Context: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation and outcomes in higher education
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be underrepresented in the higher education sector. In spite of increased numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education students, the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous students has widened over the past decade across a number of indicators including access, participation and completion rates. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff numbers remain low and continue to be concentrated in non-academic positions in institutions. Increasing the number of academic staff also presents a challenge, due to the relatively low number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff undertaking research.
Action must be taken to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to the life chances that a quality university education provides to ensure equal participation in Australia’s economic and social progress. University students and staff should also benefit from the knowledge and perspectives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bring.
The Australian Government recognises the need to transform participation and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff in higher education. This commitment was evident in the Government’s support of the Bradley Review of Higher Education’s recommendation:
That the Australian Government regularly review the effectiveness of measures to improve higher education access and outcomes for Indigenous people in consultation with the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council (IHEAC) (Recommendation 30).
Increased access and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in higher education will also contribute to reaching the COAG Closing the Gap target to ‘halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade’ and to support the new generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to succeed in higher education.
Terms of Reference
The Review will deliver on the Government’s commitment to Recommendation 30 of the Bradley Review and contribute to the Government’s achievement of the COAG target.
The Review is to provide advice and make recommendations in relation to:
- achieving parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, researchers, academic and non-academic staff;
- best practice and opportunities for change inside universities and other higher education providers (spanning both Indigenous specific units and whole-of-university culture, policies, activities, and programs);
- the effectiveness of existing Commonwealth Government programs that aim to encourage better outcomes for Indigenous Australians in higher education; and
- the recognition and equivalence of Indigenous knowledge in the higher education sector.
The Review will propose a strategic framework to enable the Government and the higher education sector to collectively address higher education access and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure parity in the sector.
The strategic framework will identify key priorities and actions/opportunities for consideration by the Government and the higher education sector to reduce the gaps between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous university students and staff across a range of outcomes.
The Review Panel
The Review will be directed by a Panel of experts, chaired by Professor Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. The Panel Members will be the Chair of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council, Professor Steven Larkin, and senior executive representatives from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations ( DEEWR) and the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science and Research ( DIISR). The Panel will consider and incorporate the advice of key stakeholders, especially IHEAC, and will be supported by a joint DEEWR/ DIISR Secretariat.
Completion of Review
The Review Panel will report to the Minister for Tertiary Education and the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research within 12 months of its appointment. The Review will produce a strategic framework that will be informed by targeted research and stakeholder consultations and will contain practical recommendations for implementation by the Government and the sector.