The Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success acknowledges Indigenous peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our campuses are situated. With a history spanning 60,000 years as the original educators, Indigenous peoples hold a unique place in Australia. We recognise the importance of their knowledge and culture, and reflect the principles of participation, equity, and cultural respect in our work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future, and consider it an honour to learn from our Indigenous colleagues, partners, and friends.

You are reading: What do we know about evaluation in Indigenous higher education contexts in Australia?

James A. Smith, Kellie Pollard, Kim Robertson and Sue Trinidad

Published in International Studies in Widening Participation.
February 2018


Indigenous participation and achievement in education is an issue of international significance. Within Australia, the Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (Behrendt, Larkin, Griew, & Kelly, 2012) provided a clear mandate for investing in policies and programs that support Indigenous pathways, participation and achievement in higher education. While there have been notable investments and significant national reforms in Indigenous higher education over the past few years, the recommendation within this report to develop a monitoring and evaluation framework is yet to be actioned. Similarly, in 2015 prior to its abolishment, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Advisory Council recommended the development of a ‘performance framework’, which also appears to have been ignored. In parallel, the Productivity Commission, Australian National Audit Office and subsequently the Australian Government have emphasised the importance of strengthening evaluation in Indigenous program and policy contexts across Australia. The release of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy Evaluation Framework in 2017 is one recent example. Bringing these two national conversations together, and drawing on current scholarship in this space, this paper describes what we currently know about evaluation in Indigenous higher education contexts in Australia. We point towards key areas for action to move this agenda forward as a means to better support Indigenous participation and achievement in higher education.

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