ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER POLICY
NTEU remains a vocal proponent for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander members, peoples and their communities. NTEU advocates greater opportunities and support, to access and participate in higher education; increased levels of employment across the sector; ensure the principals of self-determination are inculcated, whilst pursuing the realisation of true social and restorative justice.
NTEU therefore endorses the following policy statement:
Australia is a privileged country whose economic, social and political condition are the envy of many first-world nations. Unfortunately, by every available social and economic indicator, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people do not share this privilege.
Disproportionately, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people remain confined to the margins of society. The lived reality is entrenched poverty, distressing rates of imprisonment, appalling health outcomes, restricted access to appropriate housing, high levels of unemployment and poor educational attainment.
A plethora of evidence exists, demonstrating societal rights, freedoms and opportunities afforded to members of mainstream society are not, and have not traditionally been offered to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people.
The genesis of the relationship between Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people and European settlers, was based upon the annulled concept of Terra Nullius. As sovereign, self-determined peoples, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders are not only entitled to the same rights, freedoms and opportunities; but must also have their sovereign rights enshrined in a treaty or series of treaties.
Historically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participated in systems of education that were heavily influenced by policies of assimilation and segregation. While today’s education system has advanced, impressions of those policies remain.
The system today, across all States, Territories and stages of the education journey (pre, primary, secondary and tertiary) has sought to incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, traditions and identity - although efforts to integrate culture have been largely symbolic and achieve varying levels of success. It is vital to recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach to education does not meet the requirements of all members in any society. The documented educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students only reinforces the need for a paradigm shift.
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander staff at Australian universities play a crucial role in supporting Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander students. In most instances, this support begins prior to enrolment and extends throughout and beyond the students time at university. The support received from those staff and the centres in which the staff are located, provide for a culturally safe environment on campus and house a unique repository for cultural knowledge. To ensure Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander students success, retention and completion rates are improved, the guidance and mentorship provided by Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander staff is inimitable. These staff give counsel on education and cultural matters, represent the university within their communities and to a range of external stakeholders and act as a cultural liaison – all while consistently demonstrating their abilities as researchers, educators and administrators.
Words alone deliver only best endeavours - the realisation of those words into action demonstrates conviction. The development, adoption and implementation of foundation agreements such as the NTEU Framework for a Post Treaty Union (2002)1, sets the basis for a partnership between Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander members, their communities and the Union.
In adhering to the principles of self-determination; the voice and influence of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander members must be heard - not only within union and the workplace, but across a range of senior management roles in the university sector, through to advisory appointments at the ministerial levels of government. Any commitment to effect change across the union, must also be replicated within the workplace of our membership. This commitment should encompasses a range of measures, including:
- Target, increase and measure employment opportunities, underpinned by the negotiation of obligations, protected in industrial instruments;
- Maintain traditional language, knowledges, concepts and systems;
Respect for cultural obligations;
Provision of culturally appropriate learning and teaching environments at all Australian universities; and
- Ensuring the adherence of ethical research protocols when working along-side Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities
The lived experience of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples today is directly influenced firstly by, the act of colonisation itself and secondly, through the conduct of governments, churches and authorities in generations past. While change has been achieved, a Terra Nullius of the mind remains and is prevalent within some sections of the Australian community. Ideological, interventionist and assimilatory policies, orchestrated by governments of all political persuasion, continue to oppress Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples. True social and restorative justice cannot take place without admission, apology, action and amends. Campaigns to see justice realised are most successful when they are supported and assisted appropriately.
The sovereignty of Australia’s first peoples has not and cannot be assumed by outdated concepts, nor can it be procured through tokenistic means of recognition. The negotiation of a treaty or treaties is fundamental and must not be diminished or quashed via calls for recognition elsewhere. NTEU affirms in unequivocal terms, resolute conviction and support for the continuation of the NTEU national campaign to see treaties negotiated with all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and will ensure appropriate resources are allocated to achieve this objective.
- Continue the implementation of the NTEU Framework for a Post Treaty Union (2002);
Maintain our current elected and internal structure to ensure appropriate representation and advocacy for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander members;
- Negotiate and implement the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander bargaining claim across all forthcoming bargaining rounds;
- Increase employment opportunities across all levels of the Union for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
- Advocate for increased government funding across all Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander support programmes;
On the principle of self-determination, continued advocacy and action to ensure Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples are directly involved in high level processes that determine policy directions at government and university levels;
- Advocate to ensure an ethical approach to research, conducted with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities;
- Campaign to end racism and discrimination on university campuses and workplaces and take action to resist the mainstreaming of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander support centres in Australian universities;
- Support campaigns to see social and restorative justice achieved;
- Oppose and campaign against current and future university and/or government policies that are based purely on ideology and have been designed to mainstream, intervene upon, assimilate, oppress and silence Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people;
- Promote and support the negotiation of a treaty and/or treaties as the foundation article/s on which to establish further recognition; and
- Recognise and acknowledge A&TSI Days of Struggle, Defiance and Significance.