Indigenous Cultural Competence and external business engagement
Valuing Cultural Competency
The University of Newcastle is a national leader in Indigenous education. We are pleased to partner with business' to help empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through quality education experiences and employment training. We extend our commitment to providing all students with opportunities to develop Indigenous cultural competency for their future employment.
Employees with Indigenous Cultural Competence can provide value to a culturally diverse workplace in the following ways:
- Provides a work environment where staff have mutual respect for each other and themselves
- Facilitates a workplace free of racism
- Increases opportunities for Indigenous employment
- Promotes better understanding of effective communication with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals
- Enhances the opportunities for Aboriginal people and promotes productive partnerships between industry and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- Delivers graduates with greater knowledge of the importance of diversity and social governance
The Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle provides organisations with collaborative opportunities to enhance the outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education through education and research initiatives. These include:
- Industry scholarships (includes work placement)
- Community driven academic programs
The Wollotuka Institute has over 30 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff with expertise in research, teaching and support.
Supporting Indigenous student placements or graduate employment
Consultations by the University of Newcastle with businesses revealed that many employers are keen to have Indigenous students for work placement or to employ Indigenous graduates.
The most useful way to describe the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the University of Newcastle is diverse. While many of our students come from coastal New South Wales, others are from rural and remote areas stretching from the Torres Strait Islands in the north to Tasmania in the south. Some will have strong links to their home communities, while others are on a journey to discover their Indigenous heritage.
This diversity adds to the unique cultural perspectives and strengths that our students can bring to your organisation. It may also contribute to a need for support and sensitivity during their time with your organisation. There is no "right way" to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and graduates, each experience is unique. We encourage your organisation to develop a dialogue with the student or graduate about their individual needs. When initiating a dialogue it is important that you specify that you are doing this to support the student or graduate in the workplace- not as a means of questioning their identity itself.
While face-to-face interactions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, graduates and communities are important there are numerous online resources you can use to develop your knowledge in this area. Where possible, attempt to find locally developed information.
For example Muswellbrook Shire Council Community Services Team have developed the site: Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and their Communities
What are some common cultural differences?
Naming Indigenous groups
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be referred to in various ways. In work we have done with our communities, older people were less likely to use the term 'Indigenous' preferring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or names specific to the local country and community. In New South Wales the most common of these are Goori, Koori and Murri but there are many others depending on the region.
- View an interactive map showing the different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups
- View the New South Wales Department of Health provides a Guide to appropriate terminology
Family and Community Obligations
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students may have significant responsibilities in their families and communities. These can include everyday carer responsibilities for both elder and younger members of their family or cultural responsibilities such as attendance at funerals. Poor health and high mortality rates within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can affect the frequency of these responsibilities.
If Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students or graduates need to be absent from their placement to meet these obligations, this does not signify a lack of commitment to your organisation. Many organisations have additional leave allowances for Indigenous staff to support these cultural responsibilities.
It is estimated that there were once over 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Many of these have been lost, but some remain strong and others are being revitalised. Even where local languages are no longer spoken fluently, many of our students and graduates speak Aboriginal English. One of the common misconceptions about Aboriginal English is that is merely poorly spoken Australian English. In fact it is a recognised dialect of English. Aboriginal English might include words from local Aboriginal languages, a different grammatical structure or apply a different meaning to Australian English words - for instance "deadly" is often used to mean "good".