Where are the Ghundus? A retrospective exploration of the long term impact of an Indigenous educational aspirations program on participants

Year: 2016

Author: Louth, Sharon, Wheeler, Keane, Bonner, Joyce, Vea Vea, Harriet

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The cycle of poverty and multi-generational disadvantage within Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population continues to maintain the considerable gap between non-indigenous peoples’ health and educational outcomes when compared to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Federal, state and regional governments have recognised the gap in health and education for Australia’s Indigenous people in the Social Justice Report (2005) and moved legislatively to form a Closing the Gap strategy to overcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage in education and health in Australia. Several studies have investigated educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and observed a positive relationship between self-identity and educational attainment (McRae, 2002; Purdie, Tripcony, Boulton-Lewis, Gunstone, & Fanshawe, 2000). Other projects have developed community-wide respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and fostered a positive sense of self-efficacy within the Australian Indigenous community (Louth, 2012; 2013; Garrett & Wrench, 2010) as a stepping stone to increasing educational outcomes for Indigenous students.This project “Where are the Ghundus?” was undertaken as a follow-up to an intervention program (Burunga M Gambay) aimed at enhancing identity and self-belief in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The current project aimed to develop a greater understanding of the long-term benefits of the Burunga M Gambay aspiration program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. “Where are the Ghundus?” followed a phenomenological research design by describing and interpreting an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander centred aspirations program. Researchers determined the meaning of the experience as perceived by the people who participated in the program. Rich, first-hand descriptions were captured through interviews with participants, researchers and community Elders in the form of yarning circles. The qualitative data was analysed using an iterative approach to identify themes that arose and utilised the nVivo software program. The results of such an inquiry helped to inform further engagement projects by highlighting the sustainability aspects of programs and providing an enlightened account of direct experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In summary, if education providers wish to have a long-lasting positive impact on increasing educational engagement and career progression then it is crucial to be cognisant about enhancing the self-belief and fulfilment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.