A foundation subject drawing on the award-winning TV series Redfern Now will be among the first elements of an initiative to expand Indigenous content in curricula across the University of Technology Sydney.
The subject is being developed by the Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (CAIK), formally launched this week following the appointment last year of three renowned Indigenous education scholars to lead the development of an Indigenous Graduate Attribute (IGA) for the university.
The centre, co-sponsored by the university and its pathway provider UTS:INSEARCH, has the core objective of ensuring that all UTS graduates have Indigenous professional competency as appropriate to their profession. The centre will also offer postgraduate programs in Indigenous education from 2018.
"UTS acknowledges that due to past practices many non-Indigenous Australians have limited understanding of Indigenous Australia," said UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs.
"In seeking to encourage an inclusive Australian identity, as well as raise the standard of professional service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, UTS is committed to ensuring that all its students have the opportunity to gain rigorous knowledge of Indigenous Australians."
The subject in development, Aboriginal Sydney Now, is intended as an introductory subject suitable for students in all disciplines, using the Redfern Now series as a springboard to explore current and historical ideas about culture, country and community.
It will be delivered online, but will require some practical engagement with Indigenous culture in Sydney.
"As far as we're aware this stand-alone Indigenous centre based approach to embedding Indigenous Knowledges in the curriculum university-wide is unprecedented," said Professor Susan Page, a core member of the CAIK team along with centre director Professor Michelle Trudgett, and Associate Professor Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews.
At the centre's launch Professor Trudgett described the development of the IGA as "a ground breaking intellectual exercise of mammoth proportions."
Professor Page said that in the past year the CAIK team had established relationships across the university's faculties and units and soon would begin professional development with academic staff.
"There are areas, such as health and education, where the process is quite advanced. In particular the Faculty of Health has already done a lot of work to incorporate Indigenous Knowledges into the Bachelor of Nursing and Bachelor of Midwifery degrees," Professor Page said.
"The value of this knowledge in other fields should not be underestimated. Many employers are looking for people with skills in working collaboratively with Indigenous people.
"A 2014 report by the Business Council of Australia found that 85 per cent of the companies surveyed were pursuing Indigenous engagement activities. When asked about barriers to developing an Indigenous engagement strategy, lack of expertise was cited as one of the main issues."