Developing Indigenous Australian cultural competence: A model for implementing Indigenous content into curricula

Helen Flavell, Rosalie Thackrah, Julie Hoffman


Cross-cultural understanding has been identified as an important graduate capability crucial for global citizenry, and most universities now include cultural skills or competence within their generic graduate capabilities. However, cross-cultural education and pedagogy are specialised areas and few academics are equipped, or have the confidence, to teach in this area. As a consequence, cross-cultural graduate capabilities are rarely effectively measured or assured. Despite these challenges, the Australian higher education sector is increasingly being called upon to Indigenise its curriculum and develop graduates with Indigenous cultural competence (Australian Universities Guiding Principles for Developing Indigenous Cultural Competency, 2011). This paper describes the approach used to introduce a unit into Curtin University's School of Nursing and Midwifery, in partnership with Curtin's Centre for Aboriginal Studies, with the aim of developing graduate Indigenous Australian cultural competence. Pedagogical approaches are discussed and an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from the University's online student feedback mechanism provided. Results show that although the unit has provided the majority of students with a strong start on their journey to developing Indigenous cultural competence a single course is not sufficient and, consistent with the literature in the field, resistance to compulsory Indigenous content is evident. The paper considers some of the complexities of teaching Indigenous Australian content within a contemporary Australian university. In doing so, the paper explores what Indigenous cultural competency might be and how it might be achieved providing a useful model with application to other disciplines.


Indigenous Australian cultural competency, cross-cultural graduate capability, Indigenising curricula, cross-cultural pedagogy, intercultural education

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License | ISSN 1838-3815