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TRANSCRIPT: Tales4Teaching ep. 74 – A step towards inclusivity: embedding Indigenous knowledges in higher education

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Intro: Welcome to Tales4Teaching, a podcast where we explore stories with purpose in higher education. We will share expert insights, engaging interviews, and thought-provoking discussions that will inspire your teaching.

JOAN: On behalf of Deakin University, I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the unceded land and waterways on which you are located. I acknowledge the Wadawurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners on which this podcast was recorded, and I pay my respects to Elders past, present, and future. My name is Joan Sutherland and this is Tales4Teaching brought to you by Deakin Learning Futures.

Hello and welcome to today’s podcast. Today, I’m flying solo, no guest today. And the reason for that is because I noticed there’s been a lot of focus, we have on technology and AI at universities in the future of universities, and I actually wanted to bring it back to cultural considerations and share with you some insights that I’ve gained on this podcast and also from other institutions and what they’re doing about embedding Indigenous Knowledges into curriculum. I wanted to highlight this for a couple of reasons.

The first was, last week I had the pleasure of connecting with Professor Giselle Byrns of Massey University. And she highlighted Massy University’s culture cantered approach and the aim to bridge inequalities. She spoke to us about how essentially incorporating cultural as a pivotal core in their curriculum, they’re establishing an inclusive and holistic approach to higher education, and it’s grounded in their local culture. It got me thinking about what we do here at Deakin, and it led me to consider the guests that we’ve had on this podcast. I really wanted to highlight some of the great work that’s happening here at Deakin University to embed Indigenous Knowledges into the curriculum. Here at Deakin, we have Deakin’s Indigenous Strategy. Another component is the Indigenous Curriculum Transformation project.

We also have communities of practice that exist to ground cultural considerations into higher education here at Deakin, I hear you say, this sounds great but how does this translate essentially into practice? How are we embedding Indigenous Knowledges into our curriculum and what are ways you can do this in your unit or your course? Firstly, what I go back to is what are the principles that we are guided by in our Indigenous Strategy? The first is around students elevating aspirations and promoting access are at the forefront, cultural anchoring technique.

Next, we have a knowledge Indigenous Knowledges are integrated into courses with a comprehensive strategy and a specialized centre for advice. Cultural intelligence is more than just the catchphrase. The other thing is around employment. It’s not just about hiring. It’s about building meaningful and respectful careers for Indigenous employees. Another principle in this strategy is whole of university. Without this, I don’t think there would be any success in this space. Strategy integration sets the pace with appropriate strategic advice and clear targets. We aim to be a cornerstone in reconciliation and truth telling efforts. There’s also community external engagement and this is a two-way street here. Deakin not only connects its activities to the community but also encourages external support for its programs. If that’s the Indigenous Strategy, what really happens.

So, on this podcast, I’ve been really lucky to interview some wonderful educators who are embedding Indigenous Knowledges into their curriculum. And what I thought about was what were the key themes that actually came through on all of the podcasts. Although everyone approached it differently, there were some key things and I wanted to share with you the five key themes I’ve taken out of each of those podcasts.

First, Acknowledgement of Country. It’s not just ceremonial practices, but it’s considered a basic skill necessary for all graduates and professionals. Previous guests have highlighted this and embedded it in the curriculum to enable students to connect through it and build their cultural confidence. Play space learning was another theme. There’s a lot of discussion around learning spaces, what they are, and what they mean. Play space learning is a concept explored by many of the guests to connection through place. Essentially, it facilitates a nuanced understanding of the Acknowledgement of Country. We also have an On Country experiences where staff and students are exposed to different ways of knowing and experience On Country. One of our guests spoke about this.

The third key theme was critical thinking and discomfort. This came through as a challenge for many educators. In order to commit to social justice inequality, students and staff need to be encouraged to question traditional norms and foster critical thinking. It can be challenging to know if you’re doing the right thing. One of the key themes that has been throughout these podcasts is the ability to be okay with discomfort, especially from a non-Indigenous person. Sometimes we can be concerned if we’re getting it right, which is potentially one of the most important things to rationalize with yourself as an educator, a key message that has come through is ask the question, seek support. There is always help and guidance. The first point is you and your ability to make a change.

Another theme was around online platforms. So, when transitioning to COVID to wholly online, it wasn’t without its challenges, especially in relation to Ways of Knowing and transmission of knowledge. But there are a suite of tools that have helped build connection and facilitate collaborative learning to support students in Indigenous Knowledges. So one of the key messages from that was make sure your mode of delivery and systems in place reflect what you actually want to achieve. The fifth one and is something that’s highlighted in our strategy is universal responsibility. Okay? A whole-of-university approach and a whole-of-community approach. Essentially, the ultimate aim for the embedding of Indigenous Knowledges is everyone’s responsibility.

Addressing the complexities and tensions with the current education system pave the way for a more inclusive future. And who doesn’t want that? I wanted to do this to encourage you to think about the ways you are embedding Indigenous Knowledges into your teaching practice. And ask yourself as a learning designer or as a teacher, or whichever viewpoint you approach it from, how can you embed Indigenous Knowledges into your curriculum in a meaningful way if you aren’t? I echo a key theme that came through on the podcast. It’s okay to be uncomfortable but sit in that space and get started. After all, it’s a whole-of-University approach.

The next question is, how can you leverage what our guests have done so far to support this? There’s been a lot of great advice. I encourage you to listen to some of those podcasts. Just to get started, I’ve put a link in the description below to a number of our podcasts. And also to Deakin’s Knowledge Resource Collection, which is designed to provide a list of resources to support teaching and learning teams to integrate Indigenous perspectives into their curriculum. Please leverage that resource.

The importance of these approaches goes beyond ticking a box. It’s about transforming how we think about education in society and embracing some tough conversations, rather than shying away from them. I ask what so many guests have asked previously, what are you doing to embed Indigenous Knowledges into your curriculum? The journey to a more inclusive education system isn’t about ticking boxes. It’s a transformative endeavour that enriches society. It’s about inviting complexity and embracing Indigenous Knowledge as a cornerstone in our curriculum. As you ponder this topic, ask yourself, what are you doing to enrich your educational perspectives? We’ve had many guests talk about their experience. So, review these to dive deeper and learn more. And be part of this important dialogue. Dive deeper, learn more to be part of this important dialogue. I hope that’s prompted some thought around what you can do in your current teaching and learning practice.

4 September 2023

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