Reflecting on our First Steps: Indigenisation of the Curriculum in Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy

Caroline Robinson, Barbara Hill, Brett Biles, Natalie Hamam

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This discussion will explore the process of course review and curriculum design in two undergraduate courses at Charles Sturt University (CSU): the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy and the Bachelor of Physiotherapy. The broader context for these course reviews is a requirement to address the CSU Indigenous Education Strategy (IES) (2008), as part of a whole-of-institution approach to Indigenous education founded upon the principles of cultural competence, social justice and reconciliation. The CSU Indigenous Australian Content in Courses Policy (2015) provides guiding principles for Indigenisation of curricula.
The CSU online Indigenous cultural competency program facilitates the staff cultural competency journey and nothing will change unless academics engage in critical self-evaluation and reflexivity. The development of teaching teams supports collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics and is paramount to developing subjects and curricula which align with national and institutional frameworks. Indigenous academics – including Indigenous Academic Fellows – have intrinsic value beyond staff support, providing invaluable insights into the procedural and managerial aspects of Indigenous content and curricula
It takes time to develop Indigenous content respectfully, authentically and collaboratively - one small change has a ripple effect - influencing other smaller changes in the curriculum.
Some important issues for consideration include: potential resistance from academics who conceive the addition of learning outcomes and Indigenous content to subjects, as competition for existing discipline content; non-Indigenous academics who consider themselves to be ill-equipped to enable student learning in relation to Indigenous cultural competency; the ownership of Indigenous knowledge and appropriate acknowledgement of the contributions of Indigenous academics to the process; culturally competent leadership to facilitate conversations about racism, invisible whiteness, decolonisation, and cultural competence.
The process of course review is iterative and discussions are ongoing between the Occupational Therapy and the Physiotherapy course teams, and the School of Indigenous Australian Studies, as work proceeds towards approval of both courses by the CSU Indigenous Board of Studies. Additionally, there is increased activity in the School of Community Health focused on developing existing collaborations and establishing new relationships with Indigenous community members and organisations. Authentic and genuine partnerships with Aboriginal communities are essential in developing and implementing Indigenous curricula but are not replacements for Indigenous academics. Governance structures require careful review and diversification, and this includes establishing positions for Indigenous academics within Schools and disciplines. It is the responsibility of all academics and industry partners to engage with the Indigenous curriculum and to walk together on this journey.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
EventCSUed 2017: Value teaching - CSU's distinctive learning experience - Charles Sturt University, Orange, Australia
Duration: 21 Jun 201723 Jun 2017 (Conference website)


ConferenceCSUed 2017
Abbreviated titleQuality Learning and Teaching: Transforming our teaching both on campus and online
Internet address


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