Indigenous staff critical to boosting Indigenous university student numbers
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) welcomed the announcement today (17 December) by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Evans, on plans to double the number of Indigenous university students, but said that boosting the number of Indigenous staff at universities had to be part of the solution.
“Over the past decade the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff working at Australian universities has doubled. However, Indigenous academic and general staff are still only one per cent of the workforce though they constitute 2.2% of the Australian population aged 15-64 years,” said NTEU President Jeannie Rea.
Senator Evans made the commitment to population parity for Indigenous students in announcing the newly constituted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Advisory Council, which will advise on how to reach this goal.
“Having staff and students represented on the Council is critical to its success and we welcome the inclusion of nominees from both the NTEU and the National Union of Students,” Rea said.
Rea said that the NTEU had long campaigned to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff working at Australian universities.
“Targets for Indigenous employment are standard parts of enterprise agreements negotiated between the union and universities and have played a part in achieving the growth in staff.
“In our current enterprise bargaining round, the NTEU is calling upon universities across Australia to go further than percentage targets and commit themselves to numerical targets to increase the number of Indigenous academic and general staff over the next four years.”
Terry Mason, Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Sydney and chair of the NTEU’s National Indigenous Policy Committee, said that the success of Indigenous students strongly correlated to universities being culturally inclusive and safe places for Indigenous people.
“Indigenous students continue to have lower completion rates than other students. Having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff to support and mentor Indigenous students is vital to them staying the distance. Even just to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff around universities sends a positive message,” he said.
“Education and employment are fundamental to bridging the gap. Universities have a duty to lead, not just because they are major employers but also because Indigenous students need to see that universities value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as employees with important contributions to make. The commitment needs to be more than token – which is why real targets are critical,” he said.
Media enquiries: Carmel Shute, NTEU Media Officer: 0412 569 356; firstname.lastname@example.org
Media comment: Terry Mason, Chair, NTEU Indigenous Policy Committee: 0402 216 273; email@example.com
Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President: 0434 609 531; firstname.lastname@example.org