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Curtin University

Working Together: Intercultural Leadership

Intercultural Space

A space that exists in between different cultural groups; where cultural boundaries overlap and differences and similarities are both explored and embraced. The intercultural space avoids binary opposites; instead expanding to include all cultural perspectives.

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Project Overview

For educators, teaching Indigenous material in universities is both exciting and rewarding; with the potential for effecting considerable change by assisting future health, education and other professionals to be more culturally competent. In terms of health disparities, international evidence suggests educating non-Indigenous health professionals and Indigenous issues and health care contributes positively to the health status of Indigenous peoples.

Cross cultural teaching and learning also requires specialised skills in educators, and given Australia's past history and current Indigenous inequities, can raise many challenges for educators in the classroom such as encountering student racism/defensiveness, the cultural competency 'tick-box' syndrome, and the dangers of a reductionist approach in presenting Indigenous material. Further, while there is a critical need to bring more Indigenous educators into mainstream Indigenous teaching & learning courses, they are particularly vulnerable to emotional overload- due to the often very personal experience `of teaching content that may reflect inequities experienced in their own lives.

It is crucial that to effectively deliver Indigenous material, educators must be suitably equipped with strong reflexive and self-care strategies, enabling them to have a 'dilly bag' of internal and external resources of support in their teaching role. Educators must have robust skills in cross cultural facilitation and the capacity to develop challenging yet 'safe' teaching and learning spaces that do not resort to binary views but rather encourage students to explore multiple 'intercultural' perspectives in an open and transparent way. Effective Intercultural educators do not only have the potential to effect changes in students; their capacity to effect wider institutional cultural shifts is significant.

The 'Working Together' Project, funded by the Office for Learning and Teaching, aims to develop trial, evaluate and refine a Model that develops intercultural leadership capabilities in Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators teaching Indigenous material. A key component of this Model is the Intercultural Academic Leadership Program that aims to build the teaching and learning capacity and confidence of Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators to work in the Intercultural space, and build their capacity to become intercultural leaders to influence institutional reform and change.

The topics covered here identify the key tasks and activities for which Unit Coordinators are responsible and, where relevant, provides the source for more detailed information e.g. web-pages, policies, and other staff.