Progression (access and outcomes)

2. Progression (access and outcomes)

Your response to this area needs to address the following points:

  • strategies to improve unit success rates and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students;
  • the rise or fall of success/progression rates;
  • the number and level (UG/PG) of study for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students that received tutorial assistance in 2017;
  • the size of the Indigenous Support Unit or other Indigenous student support activities;
  • strategies to improve the cultural competency of staff and/ or to ensure the university offers a culturally safe and enriching environment; and
  • which strategies are directly funded by ISSP, partly funded by ISSP or funded by other university resources

2.1    Success rate and retention

Since the introduction of Oorala’s Integrated Student Engagement Plan in mid-2016, the Targeted Tutorial Assistance Program has shown encouraging results. Throughout 2016 and 2017, the Oorala Aboriginal Centre introduced a number of strategies designed to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student outcomes. During 2016 Oorala transformed its practices to a pro-active model of student engagement. This was essential as students reported through the University Experience Survey (Quill) that they felt less engaged and supported compared to other students at UNE.

New pro-active measures introduced in 2016 and 2017 included:

  • Providing greater flexibility in the delivery of tutorial assistance, including the expansion of the program to cover enabling courses and greater promotion of tutorial assistance;
  • Developing a new approach to case management support of “At-risk” students in cooperation with Student Administration Services;
  • Improving the use of technology to contact Aboriginal students via UNE’s Student Relationship Management (SRM) System, developing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Moodle Site (The Hub), expanding the use of Facebook, and pro-active contact with students at the time of their enrolment (pre-commencement).

These measures appear to have had a tangible effect on the uptake of tutorial assistance, access to the Oorala Aboriginal Centre, requests for support and the use of SRM and Moodle in providing support services and follow-up of student inquiries. The Grade Point Average (GPA – the average result of all the grades achieved throughout a degree) for Indigenous students receiving tuition at UNE rose substantially and the GPA gap between non-Indigenous students and Indigenous students taking up tutorial support has narrowed dramatically, to just 0.34 in Trimester 2 2017.

Retention and success of Indigenous student has remained a challenge. Some encouraging signs are noteworthy:

  • At our 2018 autumn graduation, UNE has graduated 44 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students — more than ever before in an autumn graduation cohort.
  • The number of continuing Indigenous students in 2018 has risen significantly from 379 in Trimester 1 2017 to 429 in Trimester 1 2018: a 13% improvement.

The Progress Rate for Indigenous students enrolled in award courses in 2017 was 64.5% (Student progress rate (SPR) based on weekly extract data – prepared 26/03/2018, SPR = EFTSL passed / EFTSL completed (includes: pass, fail, withdraw; excludes: result unknown).

School of Business and Law

The UNE Business School and School of Law used HEPPP funding to appoint a full time Aboriginal student support officer to provide both support to existing UNE Business & Law students, and to engage with year 10–12 high school students from the New England and north-west regions of NSW to encourage university participation and interest in careers in business and law. Twelve high schools were visited and over 200 students engaged with.

In conjunction with the Oorala Centre, two Aboriginal Youth Development high school student camps (one male, one female) where held during the year, with the direct involvement of the Schools Aboriginal Support Officer. Approximately 60 students attended the camps, with specific educational awareness sessions run the Business and Law Schools, including a mock trial in the UNE Moot Court, and financial management & careers sessions in the Business School.

School of Education

The School of Education held and Indigenous Student Lunch. This was hosted in the School of Education by Adele Nye with School funds.

School of Health

The School of Health:

  • Provides units in the TRACKS (Tertiary Preparation Program) – a tertiary preparation course (Foundation
  • Studies) run by the Oorala Aboriginal Centre;
  • Has a cadetship with NSW Health – offered to Indigenous nursing students entering an undergraduate degree;
  • Uses Oorala’s Direct Entry (Interview Pathway) – an alternative pathway for enrolment for Indigenous nursing student.

The School employed an Indigenous Student Liaison Officer (Aboriginal Health) to provide academic and other support.

2.2    Tutorial and other assistance provided (2017 breakdown)

Assistance typeLevel of studyNumber of students assistedHours of assistance$
Tutorial assistanceUndergraduate712,907 
Total 1033,977 

In 2017 Oorala employed a dedicated staff member in our Student Support team to manage our tutoring program. We also embarked on a project, in partnership with UNE IT Services, to build an online system to handle applications from tutors and students, matching students with tutors and the payment system. The basic elements of this system were launched in late 2017 and development continues in 2018.

As per the GPA figures on page 9 of this report, tutoring has a significant impact on the GPA and success rate of Indigenous students. Oorala continues to prioritise academic support and tutoring.

2.3    Size of the Oorala Aboriginal Centre

Oorala had around 20 staff at the end of 2017. The Centre has experienced consistent growth in staff over the last few years, matching UNE’s growth in Indigenous student numbers. The Centre’s HEPPP and teaching revenue continues to increase, as per our accompanying budget statement.

UNE uses 100% of its ISSP grant to be administered by Oorala for the support of Indigenous students.

2.4    Cultural competence – curriculum

The units offered by the Oorala Aboriginal Centre

Students taking the units offered by Oorala:

OORA100 Aboriginal Resilience and the Arts333544
OORA200 Working with Aboriginal People172340382
OORA300 Aboriginal Resilience and the Arts8512
OORA400 Working with Aboriginal People1255
OORA100Bachelor of Music 

TRACKS Tertiary Preparation Program

Bachelor of Education (K-6 Teaching)

Diploma in Music Skills

Diploma in Professional Communication


Bachelor of Nursing
(Rule (a) and (d);
Rule (b),
Rule (c))

Bachelor of Social Work

Master of Nursing Practice

Advanced Diploma in Arts (Indigenous Studies)

Bachelor of Arts (Indigenous Studies)

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Business (Bachelor of Arts component – Indigenous Studies)

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws (Bachelor of Arts component – Indigenous Studies)

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science (Bachelor of Arts component – Indigenous Studies)

Bachelor of Education (Primary) (Schedule 2 – Contextual Studies in Education; Rural and Remote Education and Indigenous Communities)

Bachelor of Audiometry (General Program)

Bachelor of Criminology

Bachelor of Criminology/Bachelor of Laws (Bachelor of Criminology component)

Bachelor of Education (K-6 Teaching) (English; Language; Mathematics; Science and Technology)

Bachelor of Educational Studies

Bachelor of Social Science (Aboriginal Perspectives)

Diploma in Business (Indigenous Organisation Management)

Diploma in Community Welfare and Wellbeing (General Program)

Diploma in Educational Studies

Diploma in Professional Communication

Graduate Certificate in Arts


Advanced Diploma in Arts (Indigenous Studies)

Bachelor of Arts (Indigenous Studies)

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Business (Bachelor of Arts component – Indigenous Studies)

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science (Bachelor of Arts component – Indigenous Studies)

Bachelor of Media and Communications (Media and Culture; Writing and Publishing)

Bachelor of Social Science (Aboriginal Perspectives)

Bachelor of Theatre and Performance

Graduate Certificate in Arts

Master of Arts (Theatre and Performance – Rule (a), (b))

OORA400 Master of Arts (Indigenous Studies – Rule (c))

Graduate Certificate in Arts (Theatre and Performance – Rule (a) and (b))

Master of Nursing

Master of Nursing (General Program


  • The School of Arts Operational Plan 2016–2018 included a new initiative – Indigenous Arts and Knowledge – with the School to become a hub for the development of Indigenous-based arts curricula aimed at recruiting and retaining higher Indigenous student numbers and developing high-profile branding around Indigenous research and epistemologies, especially related to the creative arts.
  • COMM381/581: The Art of Documentary. This unit includes modules on The Language of (Australian) Cinema;
  • THEA318:  Minorities and Majorities in Australian Theatre. This unit explores issues of power and identity (including gender, race, class and sexuality) within the context of recent Australian Theatre. Some of the topics to be covered are: women's theatre; multicultural theatre; Aboriginal theatre; and gay and lesbian theatre.


  • The BCSS Teaching and Learning Committee flagged making OORA 200 (run by Oorala) as a core or listed unit in courses offered by the School for 2018–19.
  • The Clinical Psychology Program provided students with a two-day intensive school delivered by an Aboriginal Psychologist to support an understanding of sociocultural issues relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • The School had 21 units with some Indigenous content including languages, linguistics, (e.g. LING 244 Language and the Law), psychology and sociology.
  • Indigenous issues are a feature of most of the criminology units (such as: CRIM314, CRIM324, CRIM305, CRIM306), which include Indigenous perspectives provided by guest lecturers.
  • The staff at the Institute of Rural Futures (IRF) had research projects looking at Indigenous natural resource management and involved indigenous HDR students.
  • The School worked with Oorala to include Aboriginal water rights in the environmental change unit (GEPL308/508).


Indigenous content is embedded in a number of courses and units through UNE Business School, e.g. MM591 ‘Managing Across Cultures’ and MM545 ‘Organisational Leadership’ which includes topics regarding ‘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.


  • Acknowledgement of Country is included at the beginning of every formal lecture (and lecture recording).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultures and Histories is a cross-curriculum priority area in the Australian Curriculum. Selected resources, texts for student analysis and readings incorporating Indigenous perspectives are included in unit materials and activities.
  • All Course and Unit Coordinators are specifically invited to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, readings and education implications in their courses and units. All Education courses (undergraduate and postgraduate) include Aboriginal Education units, which detail Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and also cover the history of education, policy and government acts in Australia with implications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Environmental and Rural Sciences

  • Traditional Ecological knowledge is taught in first year in ECOL100 (Ecology: Concepts and Applications) and at higher levels (e.g. EM353 Conservation Biology). Our lecturers explain that Science is one of many knowledge systems, but that it is important to consider other systems for additional information that can inform holistic management of ecosystems. An important axiom of what we teach is that traditional knowledge depends on country for its context and significance, and that Aboriginal systems of knowledge are place and people specific.
  • Indigenous perspectives are examined in the first year curriculum in unit RSNR110: Sustaining our Rural Environment 1 – taken by all environmental, agricultural and engineering courses in the School of ERS through field excursions, lectures and in class discussions. At the end of this unit students: understand the importance of land to cultural and spiritual identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; know recent changes in legal opinion and government policy in relation to native title and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage; and appreciate the significance of changes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They are examined on their cultural understanding in the final examination;
  • ERS includes a core unit at third year – EM312 Environmental Impact Assessment – where students learn about indigenous considerations and requirements for development. There are speakers in from Office of Environment and Heritage to explain the policy and legal safeguards for indigenous cultural heritage. Students are examined on this;
  • Throughout the programs ERS also have a number of elective units that consider natural resource management and policy in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional and contemporary culture values are addressed.
  • In 2016 ERS had a review of Environmental Science courses at UNE and the Oorala Aboriginal Centre provided comprehensive consultation response as below. Consequently, one of the recommendations in the review report was for increased and mapped integration of Indigenous perspectives into the degree and units, and to work with the Oorala Centre to explore pathways to better enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to pursue the degrees. The recommendations of the report are for a 5 year period. To work with the Oorala Centre is to be implemented.


As part of a curriculum review, Social Work staff consulted with Oorala to get feedback on new units to involving Indigenous content to ensure they were culturally appropriate.


Ten Indigenous studies units are offered by the School of Humanities, covering diverse areas such as Indigenous History, Health and Community Development.

Rural Medicine

The Joint Medical Program (with the University of Newcastle) (JMP) 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 environment 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 course outcomes that were added to the BMedSc/MD which are specific to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders are:

  • demonstrate that they respect and embrace the history, culture and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and
  • demonstrate that they are committed to providing culturally competent, holistic, patient-centred care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

For the Unit MEDI1101A, the specific unit outcomes are:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the core principles of cultural competence and the skills for sensitively identifying patients of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin;
  • apply fundamental tools and principles of epidemiology to identify and measure the burden of illness of major health challenges facing Australia and other countries, including the gaps in health status and outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • apply fundamental tools and principles of epidemiology to identify and measure the burden of illness of major health challenges facing Australia and other countries, including the gaps in health status and outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Science and Technology

  • PHAR210 Pharmacy Practice I – Team written case study: students are required to develop a case on cross-cultural communication when trying to explain how medicines work. While not specifically stipulated, the majority of students choose to develop a case involving an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patient;
  • PHAR222 Pharmacology I – Specific discussion of the differences in the risk factors and incidence/prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australian populations;
  • PHAR310 Pharmacy Practice II – Specific discussion of cross-cultural communication with regards to patient counselling of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with cardiovascular disease and discussion of differences in responses to medicines across different racial/ethnic groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals;
  • PHAR320 Pharmacy Practice III – Day-long Cultural Awareness training with Dave Widders, a local Anaiwan man. This was increased from the half-day session provided previously. Specific discussion of cross-cultural communication with regards to patient counselling of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with mental health disorders and discussion of differences in responses to medicines across different racial/ethnic groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals;
  • PHAR410 Pharmacy Practice IV and PHAR420 Pharmacy Practice V – Reinforce discussions from PHAR310 and PHAR320 regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with cardiovascular disease and/or mental health disorders


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, LAW272, 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 people.

2.5    Cultural competence of staff and cultural safety of students

In 2017 a total of 112 staff participated in the Cultural Connections workshops from February to November. The aim of this program is to affect positive change at an individual, structural and organisational level and our approach to the way that we engage with, employ and retain our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce.

The Senior HR Consultant (Aboriginal Employment) and 15 other staff and students from UNE attended the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE) in Toronto, Canada. This was a great opportunity to share and draw on the successes of strategies for culturally grounded Indigenous education from across the globe.

The Senior HR Consultant Aboriginal Employment, Pam Widders, continued her ongoing consultation meetings with Faculties and Directorates around Aboriginal employment opportunities and providing a culturally inclusive environment for all staff.

Ms Widders presented workshops to medical students and staff on working with Aboriginal communities to staff and students in the School of Rural Medicine and School of Health (Nursing).

UNE has established a Diversity Advisory Group, consisting of student and staff representatives. The Advisory Group is chaired by an external representative and reports directly to the Vice-Chancellor. This group has Aboriginal staff representation and has the remit to review all relevant policies, rules and procedures.

The 8 undergraduate students who attended the WIPCE conference were fund from HEPPP. All other initiatives were funded from within the university’s operating budget.


The School established a dedicated Indigenous Research room for postgraduate and undergraduate students to hold meetings, workshop their research, and mentor students in the Arts Building.

The School continued the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scholars program with three HDR students continuing to receive scholarships from UNE to pursue their studies.

During 2017 the School supported Indigenous students to attend national and international conferences including: presentation at the Australian Screen Production, Education and Research Association conference on the Gold Coast; and participation in the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE) in Toronto, Canada.


In 2017 the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences created a “Respecting Indigeneity in BCSS” strategy, focusing on creating an environment that was inclusive of, and respectful towards, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and in which they are given every opportunity to succeed in their studies. Specific changes introduced by the School included:

  • Strategies to promote cultural safety;
  • An increase in Indigenous knowledges into curriculum, pedagogy and epistemology;
  • Strategies to promote existing services available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students;
  • Use of Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country in School lectures and events;
  • Proposal to create a part time position (initially 0.2) for an Aboriginal Liaison Person.

Business and Law

The School’s Aboriginal Support Officer delivered several presentations to both Schools to raise awareness of the general number of Aboriginal students that were in those Schools. The Support Officer met with many individual academics to raise awareness of the perception that Aboriginal students may feel more isolated than non-Indigenous students. It was also necessary to inform the academic staff that there were Aboriginal students in most of their units, but most academics were unaware of them.

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