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University champions sector-wide Indigenous Strategy

indigenous gathering
The University of Southern Queensland is determined to be bolder and more ambitious in its approach to improving outcomes for First Nations peoples.

The University welcomed Universities Australia’s second sector-wide Indigenous Strategy, which delivers stronger outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in universities.

University of Southern Queensland Vice-Chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie said the 2022 25 Indigenous Strategy outlined a number of key pillars that would help shape and drive the University’s future work.

“Now is the time to be bolder and more ambitious. Universities Australia’s Indigenous Strategy directs universities to do that. We are committed to developing more effective and better targeted ways to support, engage, and respond to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, staff, and communities,” Professor Mackenzie said.

“The key focus areas of the Strategy underpin the incredible amount of work we have done to date, but we’re determined to work more closely with communities to improve outcomes for and with First Nations peoples.

“We’re finalising a blueprint that provides a strategic pathway plan to improving First Nations student outcomes, staff involvement, research, and curriculum.”

Professor Mackenzie said the key focus areas of the Strategy include:

• Working harder to support more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to complete degrees and move into positive post-study outcomes;
• Strengthening pathways for staff career advancement and representation at all levels of their institutions;
• Systematically measuring universities’ efforts to identify both successes and areas where more work is needed;
• Improving cultural safety and taking action on racism against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by implementing Indigenous-specific anti-racism strategies; and
• Recognising the value Indigenous people and knowledges bring to the university and embedding Indigenous value systems and knowledges in teaching and research.

“Under our Reconciliation Action Plan, the University has established strong engagement and partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that have helped improve the number of First Nations people participating in higher education,” Professor Mackenzie said.

“We are committed to our ongoing reconciliation work and aim to – in partnership with the University’s First Nations leaders, staff and communities – build on improvements we have made in access and participation by implementing tailored and targeted services to support student success and equity and enrich the student experience.

“This requires a sharper focus on student retention and completion.”

Last year, the University welcomed inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor (First Nations Education and Research) Professor Tony Dreise.

He said a significant part of the Strategy was a commitment to tackle racism against First Nations peoples.

“Aboriginal people have been subjected to discrimination, including on university campuses, for too long,” Professor Dreise said.

“Universities need to be far better than that behaviour.

“We need to provide places built on higher ground.

“Our job at the University of Southern Queensland will be to say, ‘racism has no place at our university’.”

Professor Dreise said embedding more “truth” and culture in the higher education curriculum would help break down the barriers many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face and create a more respectful and supportive university environment.

“We need to do more in pursuing research projects that improve the lives and environments of First Peoples,” Professor Dreise said.

“We would be well served by having more First Nations people as students, staff and community partners.”