The Armidale School and UNE.
  • The 2015 Frank Archibald Memorial Lecture was presented by Professor Rhonda Marriott, (PhD Murd., RN, Midwife), Professor, Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing, Murdoch University, WA. Prof Marriott presented her lecture on ‘Valuing Ngaarda Ways in Research’, speaking about cultural safety and ethical research practice in partnerships with Aboriginal people of the Pilbara, region of WA. Through Oorala’s engagement associated with her visit, Prof Marriott met with local Aboriginal health professionals and UNE academics to discuss issues in Aboriginal health research.
  • Oorala’s 2015 community engagement was increased involvement by local Aboriginal Elders’ groups in the Centre’s events, programs and student support activities.
  • Oorala’s Director and senior staff attended   the following to maintain development of cultural competency within the   Centre’s role at UNE:
    • September–October – National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network (NIRAKN) and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium Aboriginal Corporation (NATSIHEC-AC) (Adelaide), Dr Rhonda Wilson.
    • October – The Australia New Zealand Society for Ecological Economics (ANZSEE) 2015 Conference “Thriving Through Transformation – Local to Global Sustainability” University of New England Business School, Armidale. Indigenous Participant Sponsorship, Dr Rhonda Wilson.
    • November – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium, Aboriginal Corporation (NATSIHEC-AC) (Melbourne), Mr Gregory Davison.
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