Tactics or strategy?: Leadership implications for implementing an Indigenous Graduate Attributes project

Year: 2016

Author: Page, Susan, Trudgett, Michelle, Bodkin-Andrews, Gawaian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There is increasing emphasis in Australian universities on graduate outcomes focused specifically on employability (Bridgstock, 2009). Most universities have statements of graduate attributes, which tend to focus on generic skills such as communication, critical thinking and working collaboratively (Oliver, 2011).These generalist skills are considered necessary for employability. Coupled with these generic skills is a growing recognition that university graduates can and should contribute to enhancing socio-economic outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Consequently, many Australian universities are grappling with how to best ensure that graduates are able to work effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities (see for example McLaughlin & Whatman, 2011). Professional disciplines, such as Health and Law have already done considerable curriculum renewal to graduate students who are culturally competent and a number of universities have sought to embed Indigenous curricula across all disciplines (Phillips, 2004). However, the resources, including Indigenous academics, assigned to these complex projects are not always apparent. Often even less apparent is the institutional strategic infrastructure, which can either facilitate or impede such projects. Taking a bold step, in February 2015, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) appointed three senior Indigenous staff to lead a university wide, Indigenous Graduate Attribute (IGA) project, focused on developing graduates with ‘Indigenous professional capability’ (Sherwood, McDaniel & McKenzie, 2013). This transformative agenda was preceded by careful institutional planning in the context of growing national receptivity, engendered by the 2012 Behrendt Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (Behrendt, Larkin, Griew, & Kelly). This paper will draw on de Certeau’s (1984, cited in Dudgeon and Fielder, 2006) notion of tactics, as covert operations and strategies as organisationally integrated, to critically examine the institutional strategic apparatus scaffolding the IGA project. We will also reflect on our roles and experiences as Indigenous academics tasked with implementing an Indigenous Graduate Attributes project.ReferencesBehrendt, L., Larkin, S., Griew, R., & Kelly, P. (2012). Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People: Final Report. Canberra: Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.Bridgstock, R. (2009). The graduate attributes we’ve overlooked: Enhancing graduate employability through career management skills. Higher Education Research & Development, 28(1), 31-44.Dudgeon, P., & Fielder, J. (2006). Third spaces within tertiary places: Indigenous Australian studies. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 16(5), 396-409.McLaughlin, J. M. & Whatman, S. L. (2011). The potential of critical race theory in decolonizing university curricula. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 31(4), pp. 365-377.Oliver, B. (2011). Assuring graduate outcomes. The Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Sydney.Phillips, G. (2004). CDAMS Indigenous health curriculum framework. VicHealth Koori Health Research and Community Development Unit.