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Transforming teaching and learning through including Indigenous perspectives at QUT

26 Feb 2024 | Lauren Woodlands, Francis Nona Dr Lauren Woodlands and Francis Nona are the Program Leads for the Associate Fellow (Indigenous Knowledges) award at Queensland University of Technology. They reflect on the impact of offering the specialist category of fellowship to staff in Australia.

Universities play an important role in equipping students with the skills and attributes needed to be resilient, life-long learners who are civically engaged and productive community members. In an Australian context, a key component of this is including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) perspectives and knowledges in the curriculum to ensure students graduate with a foundational understanding of Indigenous knowledges relevant to their discipline. 

We’re no stranger to the powerful impact Advance HE fellowship can have on a community of educators, with over 1,200 staff awarded fellowship at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). To build on this, and to acknowledge the work of staff in successfully embedding Australian Indigenous perspectives and knowledges in the curriculum, at QUT we created the world-first accredited specialist award of Associate Fellow (Indigenous Knowledges). The impact of our award-winning program can also be seen in nearly 200 staff across Australia recognised with this specialist award for their work. Recently our team were recognised with an Australian Award for University Teaching citation for outstanding contribution to student learning. 

To radically transform university curricula and enhance experiences for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, we addressed the unfortunate truth that many non-Indigenous staff lack confidence or are under-prepared to embed Indigenous perspectives and knowledges in teaching. To support staff capacity, we deliver the Indigenous Perspectives and Knowledges in Learning and Teaching (IPKLT) module which innovatively tackles this core challenge by recognising that the transformation of the student learning experience must begin with teaching the staff who teach and support that learning. While teaching, we model respectful partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff. Our professional development aligned with the 2023 Professional Standards Framework has given the space to over 1,000 staff overall to enhance their practice, and ultimately, transform the student learning experience.  

Why is it important to embed Indigenous perspectives and knowledges in curriculum? 

In 2022, the updated Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy called on the sector to embed Indigenous perspectives and knowledges into curricula and to “ensure that students take with them a strong foundational understanding of Indigenous values and knowledges” (page 54). More recently, the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report has emphasised that incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and perspectives into all institutional operations is an “essential task for our contemporary higher education system" (page 98). This important work is the responsibility of all staff working in the higher education sector. 

We’re proud of the work we do. We have sought to anchor change within each individual staff member’s context, recognising that meaningful integration of Indigenous perspectives and knowledges within the curriculum must be shaped by professional context and discipline focus.  

What is the impact on student learning? 

These changes are being recognised by students. Feedback from students who have studied in subjects with Indigenous perspectives and knowledges embedded in the curriculum tell us how this has enabled them to develop core cultural competencies for practice. This includes Health students discussing how Indigenous persons are shown as health care providers, not just patients, or Business students working with Indigenous businesses in case studies. Furthermore, Indigenous students tell us the importance of seeing themselves reflected and valued in academia and for non-Indigenous learners to see the ongoing contribution and importance of Indigenous people in the curriculum. 

Where to from here? 

Our commitment to empowering university staff to embed Indigenous perspectives and knowledges in the curriculum continues. We’re dedicated to encouraging the development of staff capacity and to ensure that educators take on a shared responsibility for this work in partnership with Indigenous staff.  

As we prepare for another year of the program, Francis reflects through poetry on the role of integrating Indigenous perspectives and knowledges in higher education. 

A poem by Francis Nona 

In lecture halls where wisdom flows, 

Academic staff their fervour shows. 

With care and diligence, they aspire, 

To weave Indigenous perspectives higher. 


Through pages turned with respect profound, 

In syllabi, ancient voices resound. 

In the tapestry of learning's domain, 

Indigenous wisdoms find their refrain. 


With reverence, they blend the old and new, 

In tutorials where horizons renew. 

Guiding minds to paths less trodden, 

Where ancestral truths are awakened, awoken. 


Their commitment, a beacon bright, 

Igniting minds with scholarly light. 

In the curriculum's evolving frame, 

Indigenous perspectives find acclaim. 


So let us honour those who lead the way, 

In embedding truths where they stay. 

Academic staff, in their noble quest, 

Enriching minds, they truly attest. 

Dr Lauren Woodlands, Senior Fellow and Assoicate Fellow (Indigenous Knowledges), is the non-Indigenous co-lead on the Associate Fellow (Indigenous Knowledges) award, Lecturer in the QUT Academy of Learning and Teaching and co-teaches into the Indigenous Perspectives and Knowledges in Learning and Teaching professional development program at QUT.  

Francis Nona, Senior Fellow and proud Torres Strait man from Saibai, is the Indigenous co-lead on the Associate Fellow (Indigenous Knowledges) award and a poet. He is a Lecturer within the Carumba Institute which is dedicated to building Indigenous capability. His research looks at the impact of climate change on Indigenous communities.  

Find out more about the Global Fellowships Relay – #FellowshipsRelay2024.

If your institution is interested in building your Fellowship communities, find out about the range of support we have to offer here


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