UniSA Case Studies

Case study: Charles Darwin University

Charles Darwin University logoThe [xe] project aims to understand how Australian universities are developing initiatives to improve Higher Education study pathways for Indigenous students in the disciplines underpinned by science and mathematics.

To meet this aim the University of South Australia has undertaken research using a case study approach to examine 6 university exemplars.

One of the universities studied was Charles Darwin University.


Core features Engagement strategy: Various programs, including Whole of Community Engagement (WCE) initiative
Student catchment: Within a national and international student body, WCE is specifically focused on remote Indigenous communities
Age-group: Senior schooling to post-school
Funding source: WCE funded via HEPPP
Outcomes WCE aims to increase remote Indigenous student access to CDU’s VET and Higher Education courses. Community-based forums, staff and community relationships are well-established.
Strengths Partnerships with a diverse range of institutions. Programs engage dual epistemological scientific approaches within a ‘both ways’ philosophy. Local communities, knowledges and potential students are engaging with the university.
Challenges Strategic marketing attracts high-achieving Indigenous students to interstate universities. Lack of appropriate subsidies to mitigate the high cost of living in Darwin for students attending university, among other concerns. The WCE program sits within a long-term plan that is unlikely to remain viable without HEPPP funding.

From the report:

Charles Darwin University (CDU) currently works in partnership with the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE) through the Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ACIKE) and is founded on Batchelor’s  ‘both ways’ philosophy (Huijser et al 2015; Ober & Bat 2007; Yunupingu 1999) of working between and across Indigenous Knowledge and Western science spaces.

The ‘Whole of Community Engagement’ initiative is a research informed process aimed at increasing remote Indigenous student access to CDU‘s VET and Higher Education courses.

As part of the field work for this case study, an experienced mathematics educator and professional association member were interviewed to explore the geographical and cultural issues that face young Indigenous Northern Territorians living remotely who have interest and aspirations in pursuing STEM in Higher Education. In this sense, this case study focuses more closely on the remote Indigenous community context than the nature of Indigenous participation in the university‘s more-mainstream courses.

The CDU/Batchelor model stands as a unique approach to Indigenous engagement in Higher Education through resisting language and impulses towards notions of deficit and disadvantage and instead, adopts an approach that builds on the strength of Indigenous communities, languages and knowledges in their approach to teaching and research in a dual epistemological context.

Full report: Strengthening Indigenous Participation and Practice in STEM: University Initiatives for Equity and Excellence (PDF) >>


Huijser, H, Ober, R, O‘Sullivan, S, & McRae-Williams, E (eds) (2015) Finding the common ground: Narratives, provocations and reflections from the 40 Year Celebration of Batchelor Institute. Batchelor, NT: Batchelor Press.
Ober, R & Bat, M (2007) Paper 1: Both-ways: The philosophy. Ngoonjook: A Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, 31: 64-86.
Yunupingu, M (1999) Double power. In P Wignell (ed) Double power: English literacy and Indigenous education (pp. 8-11). Deakin, VIC: Australian National Languages and Literacy Institute.

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