Back row: Dr Dino Hodge, Andrew Farrell (UOW PhD Candidate), Ashleigh Johnstone (UOW PhD Candidate), Daniel Browning (presenter of ABC Radio National’s Indigenous arts and culture program Awaye!), Dr Alex Wilson (University of Saskatchewan). Middle row: Juliana Qian (3CR Radio), Maddee Clark (University of Melbourne), Assistant Professor Bronwyn Carlson (UOW), Dr Qwo-Li Driskill (Oregon State University. Front row: Dr Sandy O’Sullivan (Batchelor Institute), Lana Woolf (Joy FM), Tawhanga Nopera (PhD Candidate, University of Waikato), FIRE’s Queering Culture/Cultured Queer: Indigenous Perspectives on Queerness Symposium, University of Wollongong. Photo: Adam Orvad

Globalising teaching and learning in Indigenous Studies

Globalisation is the most dominant feature of life in the 21st century.[1] Its influence is both ubiquitous and unrelenting. In this dynamic and even tumultuous time, higher education has not been spared globalisation’s inexorable advance. The unprecedented pace of international student mobility, the rise in dual and joint degrees among tertiary institutions around the world, the increasing collaboration of scholars across national borders and the overwhelming role of English in the rankings of universities and frequently cited research publications are just a few of the examples that show globalisation’s impact on higher education.

The response of higher education to globalisation must take into account the ways in which the context of our lives have been changed and the historic obligation to prepare students to negotiate and succeed in this radically new circumstance. The internationalisation of the curriculum is effectively higher education’s response to globalisation. Indeed, according to Madeleine Green from the American Council for Education ‘‘it is the most important strategy that institutions can use to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes they will need as citizens and workers in a rapidly changing and globalized world’’.[2] Intercultural competence is ‘‘crucial for preparing all students’’ [3] to work effectively in global environments.

All too often, Indigenous people are left out of the conversation on globalisation; if anything, globalisation is seen as a force that impacts Indigenous peoples, rather than seeing Indigenous peoples as actors within a global economy. This is largely a reflection of the implicit assumptions that Indigenous peoples – and, by extension, Indigenous Studies – are exclusively interested in the past and in local knowledge and experience.

The demands of the globalised world mean that we need to equip students to think reflexively about issues that impact on Indigenous communities not only at a local, regional and national level but on a global scale. All students will be affected by the greatest challenges of our times, most of which are global in nature. All students will have responsibilities that can only be met by those who think of themselves as global citizens.[4] It is for this reason that the curriculum must be internationalised and that such a commitment must transcend disciplinary boundaries, including the natural, physical and social sciences as well as the arts and humanities.

Dr Qwo-Li Driskill facilitating a workshop, FIRE’s Queering Culture/Cultured Queer: Indigenous Perspectives on Queerness Symposium, University of Wollongong. Photo: Adam Orvad

Furthermore, ‘‘inter-cultural competence’’ is not only something that non-Indigenous students need to develop to engage more responsively with Indigenous communities.[5] In a global context in which Indigenous people are increasingly mobile, where Indigenous individuals and groups are engaging with each other across international and regional borders, and where representatives of various Indigenous communities come together to discuss issues in a variety of international fora, there is also a need for Indigenous students to acquire the cross-cultural knowledge, skills and attitudes they will need as citizens and workers in a rapidly changing world.

This is particularly important given the changing global political environment that has seen a significant rise of international, pan-Indigenous networks and social movements. With the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 and the establishment of The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), students need to be better prepared to engage with the ongoing global issues related to Indigenous economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

Another not inconsequential consideration has to do with the fact that although Indigenous peoples around the world have for years suffered marginalisation, exploitation, and even genocide, the knowledge they possess has been used to resolve a host of problems afflicting the human condition. The internationalisation of Indigenous Studies helps students to understand how Indigenous peoples, both in historical and contemporary times, have served as the guardians of knowledge that, for centuries, has helped to perpetuate life and keep the Earth’s systems in balance, a knowledge whose value has never been greater than it is now.

The University of Wollongong (UOW) and Northern Arizona University (NAU) have collaborated on a number of projects over the past five years and both share a commitment to academic excellence, diversity of cultures, ideas and people, Indigenous education and to creating a global campus. In 2010 Professor Michelle Harris (NAU) established a ‘‘Working Group’’ of international scholars to serve as a vehicle to bring together individuals who were engaged in teaching and research in Indigenous contexts.

The goal of the Working Group is to take a multi-disciplinary approach to research, teaching and learning in regard to Indigenous populations in Australia, New Zealand, North America and Canada. The collaborative efforts of the members of the Working Group have meant that we have been able to accomplish much within a few short years. The synergy of our first meeting led to a book[6] and several published articles, including one in relation to teaching Indigenous Studies globally.[7]

Tawhanga Nopera facilitating a weaving workshop with participant Andrew Farrell. Photo: Adam Orvad

Our collaborative relationship also led to the establishment of the Forum for Indigenous Research Excellence (FIRE) at the University of Wollongong. FIRE provides a medium that brings together researchers who are actively involved or interested in research in Indigenous contexts; and focuses on facilitating and fostering research with and for Indigenous communities; and that connects with and relates meaningfully to Indigenous people and communities in Australia and around the world.[8] We were also successful in our application for a UOW International Links Scheme grant, for a project entitled, ‘‘Indigenous Studies in a Global Context: A Collaborative Curriculum Project’’. This funding enabled the development of the curriculum for an Indigenous Studies subject to be trialed in 2016 at both universities.

The aim of the newly developed subject is manifold, but implicitly the team is interested in finding a way to use technology and our shared expertise in teaching elements of intercultural competence in different global contexts. Additionally, the group has established an open-access journal, the Journal of Global Indigeneity, to provide a forum for scholars who focus on Indigenous peoples in global contexts and in a freely available format that Indigenous people, outside the academy, may also access.



  1. ^ H. Charles & D. Deardorff, ‘A Failure to Capitalize on Globalization’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 18 June 2014: 
  2. ^ M. Green, Where Faculty Live: Internationalizing the Disciplines, American Council on Education, 2006, p. 3. 
  3. ^ A. Mak & M. Barker, Internationalisation at Home: Enhancing Intercultural Capabilities of Business and Health Teacher, Students and Curricula, Office for Learning and Teaching, Australian Government, 2013.  
  4. ^ See J. Gothard, G. Downey & T. Gray, Bringing the Learning Home: Programs to Enhance Study Abroad Outcomes in Australian Universities, Office for Learning and Teaching, Australian Government, 2012; D. Bradley, P. Noonan, H. Nugent & B. Scales, Review of Australian Higher Education Final Report, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2008; A. Stella & C. Liston, Internationalisation of Australian Universities: Learning from Cycle 1 Audits, Melbourne: Australian Universities Quality Agency, 2008; H. Charles and D Deardoff, op. cit.
  5. ^ Universities Australia, National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competence in Australian Universities, Canberra, ACT, 2011.  
  6. ^ M. Harris, M. Nakata & B. Carlson (eds), The Politics of Identity: Emerging Indigeneity, Sydney: University of Technology Sydney E-Press, 2013.
  7. ^ B. Carlson, J. Berglund, M. Harris & E. Poata-Smith, ‘Four Scholars Speak to Navigating the Complexities of Naming in Indigenous Studies’, The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 43(1), 2014, 1–15.
  8. ^ For more information on the Forum for Indigenous research Excellence see

Bronwyn Carlson is an Associate Professor in Indigenous Studies at the University of Wollongong. She was born on and lives on D’harawal Country, the Illawarra region of NSW. Bronwyn is co-convenor of the Forum for Indigenous Research Excellence (FIRE) at the University of Wollongong and is a long- standing member of the Working Group of Emergent Indigenous Identities established at Northern Arizona University. Recently, Bronwyn established the digital Journal of Global Indigeneity: