Developing a pathway for Indigenous students in a tertiary science course in rural Australia: a work in progress.

Cesidio Parissi, Sarah Hyde, Phillipa Southwell

Abstract


Tertiary level STEM courses have low entry and completion numbers for Indigenous students. The Bachelor of Clinical Science course at Australia’s rurally-located Charles Sturt University is seeking a solution, for the course has a high success rate for graduates obtaining entry into medicine and dental programs (48%), but it has no Indigenous graduates. This is concerning because research suggests that poor Indigenous health outcomes (compared to non-Indigenous Australians) can be improved by having more Indigenous health professionals; and evidence also suggests that professionals who train in rural areas are more likely to return to rural practice. In view of this research, and to improve the number of Indigenous participants in STEM courses, in particular the Clinical Science course, staff have implemented a suite of initiatives, namely, a program of cultural awareness among staff, which involves the inclusion of culturally appropriate material into courses, establishing partnerships with local Aboriginal communities to create a culturally safe physical environment, and holding Aboriginal cultural events on campus. The aim of these strategies is to develop our educational and cultural ‘infrastructure’ and a pathways program to enhance the success of Indigenous students in science courses. This article provides an account of the program content of Clinical Science, the initiatives that have been employed, and the progress to achieve our stated aims.

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