Best practice in supporting Indigenous students with disability in higher education
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with disability face multiple layers of disadvantage. There is a broad range of literature and numerous recommendations for improving Indigenous people’s wellbeing, for supporting Indigenous students at university, and for supporting people with disability in an educational context. However, little is available that integrates these to guide best practice in supporting Indigenous students with disability in higher education.
A new research project led by Associate Professor Michele Fleming in collaboration with University of Canberra colleague Dr Diana Grace seeks to provide clear, consistent guidelines for supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with disability in higher education.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience ill health and disability at a rate much higher than the Australian population as a whole,” said Associate Professor Fleming.
“For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, recognition of their ‘disability’ adds to the disadvantage they already face. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation rate at university is substantially lower than that of the Australian population as a whole. Non-Indigenous people are more than four times likely to have a Bachelor degree or higher than Indigenous Australians. Retention and completion rates are also well below those of non-Indigenous students, so recognising the challenges faced by this cohort and providing support and a ‘safe space’ for them at university is very important.”
“Our research aims to provide an accurate and up-to-date account of the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with disability at university in Australia, with a view to providing best practice recommendations for supporting this cohort to remain and succeed at university.”
“We are in the process of conducting a comprehensive literature review of disability service provision and suggested practices relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability. We will soon be in touch with equity and disability practitioners across the country, asking them to complete a survey through which we will understand the numbers and types of disabilities that are prevalent, and the various types of supports that are available to assist.”
“Ultimately, we want the results of our work to guide and inform future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-focused research, policy and practice.”
Associate Professor Fleming’s project is one of 12 funded via the NCSEHE’s 2015 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program. The project is scheduled to conclude in October 2015, after which time the final report will be made available here on the NCSEHE website.