Indigenous graduates from ACU are now working as educators and health workers and in business and government. Their success is attributed to the learning environment, where Indigenous students' cultural, personal, spiritual and academic needs are supported and respected.
Passion, enthusiasm, understanding, flexibility and two-way learning between the students and Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff have combined to give ACU an excellent record for enabling the students to develop confidence in their growing academic skills and achieve graduation.
Indigenous Education Programs co-ordinator Mr Evan Harris and Weemala Indigenous Unit co-ordinator Dr Nereda White, both from the Brisbane Campus, were awarded a Citation from the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education earlier this year. It was "for exemplary and sustained effort in providing a supportive and constructive environment enabling Indigenous student learning in 'away from base' education programs".
Students enrolled in the Diploma in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and the Bachelor of Education (Primary) (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) courses attend four on-campus residential weeks a year for intensive study as well as use distance education materials in their own communities.
"The courses are underpinned by a strong belief in the interconnectedness of culture, spirituality and learning," Mr Harris said. "Our approach fosters and supports the students' intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth."
"We are aware of and responsive to the fact that Indigenous cultural and community knowledge is respected and shared through personal stories, oral presentations, artwork and poetry readings, some of which are presented within the context of assessment," explained Dr White, herself an Indigenous member of staff who holds both a Master's and doctoral degree from ACU.
"They gain a lot of confidence at ACU," she said. The growth in confidence is underpinned by a collaborative approach to student support. As students embark on their courses, they are given an integrated program of study skills and library research skills, while the courses, including assessment, are tailored to the students' backgrounds.
"The results of our efforts have meant that the Indigenous communities have given us their full support so that our numbers continue to grow, students return after periods of leave, graduates keep in contact and some return to take up postgraduate study," Mr Harris said.
"Our approach fosters and supports the students' intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth."
Students and graduates at the Brisbane Campus are from diverse communities from throughout Queensland and northern NSW. Students from Alice Springs, Darwin, South Australia and Western Australia have also attended.
ACU's Brisbane Campus Indigenous Reflection Space was provided through the generous support of the Pratt Foundation and designed with the help of the wider Indigenous community.
Indigenous students enrolled across ACU's Canberra, North Sydney and Strathfield campuses are supported at the Yalbalinga Indigenous Unit, while those at the University's Ballarat and Melbourne campuses receive support from the Jim-baa-yer Indigenous Unit.