13.3 Building Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research capacity in students and early career researchers

Building research capacity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HDR students and early career researchers is critical to a number of objectives. It is an important first step in building the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HDR students and academics. It is also important in raising the profile of research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, enriching the national research effort and supporting research.

13.3.1 Critical success factors

Critical success factors include:

  • support is tailored to the individual
  • university executive and faculties ensure that capacity-building programs are resourced and recognise the need for non-standard progression patterns and HDR enrolment criteria
  • faculties provide mentoring and cultural awareness training for mentors.

13.3.2 Key challenges

Key challenges include:

  • identifying potential Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research candidates
  • resourcing academic and support staff to a sufficient level.

13.3.3 Examples

Queensland University of Technology – Indigenous postgraduate research capacity-building program and pathway support

The Queensland University of Technology has an Indigenous postgraduate research capacity-building program which aims to build a distinctive cohort of postgraduate students across the university. This unique program hosts specially designed activities that support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander postgraduate students and researchers. It includes a three-day program that is benchmarked against university criteria for graduate capabilities. It includes a seminar series, an annual symposium and a critical reading group. It also includes provision of dedicated 24-hour office space and resources for postgraduate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, funding for conference and research activities related to postgraduate studies, and involvement in research projects.

While the program is unique in offering postgraduate cohort support, it also aims to:

  • promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research
  • facilitate communication and information exchange about Indigenous knowledges and research
  • stimulate collaborative research within Indigenous studies
  • foster Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research capacity building
  • facilitate the publication and dissemination of the program’s research activities
  • provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations, government and the broader public and private sectors with access to the global Indigenous studies community.

A typical program for the three-day workshop covers project management, technical research and library skills, publishing research, Indigenous methodologies, research ethics in research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and writing grant applications.

The program was established as the university felt that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander postgraduate students are often isolated and may need assistance in negotiating the research system beyond that which is routinely made available in faculties and through central support areas. It is supported by the Indigenous Students’ Research Network.

The University of Melbourne – postgraduate summer school program

For 10 years the University of Melbourne has hosted a summer school program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research students. This formed the basis for the development of the Professional Certificate in Indigenous Research which is an interdisciplinary coursework program exploring research and developing research skills from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective. The program allows research students to invite their research supervisors to attend the course. For those supervisors who attend, the immersion in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning environment is a uniquely valuable experience. The Lowitja Institute’s guide for supervisors (see section 13.1.3) is provided to all participants of this course.

In 2011, Murrup Barak – Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development at the University of Melbourne supported the university’s Indigenous Graduate Students Association to establish the inaugural Symposium of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research. The symposium provided a unique opportunity for staff and students involved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research to present and discuss their research, to develop collaborative networks, and provide information to supervisors and researchers. This program will now be held on an annual basis, with the next symposium scheduled for late 2012.