A new approach to Indigenous Studies at the University of Sydney

Students enrolled in education degrees at the University of Sydney now have the opportunity to enroll in new Indigenous Studies units of study offered by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

The new Indigenous Studies major was launched at Info Day in 2016 and units of study offered within it will be of particular interest to students wishing to qualify as Aboriginal Studies teachers.

University of Sydney Teachers College
The University of Sydney has a proud history of engagement with Indigenous education and Indigenous Studies (Photo credit: University of Sydney)

Demonstrating the university’s commitment to Indigenous participation, inter-disciplinary scholarship and cross-cultural dialogue, the new Indigenous Studies major marks a new era in Sydney’s decades-long commitment to Indigenous education and the emergence of Indigenous Studies as an internationally recognised discipline.

The University of Sydney has a proud history of engagement with Indigenous education and Indigenous Studies.

The new Indigenous Studies major has its roots in the Aboriginal Teacher Aides program that began in 1975 and led to the establishment of the Koori Centre in 1992.

The Koori Centre was dedicated to training Indigenous pre-service teachers and over time became central to Education degree programs for Indigenous teachers, many of whom now teach in schools and communities across Australia.

More recently, the Koori Centre developed an Aboriginal Studies Program and established an Indigenous Studies major in the Faculty of Arts in the late 1990s.

“The new Indigenous Studies major is an exciting and significant development in the faculty’s historical commitment to Indigenous Studies,” says Dr Peter Minter, academic coordinator of Indigenous Studies and senior lecturer in the Department of English.

“What sets this major apart is not only its cultural and philosophical integrity, but also how it consolidates Indigenous Studies as a discipline in the faculty.

“It’s a demonstration of Sydney’s commitment to a cutting-edge discipline that has become increasingly visible and internationally consequential in recent years.”

Driven by a new cross-faculty Indigenous Studies Governance Committee, the Indigenous Studies major draws on the experience and expertise of former Koori Centre academics and colleagues from across the university.

Inspired by a commitment to prioritizing Indigenous content, scholarship and voices in a disciplinary framework that is broadly decolonizing, a June 2014 workshop established a set of guiding principles and discipline-led goals for the major, which included commitments to
  • Indigenous political, economic and cultural integrity and advancement;
  • Indigenous community integrity, health and well-being;
  • cultural and environmental sustainability in Indigenous country;
  • cross-disciplinarity and engagement with Indigenous Studies nationally and internationally;
  • Faculty and cross-faculty engagement that welcomes the perspectives, expertise and fellowship of non-Indigenous colleagues across the university;
  • Reconciliation and the enhancement of the cultural competence of students and staff across the University.
Students in this major will learn about the diversity, strength and complexity of Indigenous societies, cultures, knowledges and histories.

They will be taught by leading Indigenous and non-indigenous academics as well as members of the community, enjoying opportunities to engage with contemporary Indigenous life in ways that are culturally informed and respectful.

The teaching program is exciting and innovative, offering students a mix of face-to-face lectures, seminars and hands-on tutorials alongside advanced online modes of teaching and collaboration, not to mention a range of excursions to, for instance, museums, art exhibitions and literary readings.

“In the senior year students can take an advanced directed research project,” Dr Minter says.

“We are encouraging students to think independently and reflect critically in a sphere that is culturally informed and respectful.

“Our students will understand the implications their learning in terms of their own lives and issues that have deeper significance nationally and internationally.”

Master of Teaching (Primary or Secondary)

First offered in 1996, the University of Sydney’s Master of Teaching was the first of its kind in Australia, and remains one of the most successful teaching training programs in the nation. The Primary program is designed for those who wish to teach Kindergarten to Grade 6. The Secondary is designed for those who wish to teach grades 7 though 12.

Program: Master of Teaching (Primary or Secondary)
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intake: March
Duration: 2 years
Application deadline: The University of Sydney has a general application deadline of January 31 each year; however, candidates are encouraged to apply a minimum of three months prior to the program’s start date.


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