Posted by: Janek | July 22, 2011

Jingawahlu! Which Wei? (Hi!, How you going?)

One aspect of tertiary education that I wish there were more I could do for is that for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia.  They make up less than 1% at many universities, and at a postgraduate level are often few and far between.

By chance, while I was in Brisbane, I was invited to the launch of a new report: The Murri Youth Sector in Queensland.  The Murri (Murray) people of Queensland make up a substantial portion, particularly in far-north queensland, around the gulf, and down to Mt Isa.  The Youth Affairs Network of Queensland (YANQ) do a lot of work in the youth sector, particularly representation to government and youth work.  They co-organised the report, which includes a youth sector development plan.  Key findings include the need to:

  • Strengthen youth sector strategic capacity for workforce development
  • Strengthen partnerships with Government
  • Create a responsive training and skilling system
  • Define and promote the youth services sector
  • Design and implement attraction and retention strategies
  • Develop cultural awareness
  • Develop sector capacity to work on mental health matters

Looking at the results, 27% of youth workers in the Murri project have no relevant qualifications, 39% have a certificate, 19% have a diploma, and 15% have an advanced diploma or higher. 38% of workers have fewer than 2 years experience.  37% said they would leave their youth work role for wages, 17% for lack of professional support, and 18% for the employment conditions.

Meanwhile, the students who do make it through to university tend to study on “block release” – intensive units for two weeks, cramming in a semester of learning.  They are unable to attend the universities on a full-time basis because of a few reasons, including cost of living and their remote locations, and can’t study by distance due to poor internet and other communications access, technology, and other resources.  Issues with support for research students is also noted.

On behalf of Adrian Hepi, President of the National Indigenous Postgraduate Association Aboriginal Corportation (NIPAAC), I will be attending a meeting on Monday to discuss these issues with the government.  Students aren’t able to access the training they need, and, when they move into the workforce, work in poor conditions, are underfunded, and have a high turnover.  Without the Youth Wotkers to inspire the communities, the community suffers and students who have the ability don’t get the opportunity to move into the academic community.

[link to report is forthcoming]

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