News

$5.6 million for University of Sydney to lead on cultural competence


14 June 2013

(L-R) Dr Tom Calma, Professor Sandra Eades, Professor Shane Houston, The Hon Sharon Bird, Dr Michael Spence, Professor Jill White and Professor Gillian Triggs.
(L-R) Dr Tom Calma, Professor Sandra Eades, Professor Shane Houston, The Hon Sharon Bird, Dr Michael Spence, Professor Jill White and Professor Gillian Triggs.

A grant of $5.6 million will support the creation of the National Centre for Cultural Competence at the University of Sydney, establishing it as the first university in the world to address cultural understanding at a whole of university level.

The Minister for Higher Education and Skills, the Hon Sharon Bird today announced two major grants totalling $11.3 million to the University of Sydney.

The second grant, to the Breadwinners project, is aimed at increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation at the University.

"The essence of cultural competence is having the ability to think, thrive, work and communicate ethically and effectively in spaces where there is more than one culture in play," said Professor Shane Houston, the University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services).

The National Centre for Cultural Competence (NCCC) will work with other universities, industry, the public sector and government to increase cultural competence within organisations and in the wider community.

It will provide leadership, training and research and support on cultural competence to the university community and the higher education sector at all levels including curriculum, student experience and university policy.

"The graduates of tomorrow will be culturally competent, excelling in an increasingly diverse and global community. Whether in Aboriginal communities in Australia or in the north of Chile building telescopes, graduates will need to be able to live and work in places where other cultures are the norm," said Professor Houston.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services)  Professor Shane Houston: "The graduates of tomorrow will be culturally competent, excelling in an increasingly diverse and global community."
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Shane Houston: "The graduates of tomorrow will be culturally competent, excelling in an increasingly diverse and global community."

"The Centre will bring experts together and builds links so that all students, especially Indigenous people, will study in places that are better able to provide the academic, social and cultural support they need to succeed at university," Minister Bird said.

"The University of Sydney is ideally placed to provide cultural competence leadership as we educate the teachers, doctors, engineers, and social workers who go on to work and live in culturally diverse communities here and overseas. For them to be the best at what they do requires them to have skills for effective cross-cultural interaction," said Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence.

"We can make a real contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, employment, education and wellbeing by ensuring our graduates can deliver, wherever their careers might take them. Cultural competence is also of immense importance to the 130 cultures in our university community," Dr Spence said.

The NCCC is a cornerstone of the University's Wingura Mura-Bunga Barrabugu strategy promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation throughout the University.
Minister Bird also announced $5.7m to support the Breadwinners initiative at the University of Sydney.

"This project will mean Indigenous students who are supporting a family will have the income to go full-time in the final two years of their degree," Minister Bird said.

"Many Aboriginal families are families with a single breadwinner. The average income for working Aboriginal families is lower than for other Australians. This initiative provides an opportunity for battling Aboriginal families to improve their lot by supporting an opportunity to study at one of Australia's leading universities," Professor Houston said.

Breadwinners provides financial support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who want a university education but may be unable to afford to take the time away from their jobs to study. It brings together employers, the government and the student, in a joint effort to provide access to undergraduate and postgraduate education. More than 50 breadwinner scholarships will be available in 2014 at the University of Sydney.

Today's event was accompanied by a conversation about cultural competence, moderated by Professor Houston, between a panel of influential thinkers and leaders in higher education: Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor; Professor Jill White, Dean of Sydney Nursing School; Professor Sandra Eades, Professor of Public Health, Sydney Medical School; Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs, President Australian Human Rights Commission; Dr Tom Calma, AO, Co-Chair Reconciliation Australia.

The Wandabaa Gabiny Dancers from Christian Brothers' High School Lewisham performing at the announcement.
The Wandabaa Gabiny Dancers from Christian Brothers' High School Lewisham performing at the announcement.


Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 02 9351 4312, 0403 067 342, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au