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: Building Legacy and Capacity Workshop Three: Indigenous Perspectives on Evaluation in Indigenous Higher Education — Summary of Outcomes and Recommendations

James Smith, Kim Robertson and Nadine Zacharias


The third workshop in the Building Legacy and Capacity series put a spotlight on data sovereignty and the importance of listening to Indigenous perspectives on evaluation in Indigenous higher education.

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 the Behrendt Review 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 is also yet to be actioned. This means there are no frameworks or practice guidelines to inform future success in evaluation in Indigenous higher education in Australia. The workshop aimed to partially address this gap.

The workshop began with James Smith and Kim Robertson providing a brief summary of what is currently known about evaluation in Indigenous higher education contexts in Australia (as per workshop pre-reading Smith et al., 2018). They then presented findings from an Equity Fellowship project led by James Smith, hosted at Charles Darwin University and sponsored by the NCSEHE. Key enablers and drivers of evaluation in Indigenous higher education contexts identified through this research, which involved Indigenous scholars from all states and territories across Australia, were discussed. It is envisaged these findings will help to frame subsequent workshop dialogue about potential success factors and good practice principles that could shape improvements in evaluation in Indigenous higher education in Australia. This will mark the commencement of what is hoped to be an ongoing national conversation about this important topic.

For practitioners, researchers and policymakers working in Indigenous and equity higher education contexts, there remain critical questions about the nature of the problem and the best ways to facilitate timely action:

  • How can concepts of data sovereignty be incorporated into evaluation in Indigenous higher education, including issues such as Indigenous governance and leadership, Indigenous knowledges and Indigenous methods?
  • How can universities and government pay attention to the key principles, enablers and drivers associated with good practice in evaluation in Indigenous higher education?
  • How can we make better use of emerging evaluation evidence in Indigenous higher education to drive culturally responsive policy and program reforms?
  • How can Indigenous scholars and other key stakeholders work together to ensure the development of a national Indigenous higher education performance and evaluation strategy is prioritised?

In trying to resolve these questions and work towards evidence-based advice to policymakers and practitioners, this workshop brought together a group of Indigenous subject matter experts to consider the topic from different perspectives.

Priority was given to inviting Indigenous higher education stakeholders to participate in the workshop. However, non-Indigenous stakeholders with an interest in Indigenous higher education, from both research and policy backgrounds, were invited. The intent was to provide a culturally safe space to engage in a strategic discussion and debate about evaluation in Indigenous higher education.

The workshop was structured around high-level questions which framed the group discussion:

  • What do we know about the nature of the problem?
  • What does success look like?
  • What do we know from current practice and research: What works? What doesn’t work? Why and why not?
  • What principles underpin good practice, and why?
  • How could the Australian Government, state governments and universities better support effective approaches?
  • What are the gaps in knowledge to promote positive change?

The insights generated during the workshop have informed this set of priority actions that can be implemented by researchers, practitioners and policymakers across the sector.

Read the full report here: Building Legacy and Capacity Workshop 3

Summary of Outcomes and Good Practice Principles

Accessible PDF