How does ‘race' have an impact on our lives? What is a ‘racial autobiography'? And what are the hidden obstacles that Indigenous students have to overcome as they undertake their studies?
These are just some of the questions that challenged the staff members from UWA Albany and the Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management who recently took part in a pilot program aimed at increasing cultural awareness on campus.
The first part of the program, Courageous Conversations about Race, led by Malcolm Fialho, Senior Diversity Officer at UWA, soon had staff thinking deeply about their own heritage and their assumptions about people from backgrounds different from their own.
During the second day of the program, Indigenous Dialogues toward Cultural Competence, Indigenous Employment Officer Adam Casley and Assistant Professor Clint Bracknell from the School of Indigenous Studies encouraged staff to think about culturally-appropriate ways of engaging with the wider Indigenous community.
"The program is designed to foster self-reflection, enable participants to undertake an ‘on country' learning experience and move towards developing and implementing specific protocols and practices to further improve university services and crosscultural interaction," explained Assistant Professor Bracknell.
Staff at the UWA Albany Centre were also asked to think critically about the cultural assumptions made in many textbooks and to consider how they could increase the Indigenous-specific content of the courses they taught.
"New Courses will be rolled out in 2012 with aims to embed Indigenous content across a range of disciplines," A/ P rofessor Bracknell said. "This pilot program is a step toward achieving those aims, through establishing a dialogue and providing resources."
Marilyn Strother, Director of Indigenous Student Services, outlined the support available to Indigenous students both for those studying in Albany and for those facing the challenge of moving away from the region and local support networks.
Acting Director of the UWA Albany Centre, Jenni Flottmann, said it was exciting that UWA Albany had been chosen to be part of the pilot program.
"UWA Albany has been identified as a prime trial site for delivering the program due to its regional location, because we offer courses to Indigenous students, and because of our important connections with the local Indigenous community," she said.
"A particular highlight for many of the staff was the opportunity to participate in an ‘on country' learning experience led by local Noongar elder Lynette Knapp to view sites of cultural significance and to learn about the history and the landscape from the perspective of the Indigenous people of the region," she said.
For further information on the Indigenous Dialogues toward Cultural Competence pilot program please contact the School of Indigenous Studies on 6488 3428.
For further information about matters relating to Equity and Diversity on campus please contact Malcolm Fialho, Senior Diversity Officer.
Published in UWA News, 1 November 2010