What do we know about community engagement in Indigenous education contexts and how might this impact on pathways into higher education?

James A. Smith, Steve Larkin, Dean Yibarbuk, John Guenther

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


Community engagement is often cited as a critical component of working with Indigenous communities in both Australia and other countries. Ideally, this involves engaging in ‘bottom-up’ approaches that scope, identify and subsequently respond to community needs and aspirations. Community engagement is usually participatory and developmental in nature. It is often used as a means to shape policy and program development, scope research approaches and support enhanced service delivery in a range of settings, including the education sector. However, the physical, social, cultural, economic and political contexts in which community engagement occurs can be different. As such, there is no definitive approach to what community engagement both ‘looks’ and ‘feels’ like within different Indigenous education contexts. This chapter systematically explores what we already know about Indigenous community engagement, and how this relates to Indigenous education, and more specifically, Indigenous higher education contexts in Australia. We argue that there are four key factors that can impact on pathways into higher education for Indigenous students, which include ‘redefining community engagement from Indigenous standpoints’; ‘appropriately resourcing Indigenous community engagement activities’; ‘continuing to build an evidence base to learn from recent Indigenous community engagement investments’ and the need to ‘move beyond the rhetorical language used in many policy documents and frameworks.’ We conclude by suggesting that improvements in the quality and quantum of Indigenous community engagement work occurring in higher education in Australia will ultimately enhance opportunities for successful Indigenous pathways and transitions into university.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIndigenous Pathways, Transitions and Participation in Higher Education
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Policy to Practice
EditorsJack Frawley, Steve Larkin, Smith James A.
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789811040627
ISBN (Print)9789811040610
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


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