More than words: the importance of strong relationships between indigenous Australian HDR students and their supervisor

Year: 2013

Author: Trudgett, Michelle, Page, Susan, Harrison, Neil

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Indigenous Australians represent 2.2% of the working age population, yet account for only 1.4% of all university enrolments. In relation to higher degree research (HDR) students, Indigenous Australians account for 1.1% of enrolments, but only 0.8% of all HDR completions (Behrendt et al., 2012). These disparities become increasingly visible at the doctoral level. This paper reports on findings derived from our Australian Research Council funded study which aims to establish a model of best practice for the supervision of Indigenous doctoral students - a critical area that has to date been very much unexplored. 
An examination of the relationships between the doctoral student and their supervisors will be provided. Rapport and communication play an important, yet often understated role in the academic journeys of Indigenous doctoral students (Trudgett 2008, 2011).  Other factors such as supervisor's ethnicity, cultural understanding and competency are equally important, yet often overlooked.  Within the framework of this paper we will offer practical advice as to how academics can assist Indigenous doctoral students to succeed in their chosen discipline. It is essential that a sector wide approach is adopted to ensure that the best possible environment is provided for Indigenous Australian doctoral students to succeed (Behrendt et al., 2012).