Chapter 4 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and research

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and perspectives can and are already playing a critical role in building new and dynamic approaches to learning, research and innovation.

Building opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge to be used creatively not only benefits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and researchers; it also has the potential to make a significant contribution to closing the gap and to economic growth.

To close the gap, the Panel considers that universities should better equip professionals with the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, communities and other professionals with whom they will come in contact. They should also increase the number and capability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers who can bring a diversity of expertise and skills to the broader research agenda. The research agenda should, in turn, include Closing the Gap–related priorities.

Indigenous knowledge, translated into practical curriculum, teaching practices and graduate attributes, makes important contributions to helping professionals meet the needs of Indigenous communities (one of the Review’s terms of reference). Where professionals are being trained to work in fields with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients and business partners, they should learn relevant knowledge such as different disease rates or legal issues and understand contemporary issues impacting on Indigenous people’s lives.

Researchers produce knowledge and ideas that translate into innovation, drive productivity and improve the wellbeing of all Australians. The Panel believes it is imperative that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives are included in this process by growing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people completing higher degrees by research, and ensuring that there is adequate support for Indigenous research and researchers within publicly funded research. Related to this last point, the Panel has recommended a review of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to examine its future strategic direction, its role and functions, governance structures and levels of resourcing with a view to strengthening its capacity to preserve Indigenous knowledge and support research by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.