A survey released today of Indigenous academic and professional staff in higher education has revealed they continue to experience direct discrimination and racist attitudes in our universities.
Racial discrimination and a general lack of cultural respect is not an issue that is confined to wider society; although universities are the bastion of research, learning and teaching, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff members do experience racial discrimination in the workplace.
“While the vast majority of non-Indigenous university staff are not racist or prejudiced; this survey shows a number unfortunately hold racist views,” said Jillian Miller, a staff member at the University of South Australia and Chair of National Tertiary Education Union’s (NTEU) Indigenous Policy Committee.
This survey confirms that racial discrimination does exist in the higher education sector and while all universities have very clear and unambiguous policies committing them to eliminate racial discrimination, transforming these statements into action requires a more concerted effort from university management, said Jeannie Rae, NTEU President.
The survey conducted by the Indigenous Unit of the NTEU, also identified that many Indigenous staff feel they have experienced lateral violence in the workplace at the hands of other Indigenous colleagues, in some cases by individuals that also have management responsibility over those affected. Lateral violence has been defined in US research as “the harmful and undermining practices that members of oppressed groups can engaged in against each other as a result of marginalisation”.
“Racial discrimination, including incidents of lateral violence between Indigenous staff, is of great concern because it undermines the ability of Indigenous academic and professional staff to do their job and has an impact the ability of institutions to retain qualified Indigenous staff.” said Ms Miller.
The findings released today include:
“Our report is timely given the federal government’s review of higher education access and outcomes for Indigenous people. Less than one per cent of university staff are Indigenous, well down from the population parity figure of 2.5%. Policies aimed at increasing Indigenous participation, no matter how well intentioned, will not work unless steps are also taken to tackle racial discrimination,” concluded Ms Miller
For further information and comment:
Jillian Miller, Chair of NTEU Indigenous Policy Committee: 0401 710 693 or 08 8302 9151
Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President: 0434 609 531 or 03 9254 1910, firstname.lastname@example.org
Report on Cultural Respect, Racial Discrimination, Lateral Violence & Related Policy at Australiaâ€™s Universities. Published by the National Indigenous Unit and Indigenous Policy Committee of the NTEU.