Advocate for indigenous education reform joins faculty

9 June 2011

World authority on indigenous education Distinguished Professor Graham Hingangaroa Smith will begin work on August 15 as the faculty's first Principal International Research Fellow.

Distinguished Professor Smith, who visited Sydney recently to finalise the details of his appointment, will bring to the faculty years of experience working to improve educational opportunities among indigenous peoples in Canada and New Zealand.

Most recently he has, for the past four years, been CEO and Vice-Chancellor of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi indigenous university – a Maori tertiary institution with students from certificate to PhD. This month, a final report to the New Zealand Parliament will bring that appointment to a conclusion.

"I'm enthusiastic about the fellowship with the Faculty of Education and Social work because it is a return to my research discipline of education," he said.

"Some indigenous education initiatives may translate from the New Zealand context, and where that is the case, it makes sense to consider them for Australia but the important rider that goes with that is that I don't want to be seen as being presumptuous about what indigenous needs are here.

"Indigenous communities are not homogenous in what they aspire to, and for each set of aspirations, new approaches may be needed. Internationally, most of the successful models for increasing indigenous participation in tertiary education have moved beyond simple dependency to distributive equity. In these models, intervention is more targeted to specific communities, as well as being tailored to individuals within those groups. "

Distinguished Professor Smith said he was delighted that the appointment would provide him with the opportunity to be in the forefront of a movement aimed at reversing the statistical under-representation of indigenous Australians in tertiary education.

"As an educator, I think it's a wonderful thing that a sandstone university is taking a leading role in developing and transforming itself, so that the courses it offers will be more accessible to indigenous Australians. I'm looking forward to working with Professor Shane Houston in the University's newly created role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services)," he said.

One of Distinguished Professor Smith's first roles will be the chairmanship of the faculty's Indigenous Initiatives Working Group, which launched earlier this year under the dean, Professor Rob Tierney.