What do we know about remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community engagement?: Implications for research and strategy development in tertiary education settings

Year: 2016

Author: Smith, James, Larkin, Steven, Yibarbuk, Dean, Olcay, Millie, Guenther, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Genuine community engagement is heralded as an important process when engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in discussion about education. This has been repeatedly emphasised in numerous policy documents, particularly those relating to remote education contexts. Whilst it is broadly acknowledged that community engagement is best approached as a ‘bottom-up’ endeavour that is participatory and developmental in nature, there is relatively little information about what this looks and feels like in a practical sense. Evidence suggests that the physical, social, cultural, economic and political landscapes of remote Aboriginal communities differ markedly and that unique place-based approaches to community engagement are likely to work best. We argue that this understanding is important if community engagement practices are to be effectively implemented across the education continuum, including tertiary education settings. We also assert that community engagement practices that explicitly link early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education levels will better support improved education outcomes over the longer-term. This is important as each education sector is approaching the concept of community engagement in different ways. In this paper we draw on current academic scholarship, grey literature, government policies and reflections on recent experiences in education research to explain what is currently known about good practice approaches to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community engagement. We will discuss the respective implications for future research and strategy development, particularly in relation to enhancing community engagement with remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through tertiary education settings.