James Cook University has a strong tradition of support for, and understanding of, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. This will remain as an essential feature of our core business, but as a university with campuses in Australia and Asia and a focus on the tropics more broadly, we must ensure that staff and students have an understanding of cultural practices across a broader geographical area.
Through the James Cook University Model staff and students will have a knowledge and understanding of the importance of culture to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those living in the tropics more broadly. Our presence in Asia through the Singapore campus and partnerships with Asian institutions will enhance insights into cultures in that region. Graduates will have the awareness and skills to communicate across cultures.
The National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency was released in October 2011. This framework was developed by Universities Australia in co-operation with the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council with funding support from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. The Framework consists of five guiding principles:
Indigenous people should be actively involved in university governance and management;
All graduates of Australian universities will have the knowledge and skills necessary to interact in a culturally competent way with Indigenous communities;
University research will be conducted in a culturally competent way in partnership with Indigenous participants;
Indigenous staffing will be increased at all appointment levels and, for academic staff, across a wider variety of academic fields;
Universities will operate in partnership with their Indigenous communities and will help disseminate culturally competent practices to the wider community.
That the National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities be embedded.
An institution-wide Indigenous cultural competency strategy will address:
the embedding of Indigenous perspectives and knowledge within the curriculum of courses;
the development of a cultural competency framework and action plan including a curriculum node and support and training for staff and students in cultural competency;
the further recruitment of Indigenous staff;
pathways for Indigenous students;
retention of Indigenous students;
leadership of, and support frameworks for, Faculty/School based Indigenous Student Support Officers.
The School of Indigenous Australian Studies offers Cultural Awareness programs for staff and students who want to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. The Taskforce suggests this program should form part of the staff induction program.
The James Cook University Professional College currently offers a Cultural Competency module that focuses on “Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures.” This is a 10-hour program with students provided with a number of options by which they can complete the module. This program could be enhanced and made available to a greater number of students.
That more programs to develop cultural competence be established and made accessible to staff and students.