Indigenous Science Cultural competency

Indigenous Science is an area of emerging interest for cultural and scientific understanding, and a mechanism for empowering Australia’s diverse first nations peoples.  After centuries without any attention, the change is very welcome. However, great care needs to be taken to ensure educational resources are made and shared in consultation with experts. Central to this is that perspectives and pedagogies of Australia’s first peoples should be respected. All non-Indigenous educators working in this space should actively seek out robust cultural competency training, read and watch material generated by experts with cultural relevance, and work at building relationships with local groups. Almost all universities have an Indigenous Engagement office and it is important to seek out the relevant representatives so they can also guide your work. 

Centre for Cultural Competence Australia: – The Centre for Cultural Competence Australia (CCCA) is a majority Indigenous-owned consulting and cultural training organisation with an outcomes-based approach that delivers real and lasting change at a personal and professional level. CCCA is the provider of Australia’s only accredited online competence based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Competence Course. An information pack can be found here.

Cc Summary Slide

Institutional training – most large universities will have their own training either provided by a contractor who specialises in this field, or someone from the Indigenous engagement body at the university. It is very important to seek this training out for everyone involved in any venture into designing Indigenous Science curriculum. It might not be easy to find and it might need to be organised specifically for you and your coworkers.

General guides – “A beginner’s guide to incorporating Aboriginal perspectives into Engineering curricula” was developed for use with the Engineering curriculum but it applies equally across the STEM disciplines. This resource is an excellent place to start if you are new to the idea of teaching Indigenous knowledges and perspectives.  Below the authors some important aspects of Culture. 

“Consideration of the concepts Culture and the Right Place will be around identifying the daily function of the place where you’ve chosen to meet. The important issue is awareness of how the function of the place aligns with day-to-day activities of the Aboriginal people you are meeting. If the culture of the place is not aligned with the culture of the people, this will obviously impact the outcomes of the engagement. Establishing the rightness of a place in regard to culture, requires ensuring you have explicit agreement, from the people themselves and/or those who are making the introductions.”

AIATSIS has recently published an important guide that you can use as an educator that helps you work through questions you should ask when you are building or reviewing a resource, or asked to help a colleague with. This resource is also something that you might want to work through together with colleagues if you are going on a learning journey together. Additionally, this resource lists other sources that might give you and your colleagues more depth or breadth of understanding.

Recognised or Statutory Parties – each state has a slightly different system for identifying government recognised parties. If you are working in a given area it is important to understand first, if there is a recognised or statutory party, and then who is that group. In the “Engaging with Community” section of  A beginner’s guide to incorporating Aboriginal perspectives into Engineering curricula” Jade Kennedy and co-workers explain the “five right” to engaging with Community. This is an excellent start to your journey in understanding how to engage with Community and should be read by anyone starting out on that journey. 

Local Councils – These groups often have education or outreach staff that work in the Indigenous education and engagement space. The type and volume of work these staff carry out depend a great deal on the demographics of the local area. In councils that have dedicated staff to perform outreach work at schools and community events, there is a reasonable chance that you can find someone to talk to about educational ideas. You may even get connections to other local groups.