Recommendations

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What are we trying to achieve?

Parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff in the higher education sector

Recommendation 1

That the Australian Government:

  • define the population parity rate (parity) as the proportion of the population aged between 15 and 64 years that is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander according to ABS population statistics—this national parity rate is currently 2.2%
  • revise the parity figure each time new census data is available
  • use this parity rate to set national targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student and staff enrolments.

Recommendation 2

That universities use the population parity target identified by the Australian Government to set their own targets and timeframes:

  • for the proportion of the total domestic student population to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students, focusing initially on priority disciplines that support the Closing the Gap agenda or where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are currently most underrepresented
  • for the proportion of domestic students undertaking higher degrees by research or research training programs to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people
  • for the retention and completion rates by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, matching the rates for those of non-Indigenous students across the disciplines, and at each of the levels of study
  • for the proportion of the university general and academic staff to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people
  • reflecting their geographic and demographic catchments and their own strategies.

Recommendation 3

That the Australian Government engage with universities in discussion of these targets and the universities’ strategies to achieve them in the context of mid-compact discussions and future compacts, and reward universities for achieving and moving beyond these targets through incentive payments.

Unlocking capacity and empowering choices

Schools

Recommendation 4

That the Australian Government work with state and territory education departments to ensure that career advisers and teachers:

  • encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to consider higher education as a post-school option
  • have access to professional development that increases their capacity to teach and advise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Recommendation 5

That the Australian Government revise the guidelines for the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) to:

  • refocus the emphasis of projects that are aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to a greater extent on:
    • developing academic skills, especially in mathematics and sciences, in primary and early secondary schools, while still also giving some priority to:
      • building aspiration to go to university
      • building Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peer and family networks to encourage higher education as a shared goal
      • providing students in Years 10 to 12 with mentoring, pathway support and case management and academic enrichment
      • providing relevant information to students in Years 10 to 12, their families and communities about the transition to university for graduating secondary students
  • clarify that HEPPP funding should be targeted at generic promotion of higher education rather than promotion of universities’ individual courses.

Other pathways

Recommendation 6

That universities and the vocational education and training ( VET) sectors:

  • work with employers and professional associations to encourage them to support their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees to undertake higher education, including through cadetship models, scholarships and flexible leave arrangements
  • collaborate with professional bodies and private and public sector employers to build and extend alternative pathways into higher education, including pursuing better credit transfer arrangements between VET and universities, pursuing delivery partnerships, and ensuring that VET providers are promoting higher education as an option post- VET
  • support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to enrol in and complete higher-level (at least Certificate IV and above), but also diploma and advanced diploma-level, qualifications.

Recommendation 7

That the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council work with the National VET Equity Advisory Council to provide joint advice to governments on how to improve pathways between VET and higher education.

Enabling programs

Recommendation 8

That the Australian Government, VET providers and universities collaborate to improve the reach and effectiveness of enabling courses for disadvantaged learners, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, including:

  • reforming Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding so that it increases with the number of students undertaking higher education enabling courses
  • facilitating tracking of students who undertake enabling courses at one university and move to and enrol at a second university so that both universities gain recognition for success.

Access to information

Recommendation 9

That universities and the Australian Government improve the access to and effectiveness of the information they provide for potential Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, including through:

  • dedicated contact points and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education advisers located within universities
  • a campaign in Indigenous media to promote the importance and relevance of higher education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • developing capacity within the MyUniversity website through which potential Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can access information on scholarships, financial and other supports available to students undertaking higher education, and requirements for entry to and success in higher education.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student success

Provision of support through Indigenous Education Units and the faculties

Recommendation 10

That universities adopt a whole-of-university approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student success so that faculties and mainstream support services have primary responsibility for supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, backed up by Indigenous Education Units.

Recommendation 11

That universities:

  • continue to support Indigenous Education Units to provide a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, including postgraduate and higher degree by research students
  • review whether their Indigenous Education Units have appropriate objectives, funding, structures and accountability measures to ensure quality student outcomes with a focus on:
    • outreach work with schools and other sectors
    • improvements in retention and completion rates
    • access to quality tutoring services
  • collaborate with each other and government to build an evidence base and share good practice.

Building professional pathways and responding to community need

Recommendation 12

That universities, professional bodies, employers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professional organisations better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by:

  • refining university planning processes to take account of the likely future needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for a professional workforce
  • developing innovative local partnerships to drive and support demand for growing the number and breadth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals
  • encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander membership of professional bodies and the establishment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professional and student associations within professions.

Provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander–specific support to universities and students

Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme – Tertiary Tuition

Recommendation 13

That the Australian Government reform funding for supplementary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support programs, including the Indigenous Support Program and the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme – Tertiary Tuition (ITAS-TT), in time for the 2013 academic year, based on the following design principles:

  • Allow universities greater flexibility to provide locally relevant, tailored support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff.
  • Target available funding to achieve an improvement in current enrolment levels but also with a greater emphasis on retention and completion rates.
  • Ensure that funding would be simple to administer.
  • Ensure that funding would support clear outcome-focused accountability for universities.

The new funding model should include consideration of tutoring support for students who were previously ineligible for ITAS-TT assistance.

Recommendation 14

That universities collaborate to share tutoring ( ITAS-TT) best practice and explore the establishment of a national tutor database.

Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional and remote areas

Recommendation 15

That universities consider how best to support the needs of regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, including through:

  • the use of virtual networks and other technology-based solutions to provide greater access to universities by remote and regional students
  • options to provide additional and affordable housing specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people relocating away from their families. These options could include developing further partnerships and philanthropic support to deliver affordable accommodation on campus.
  • working with the Higher Education Standards Panel to develop quality standards for Away-from-Base education delivery
  • collaboration to allow recognition of the effort of universities that may enrol students who then go on to complete their degrees at different universities.

Recommendation 16

That the Australian Government revise the Away-from-Base funding guidelines to align with the quality standards developed in response to Recommendation 15.

Financial support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

Recommendation 17

That the Australian Government and universities, in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student representatives:

  • examine any outstanding issues regarding government income support payments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, including issues relating to ABSTUDY, Australian Postgraduate Awards and income support for students undertaking postgraduate degrees that were formerly undergraduate degrees, focusing on the needs of students with children, and explore opportunities to partner with philanthropic and private sector organisations to provide additional income support for students
  • amalgamate existing Commonwealth scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into one program based on the overarching reforms outlined in Recommendation 13.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and research

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and perspectives

Recommendation 18

That universities develop and implement an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teaching and learning strategy applicable across a range of curriculums, focused on standards of excellence as applied to other curriculum content and feeding into descriptions of graduate attributes, with an initial focus on priority disciplines to close the gap such as teaching and health professions.

Recommendation 19

That the Australian Government continue to support the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies ( AIATSIS) to digitise and thus preserve its collection for future generations and particularly for use in higher education, and encourage the development of a national approach to data digitisation working with states, territories and community groups to ensure that Indigenous knowledge be digitised appropriately and preserved.

Higher degrees by research and research training

Recommendation 20

That universities incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander supervision in their planning and as a competency within their internal training for higher degree by research ( HDR) supervisors, and consider, where appropriate, flexible co-supervision arrangements that provide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander supervisors who are not necessarily academic staff in a university.

Recommendation 21

That the Australian Research Council consider conducting an early review of implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Researchers’ Network to ensure that it is appropriately targeting HDR students.

Recommendation 22

That the Australian Government work with universities through compact negotiations to ensure that they:

  • allocate Research Training Scheme funding equivalent to a university’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HDR student target to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research training and a pipeline of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HDR students. Universities will need to report on their strategy and level of funding as well as report on outcomes through the compact.
  • allocate Australian Postgraduate Award funding equivalent to a university’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HDR student target to support the completion of degrees by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HDR students and a pipeline of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HDR students. Universities will need to report on their strategy as well as on outcomes through the compact.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research capability

Recommendation 23

That universities develop Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research strategies within their business planning processes, for inclusion in their mission-based compacts. Strategies should include increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics with completed higher degrees by research and the use of ethical research practices when undertaking research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Recommendation 24

That the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies ( AIATSIS) provide more formal guidance to publicly funded research agencies, universities and researchers on ethical research practice. This could include, for example, information on the AIATSIS website of case studies and materials to assist Australian researchers.

Recommendation 25

That the Australian Government consider revisions to the National Research Priorities that recognise the importance of:

  • closing the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and all other Australians
  • protection of Indigenous culture and knowledge.

Recommendation 26

That the Australian Research Council and the Australian Bureau of Statistics work together to create an Indigenous research code to better identify research relating to Indigenous knowledges.

Recommendation 27

That the Australian Research Council (ARC) examine the adoption of a strategic approach to building capacity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers across its funding programs, building on the experiences of the National Health and Medical Research Council. The ARC should examine:

  • current barriers to winning competitive grants experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • whether available funding programs can better assist in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers achieve research outcomes, particularly early career researchers
  • the performance of the new Discovery Indigenous scheme
  • whether ethical research practices are sufficiently supported within its competitive grants and grant approval processes.

Recommendation 28

That the Australian Government undertake a review of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to consider how best to maintain the institute’s unique place in developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academic and research activities and the relationship it has with universities.

Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff

Recommendation 29

That universities develop strategies, informed by the National Indigenous Higher Education Workforce Strategy, to recruit, support and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff to meet the parity targets set by the Australian Government.

Recommendation 30

That the Australian Government bring forward work to implement an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researcher workforce plan under the national Research Workforce Strategy.

Recommendation 31

That the Australian Government consider developing:

  • a funding program to provide additional scholarships at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level to support universities’ ability to ‘grow their own’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academic staff
  • a ‘top-up’ funding program for positions for three years to support universities to attract new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff members to join the higher education sector. 99BUniversity culture and governance

Recommendation 32

That universities continue to develop and implement a range of strategies to:

  • improve the cultural understanding and awareness of staff, students and researchers within their institution, including the provision of cultural competency training
  • increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in senior management positions
  • increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented in the highest-level governance structures
  • increase accountability of faculty leaders and senior management for achieving parity targets and improved outcomes.

The way forward: an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education strategy and evaluation framework

Development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education strategy and the role of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council

Recommendation 33

That the Australian Government work with the higher education sector, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics, students, communities and other stakeholders to develop an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education and research strategy that responds to the recommendations of this report.

Recommendation 34

That the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council play a leadership role and an advisory role to the Minister on the development and implementation of the proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education and research strategy in response to this Review.

Development of a monitoring and evaluation framework

Recommendation 35

That the Australian Government and universities work together to:

  • develop a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education monitoring and evaluation framework
  • develop a set of standardised words to be used by universities, based on the national census’s Indigenous identification question, when asking whether a person identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to identify themselves as such to their university.