First Nations Engineering in Practice and in Learning

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Indigenous engineers by working with the landscape have contributed to altering this across the world for millennia before modern engineering methods developed. These approaches put a great emphasis on sustainability and community well-being. As we restart after the COVID lockdown and face the Climate Change Emergency, we need to reconsider the neglect of the skills these engineers valued and use the expertise of those in our communities to re-introduce this into our teaching

Many such changes have been highlighted as needing in our Engineering education for many years by women, differently abled and Indigenous groups who are not catered for in many cases by existing engineering designs or university teaching methods. Also, employers are seeking more creativity in students and improved abilities to scope and define a problem before the design stage.

We are practitioners and lecturers in this space and want to raise awareness about the pervasive quality of the skills we teach and use and the importance of Indigenous perspective as boundary objects to challenge the dominant approach to engineering.

For non-Indigenous engineers to integrate such learnings in their work, or engage with communities, the first step is to develop personal relations with Indigenous people, a process that has been neglected in both our countries (Australia and Canada) so we bring our networks and experience to the workshop to encourage links to be made. Also we bring our understanding of Indigenous knowledge sharing practices to assist others to work in these spaces. We also have case studies of the disconnect between approaches from the different cultures that we can demonstrate and engage participants in our experiences on the cultural interface.

Much research has been done on incorporating Indigenous knowledge in the curriculum and we can adapt Indigenous approaches to assist our students grow in awareness of the concerns of Indigenous Peoples and to position them in a critical thinking framework to collaborate with First Nations at the cultural interface. In this way we can move forward as partners in the new normal with a shared comprehension of new values and beliefs that incorporate value of the land, value of community over individual, respect for two-way learning and humility as engineers in entering the public space.

These teachings apply to engineering work with any community as they provide the case studies and scenarios to enter dialogue about our assumptions, beliefs and values in a way that challenges and creates interesting engagement for our students. Also, through low-tech community projects our engineers can engage in whole-of-project experiences that will introduce them to all aspects of engineering projects in a creative space.

The workshop will include case studies and exercises to engage with different perspectives around some engineering aspects as an introduction to these teaching strategies. We invite examples from others in teaching that link to this work to develop partnerships around project development to consult, scope, design and implement engineering products with our local communities.


ConferenceCanadian Engineering Education/Association Canadienne de L'Education En Genie
Abbreviated titleCEEA/ACEG
Internet address


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