Best Practice in Supporting Indigenous Students with Disability in Higher Education
Written by Associate Professor Michele Fleming and Dr Diana Grace (University of Canberra)
The purpose of the report is to provide an understanding of the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with disability in Australian higher education and the support they currently receive. Further, the report provides a series of recommendations for good-practice in supporting this group of students based on a review of the literature and an understanding of current support practices in the higher education sector.
The report comprises four distinct sections. The first section of the report examines the extant literature pertaining to disability services in higher education, disability support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the supports available for Indigenous students in higher education. The literature review is extensive, though not exhaustive, and seeks to discern the key factors that affect the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with disability.
Secondly, data were obtained from the Australian Government Department of Education and Training regarding the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with disability at each Australian university from 2001 to 2013. The data were examined according to students’ enrolment status (i.e., full-time vs. part-time); level of degree being undertaken (i.e., undergraduate, postgraduate-coursework or higher degrees by research); and the field of study being pursued.
The third section reports on a study in which current disability advisers throughout the higher education sector were asked about the general and specific supports provided to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students with disability at their university. Participating universities demonstrated high consistency regarding generic disability support provided, but some variation in the delivery of these services to Indigenous students. This work also highlighted the variation in training provided to disability advisers with regard to cultural awareness and cultural competence.
The final section of the report combines all these findings and makes recommendations for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with disability at Australian universities.
We would like to acknowledge that this research took place on the land of the Ngunnawal people. Neither author is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and we are aware that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been over researched and under consulted (Bostock, 2007; Clark, 2008; Dodson, 1995). It was not the goal of the current research to contribute further to this. Thus, our report focuses on integrating existing information in order to inform practice. This work has been informed by Aboriginal people and we honour their contributions. We would particularly like to thank the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff members and students at the University of Canberra who provided us with advice in relation to this report. As a result of the recommendations made in this report, we hope that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will become key decision makers in how to best support Indigenous students with disability at Australian universities.