Why I Applied for Associate Fellow (Indigenous) of the HEA

Dr Kathryn Kelly and Dr Andrew Demasson

Meet staff members Dr Kathryn Kelly and Dr Andrew Demasson and learn more about why they chose to apply for Associate Fellow (Indigenous) of the HEA and how they integrate Indigenous perspectives into their practice.

In 2022, Universities Australia (UA) launched the 2022-25 Indigenous Strategy which builds upon its predecessor but shifts gears from aspiration to implementation. In this strategy, embedding Indigenous value systems and knowledges into university structures is outlined a key priority area. The strategy states:

“Indigenous people should lead efforts to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate the embedding of Indigenous value systems and knowledges into university structures and into research. This includes embedding these knowledges into curricula, and formal strategies that ensure that students take with them a strong foundational understanding of Indigenous values and knowledges.”

QUT is committed to embedding Indigenous knowledges into curricula. The professional development modules, Indigenous Perspectives in Learning and Teaching and Applying for AFHEA (Indigenous), have been enabling staff to develop their understanding of embedding Indigenous perspectives and content into curriculum and practice across all disciplines at QUT.

In addition, QUT offers the specialist Award of Associate Fellow (Indigenous) of the HEA, which is a joint initiative by the QUT Academy of Learning and Teaching and the QUT Carumba Institute. This provides recognition for staff who have an emerging engagement with Indigenous perspectives. Applications are independently assessed by a panel of reviewers. Each reviewer is appropriately experienced and trained and at least one panel member will be an Indigenous staff member.

Dr Kathryn Kelly
Dr Kathryn Kelly, Associate Fellow (Indigenous) of the HEA Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice Faculty, School of Creative Practice

Dr Kathryn Kelly

Why I chose to apply for Associate Fellow (Indigenous) of the HEA

One of the reasons I chose to come to work at QUT was the long-term focus on attracting and supporting First Nations students and embedding First Nations knowledge in curriculum and pedagogy. This is most publicly and formally embedded in the QUT Blueprint, but is also, in my experience, a lived value with staff and in our collegial culture. This is not to say that we don’t have a long way to go to improve and strengthen this commitment. We do. There is so much more to do. But in my area, QUT Acting and Drama, we have a proud history of First Nations alumnus and it is that sense of a community of practice that sustains me and gives me a sense of excitement for the future.

So, when the AFHEA (Indigenous) award was advertised, I leapt at the opportunity to participate and I can say, wholeheartedly, that it was such a useful experience. The associated Indigenous Perspectives in Learning and Teaching module was rich with material but designed in a way that you could work through the material at your own time and pace. The staff were so supportive and went out of their way to assist at every point. And the ‘rights-based’ information and approach was useful in providing a general framework that you could adapt to your particular field or practice really well. I would urge any staff to consider completing the Fellowship!

Ways I integrate Indigenous perspectives into my practice

I think the most important way to is to listen to the First Nations voices in your own staff, field of research or collegial or personal networks. White pioneering is such a danger, especially for academics who are so eager to help and whose identity is tied up with supporting change. We also have access to First Nations led institutional resources at QUT – the Carumba Institute, the Oodgeroo Unit and some of the most extraordinary First Nations academics. In my School of Creative Practice, we have one of the most gifted digital media artists in Australia – Dr Leah King-Smith who is our Indigenous Lead and of course Professor Wesley Enoch – who is a nationally recognised thought leader.

Secondly, understand the field is changing rapidly. In my field of performance studies and theatre, there has been this once-in-a generation cultural resurgence, so assumptions or ideas that were current even three years ago have been superseded, joyfully, by a wave of new thinkers and theatre repertory.

Thirdly, try to build relationships and to leave time to consult and to build the pedagogical approaches with your teaching practice. For example, I have a module in my Unit, KTB217 Story and Performance, on Oral Storytelling, that is offered first up in the Unit and introduces, honours and contextualises traditions of First Nations oral storytelling before we move onto written forms of story (playwrighting and writing for live audiences). When I was developing the Unit, I sought advice from the Oodgeroo Unit about appropriate First Nations knowledge frameworks; and then again with the Carumba Institute as part of AFHEA (Indigenous) Fellowship process and shaped the curriculum and changed it on advice from staff in both those areas. I have consistently employed First Nations tutors and lectures and where possible, if advice has been offered, I have changed and re-shaped the Unit to reflect that advice. I think being in constant dialogue with First Nations practitioners and colleagues, reciprocally, offering support as well as asking for advice, that is the way we move forward together.

Dr Andrew Demasson
Dr Andrew Demasson, AFHEA & Associate Fellow (Indigenous) of the HEA Faculty of Science, School of Information Systems

Dr Andrew Demasson

Why I enrolled in Indigenous Perspectives in Learning and Teaching

With my teaching, I’d been trying ways of embedding Indigenous perspectives for several years but wanted to do it better, with more awareness, understanding, and value to the students and the Indigenous community. The AFHEA(Indigenous) gave me a greater understanding of how I could do that but also an understanding of the challenges we all face to embed more thoroughly, respectfully, and impactfully. It also provided me with recognised training delivered by an outstanding team of Indigenous academics and professionals.

I do believe the AFHEA (Indigenous) should be mandatory training for all our teaching staff (if not all professional staff as well). We want to improve success and retention levels for Indigenous students and make QUT (as well as higher education in general) a safer, more welcoming environment for them. This shows our commitment to that kind of change and provides us with resources and a network of similarly invested colleagues who can support our efforts and challenge us to keep improving the way we engage with our Indigenous communities.

Ways I integrate Indigenous perspectives into my practice

I use discourse around the Acknowledgment of Country as a stepping-stone to discussions around ethical practice relating to topics such as information sovereignty and respectful acknowledgement of ownership relating to information, ideas, practices, and images. That discussion allows me to discuss ethics but do so in a way that embeds Indigenous perspectives and histories into the practices we’re trying to get our students to engage with. It’s proven to be a very rich way of dealing with those topics while also showing how Indigenous experiences relate to the education we’re trying to deliver.

On the simplest level, a page on every one of my units is dedicated to an Acknowledgment of Traditional Owners and a Welcome to Country video. Simple, but I believe they should be part of every unit’s Blackboard site. If we don’t make those things visible, expected and routine then they’re easily forgotten or they’re a novelty when we do them. To me, embedding Indigenous perspectives into my practice must go beyond units of discourse and into how I approach all my teaching activities whether it’s what I say, how I say it, or how I show it.

What to know more?

These courses are open to any academic or professional staff engaged in teaching and support for learning in the higher education sector. Explore ways to successfully engage with and integrate Indigenous perspectives into your approaches to teaching and learning within a Higher Education context. Find out more here.

Author: Credit to QUT Academy of Learning and Teaching

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