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Australian Indigenous Studies

Research and Practice

Terry Moore, Carol Pybus, Mitchell Rolls and David Moltow

This book provides a guide to research and teaching in an Australian Indigenous Studies that is oriented toward the diverse, contemporary world. Central to this perspective is a sensibility to the intercultural complexity of that world – particularly its Indigenous component – and an awareness of the interactional capabilities that the Indigenous (and others) need to successfully negotiate it. These capabilities are important for facilitating Indigenous peoples’ goal of equality as citizens and recognition as Indigenous, a goal which this book seeks to address.

The Indigenous Studies presented in this book rejects as unproductive the orientation of orthodox Indigenous Studies, which promulgates the retention of old cultures, positive stereotypes, binary oppositions and false certainties. It adopts a more dialogical and process-oriented approach that highlights interactions and relationships and leads to the recognition of cultural and identity multiplicity, intersection and ambiguous difference.

The book covers key topics such as ancestral cultures, colonisation and its impacts, identity politics, interculturality, intersectionality, structural marginalisation, unit development and teaching complexity. The focus of the book is the development of a sensibility that can shape readers’ perceptions, decisions and actions in the future and guide teachers in their negotiation of intercultural classroom relationships.

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Chapter 13: Tertiary Indigenous Studies: Disciplinary integrity versus the ‘feel good’ factor


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Tertiary Indigenous Studies: Disciplinary integrity versus the ‘feel good’ factor

Like most if not all Aboriginal Studies programmes at Australian universities, the one that we are most familiar with had complex origins, with a high turnover of staff, some of whom were qualified, others less so. These programmes grew out of overdue recognition that Aboriginal affairs and history had largely been neglected by tertiary institutions, and reflected the growing and more public recognition of Aborigines and the enduring legacy of colonisation and settler-colonialism. While considerable expertise vis-à-vis Aboriginal cultures, history and affairs had long resided in universities, this expertise was found in distinct disciplines such as anthropology and history, each with their own theoretical and methodological concerns and interests. Very few Indigenous staff had the necessary qualifications for teaching at the tertiary level, and the alternative entry path based on ‘recognition of prior learning’ was still in its infancy and generally regarded with some suspicion. Indigenous activism, which had spanned many decades in different forms, and a raft of other initiatives including the so-called ‘Freedom Rides’; the 1967 referendum; the Northern Territory Land Rights Legislation and publicity surrounding the Murray Islanders’ claim of Native Title, culminating several years later in the High Court Mabo decision; and the demands for self-determination that gathered pace in the 1970s and 1980s, all contributed to the coalescing of issues committing tertiary institutions to offering Aboriginal Studies, later renamed Indigenous Studies at a number of...

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