"I want to get some skills so I can help my own people"

  • Noel Finch

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    In 1982, the first TAFE accredited Welfare Certificate Course (later upgraded to Associate Diploma) specifically for Indigenous adult students commenced at the Kangaroo Point College of TAFE in Brisbane - a first in Australia. This course was developed and begun as the result of the lobbying of post-school institutions by an Indigenous Community group seeking training in welfare skills within a culturally supportive environment for Indigenous workers in its growing Community Organizations. The College's Principal and his Senior Technical Teacher in charge of Welfare courses supported the program. I was appointed the program's co-ordinator, then Senior Technical Teacher.

    Over the following decade the single program quickly grew into a Unit, Section and then the School of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Education of which I became Head of School and a College Associate Director, supported by a full-time staff of eleven Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers plus part-time teachers covering part-time Literacy classes, TAFE Indigenous Teacher Trainee mentoring, Certificates of Basic Education, Junior and Senior Access, Vocational Preparation, Tertiary Preparation, Indigenous Welfare and Administration Associate Diploma courses - all within a culturally safe, supportive environment.

    Throughout this period, the unit remained in close collaboration and consultation with the Indigenous Communities which were officially represented by the College's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee, first formed in 1982 from the Community lobby group. ATSIC Regional Council was also a strong supporter. This thesis examines this decade historically through the lens of post-school Indigenous Education since colonization and through the first person narratives of nine Indigenous Queensland graduates of those courses of the eighties.

    Current Indigenous academics and researchers, for example, Nakata (1997), West (2000), Bin Sallik (2003), Langton (2004), Yunkaporta (2009) and Rigney (2011), are providing a range of contemporary theories and recommendations for closing the gap of educational disadvantage of Indigenous people in Australia. The approaches taken to teaching and learning, skill training for employment, cultural identity, belonging and appropriateness by the School during that decade were not the result of theoretical deliberations but experience and practical andrological solutions to endemic problems in Indigenous post-school education by dedicated Indigenous and non-Indigenous professional practitioners.

    It is the contention of this thesis that that uncodified approach of thirty years ago mirrored much of today's best practice recommendations by contemporary theorists. It is further argued that the ex-student narratives and other research data shown here concur with the view that what should work now for reconciliation and closing the Indigenous disadvantage gap did work two and three decades ago.

    The study is set within a theoretical framework of pragmatism involving a mixed method approach applying the pragmatist epistemological assertion that whatever works is true. (Debrok, 1994,1) Central to attempting to establish the truth of the contention is the privileging of the Indigenous voices (Rigney, 1999, 39); through the major foci of the investigation -the unexpurgated narratives of the ex-students of the and the theoretical recommendations of contemporary Indigenous academics and researchers. Both the qualitative and quantitative data obtained during the investigation show a positive correlation between the practical approaches of the School to Indigenous post-school teaching and learning with contemporary recommendations of significant contemporary Indigenous academics' recommendations and reports.

    Please note: this thesis includes the name and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRuth Wallace (Supervisor)

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