Education, Reconciliation and Transformation: The impact of Aboriginal Studies on student’s worldviews

Year: 2016

Author: Franklin, Corrinne, Doel-Mackaway, Holly

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The responsibility for Reconciliation and the realisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples human rights cuts across all sectors of the Australian community. The potential for education as a powerful means to progress Reconciliation is well established in literature (Behrendt 2012). Tertiary institutions are well positioned to take a leading role to ensure graduates are educated in Aboriginal Studies and aware about the inter-disciplinary relevance and importance of this body of knowledge. However, Aboriginal Studies tends to be offered as a discrete subject at most Australian universities rather than embedded in course content and made relevant across all disciplines (Page, Trudgett and Bodkin-Andrews 2016). Furthermore, the degree to which student engagement in undergraduate Aboriginal Studies contributes to Reconciliation and the transformation of student’s worldviews is limited.This small scale study examined the learning experience of former Aboriginal Studies (ABST100) students at Macquarie University and whether participation in this subject impacted on, or altered, their worldviews. A combination of Indigenous research methodologies and a human right-based approach to research were used to carry out the research and interpret the data. Students participated in several focus group discussions and responded to a set of semi-structured questions that sought to explore whether undertaking ABST100 influenced student’s worldviews; whether students identified any correlations between ABST100 and Reconciliation; and whether students perceived Aboriginal Studies as relevant across all disciplines at the university. Research findings show a strong correlation between student engagement in Aboriginal studies and the transformation of their worldviews—namely that since studying ABST100 student’s worldviews encompassed an understanding that Reconciliation is a matter of importance and is relevant to all Australian’s, including themselves. The paper concludes that Aboriginal studies is a transformative educational experience for students that offers an opportunity to progress Reconciliation amongst graduates—an opportunity that should be afforded to students across all disciplines and at all Australian universities.