New Introductory Indigenous Course Passes With Flying Colours

Last semester, Areti Metuamate reported in his piece “ANU Now Has Indigenous Studies Major” (Woroni, March 11, 2014), on the introduction of a new course (INDG1001) in the Indigenous Studies program. Piloted at the ANU in Semester 1, the course was convened by Dr Sean Kerins and Dr Inge Kral through the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), and has since been delivered by an impressive list of visiting and ANU-based Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics and guest lecturers.  Two Indigenous tutors, Ms Jessa Rogers and Mr Bhiamie Eckford-Williamson, delivered weekly tutorials. At the completion of the course, feedback received  from students shows that the potential of Indigenous Studies as a major at ANU has never looked brighter.

Kerins and Kral say the course achieved its aims. Student feedback described INDG1001 as “a great package in order to begin a journey of learning about Indigenous peoples and their culture…. I believe ANU graduates having this background and training would place them in higher standing…more rounded educationally and more employable.”

Students reported gaining a “deep and thorough understanding of Indigenous peoples, populations and communities in contemporary Australia and in the past.” “It has inspired me to further study Indigenous issues…I recommend this course to anyone with an interest in social science, history, environment, culture, governance or policy.” High levels of student interest and engagement in INDG1001 are reported by a cohort that included first, second and third year students from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds.

Previously in Woroni, Kerins spoke of the importance of the course, highlighting its relevance to the interactions Australians will have with Indigenous people throughout their professional and personal lives. INDG1001 students appear to have recognised this relevance, as one student described: “I feel I better understand how to approach Indigenous issues as a non-Indigenous person,” and “This course should be compulsory for every Australian…every ANU student, or CASS student at least…the information in this course is so critical to having an understanding of the original owners of what is now Australia.”

Another said, “This course helped me understand the ways in which Indigenous perspectives differ from western society and how differing worldviews need to be incorporated…this is the side of Australian history we should be teaching in schools and I would recommend this course to students from any and every discipline.”

Students described their learnings as “valuable insights,” “new perspectives that I had never seen before” and “an excellent overview of Indigenous culture, people and issues.”  INDG1001 is described as encouraging students “to think critically about the current situation in Indigenous communities.” –  “It improved my knowledge on the diversity of Indigenous Australians” affirmed another student.

One student stated, “before the course, I think I was guilty (through ignorance) of sort of just assuming all policy to do with Indigenous peoples was the same…my fundamental understanding has shifted.” Such insights demonstrate the success of the course in achieving its aims. It appears the combination of Indigenous tutors, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous lecturers was well received. “Lecturers and tutors are great support and encouraging. Do the course, you will love it.” “It was an open, safe space. Guest lectures were always fabulous and insightful.”

“The level of discussion and engagement from the students, tutors and lecturers was unlike any other course I’ve done…it made it that much more enjoyable.”