Letters from Mungo: A Dialogue on Decolonisation to Improve Academic Engagement with Aboriginal Students


  • Malcolm Ridges Senior Scientist: Socioeconomic heritage & Aboriginal NRM, Office of Environment & Heritage, NSW Government, Armidale; and Adjunct Senior Lecturer, University of New England, Armidale
  • Tim Wess Executive Dean of Science Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga,


A challenge for all universities in Australia is how to engage, and importantly, retain Aboriginal students. It can be tempting to think that addressing that challenge primarily concerns services, support and content. However, that response views the point of adaptation in the student. Academics also need to adapt and evolve if their relationship with Aboriginal students is to be improved and be embracing of how an alternative world view may enhance their own and hence their teaching. Much has been written on what constitutes decolonisation in education and how to achieve it, often involving an Indigenous voice. Less has been written on the personal transition required to realise decolonised practice so that what is experienced by all is inclusive and meaningful. This concerns what the colonisers need to do to bring about change in themselves. To explore this issue, a shared self-reflective dialogue is presented between an academic and a government scientist who have each been transformed by their experience of working with Aboriginal people. Over the structured discussion, a number of threshold concepts come to light that need to be embraced as fundamental elements on the journey to decolonisation. The work is purposefully self-reflective so that others can share the direct feedback we have had from working closely with Aboriginal people in Australia.






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