The Indigenous Education Forum: a Jumbunna-schools collaboration

Supporting Indigenous students to get to university and succeed in their studies at UTS is core business for the Jumbunna Institute. Integral to this is working at the school level – to build Indigenous students’ awareness and aspirations for further education, but more widely to contribute to systemic changes so that there is a deeper understanding of the needs of indigenous students and appreciation and valuing of Indigenous culture across school communities.

Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt, Director of Research and Maree Graham, Director of Student Services at Jumbunna Institute welcoming everyone to the June Workshop

The Indigenous Education Forum is a new collaboration between Jumbunna and eight independent schools focused on achieving these changes. Our school partners are:

Kempsey Adventist College, Kempsey

Kinross Wolaroi School, Orange

Macquarie Anglican Grammar School, Dubbo

Pymble Ladies’ College, Sydney

Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview

Saint Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill

Taree Christian College, Taree

The Scots College, Bellevue Hill

Forum schools are a diverse group spread across regional and metropolitan New South Wales. They vary in size (from just over 400 to over 2000) and include single sex and coed schools, and day and boarding schools. Some have significant numbers of local Indigenous students while others have smaller number of Indigenous students, many of whom are boarding off Country. What all partners in the Forum share is an awareness of the need to change current practices and structures and a deep commitment to improving the experiences and educational outcomes of their Indigenous students, as well as relationships with Indigenous families and communities.

In particular, the Forum is focused on advocating for Indigenous voice and leadership in each organisation’s context, particularly the voices of Indigenous school students and Indigenous staff. It will provide a space for partners to critique and challenge mainstream practices, and collectively generate new ways to think and act to advance the outcomes and experiences of Indigenous students that are based in both scholarly research and the expertise of practitioners, particularly Indigenous scholars and Indigenous school staff.

Despite the intense pressures that Covid has created for schools this year, the Forum has come together six times in 2021 with a final session planned for November. This has included an in-person session hosted by Jumbunna at UTS in June involving Elder-in-residence Aunty Glendra Stubbs and Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt with presentations by Lachlan McDaniel and Maree Graham addressing engaging meaningfully with Indigenous communities and Indigenous research methods and principles. The Forum has focused on understanding Indigenous student wellbeing and supporting students with trauma, including an online presentation and open discussion led by Associate Professor Dr Paul Gray, Head of Jumbunna’s Child Protection hub. Sessions are open to all members of the school community, with Indigenous staff, teachers, senior staff and counseling staff participating to date.

While early days, partner schools are finding that the Forum is an effective mechanism for widening awareness and engagement across their schools communities in Indigenous education. It is demonstrating the mutual benefits of working across the university-school sectors, leading to requests for more professional learning within the schools, and deepening Jumbunna’s insights into the particular needs of Indigenous students and families in partner schools. This will strengthen our capacity to support Indigenous students not only at school but as they transition into further education. 

The Forum’s longer-term vision is for a state-wide network of schools, universities and key Indigenous education stakeholders collectively working for change at the systemic level as well as in each of our organisations, and thereby transforming the education experiences and outcomes of Indigenous students.

Further information

Maree Graham, Director of Indigenous Students and Community Engagement,

Lachlan McDaniel, Indigenous Higher Degree by Research Coordinator,

Dr Tracy Barber, Education Specialist Adviser,