Ting indigenous cu

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It might appear self-evident that Australian law schools should teach Indigenous Cultural Competencies (ICC) and perspectives as part of their curriculum.1 If it is not, then the Universities Australia (UA) 2011 Cultural Competency Framework Report2 reiterates the importance of an inclusive curriculum.3 However, UA recognises that to be done effectively, there needs to be provision in such a curriculum for Indigenous cultural competency,4 If this premise is correct then, in addition to the appropriate pedagogical considerations that underlie good teaching generally, developing ICC among a cohort of students necessitates the addition of structured and targeted but safe ‘Indigenous space’ within the curriculum5

one that provides an opportunity for constructive engagement.
* ANU College of Law and Senior Research Fellow and Higher Degree Research (HDR) Programme Manager, National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the ANU He is a member of the National Indigenous Researchers and Knowledges Network (NIRAKN). The author would like to acknowledge Dr Cressida Fordes comments on the early draft.

1 Many countries recognise their First Nations Peoples and it would seem reasonable to improve the broader communitys understanding of these peoples. Further Australia endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (‘DRIP’): United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples GA/RES/61/295, UNGAOR, 61st sess, 107th plen mtg, Supp No 49, UN Doc A/RES/61/295, UNGAOR ( 13 September 2007); and ANU law students, as future lawyers and leaders, will be expected to have some familiarity with DRIP. Hence some formal study of these areas would greatly assist law students while simultaneously improving the level of cultural competence generally.

2 Universities Australia, National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities (Canberra, 2011) 52; Denise Bradley et al, Review of Australian Higher Education: Final Report (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2008) [Referred to as the UACC Report hereafter].

3 UACC Report, above n 2, 52; UACC Report xxvi, also recommended the incorporation of Indigenous knowledges in the broader curriculum.

4 Universities Australia, Guiding Principles for the Development of Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities, (Canberra, October 2011) 3. [Referred to as the UACC Guiding Principles hereafter]

5 See discussion at n 26 below.

This ‘space’ should be characterised by an opportunity for students to engage with fellow Indigenous students, who in turn should feel safe for the sometimes confronting nature of the material, which often originates in their communities or sometimes even has links to their families. Engagement takes place at both an individual and group level, and introduces a broad range of subjective, informed Indigenous perspectives.

While a great deal of lip service is often paid to these goals of inclusion in higher education, there is a paucity of good practice. There is also a dearth of knowledge, research and information on Indigenous knowledges and perspectives. The Australian Research Council (ARC) arguably has recognised this gap and has funded an extensive network of several Indigenous researchers from a range of disciplines under the leadership of the internationally renowned professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson,6 the National Indigenous Researchers and Knowledges Network (NIRAKN). The network could significantly contribute to the volume of Indigenous knowledge and hence to improve ICC.7

There are many important reasons for incorporating Indigenous knowledges into the broader curriculum and a full discussion of this issue is outside the scope of this paper. However, a society that believes and characterises itself as a ‘knowledge nation’8 must give some consideration to the custodians of knowledge of the land and its waters even if only for its practical benefits. On a more ordinary level, Prime Minister Abbott, then Leader of the Opposition, aptly put this as ‘[Australia] is the envy of the earth, except for one thing

we have never fully made peace with the First Australians’.9


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