“What are Nice Guys like them doing in a Place like that?”- Education Journeys from Australian Indigenous Students in Custody
Indigenous Australians have been the subject of long-term disadvantage and discrimination. They are “nearly 16 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people” (Council of Social Service of New South Wales, 2006, p. 1). Just over one third of Indigenous prisoners have completed primary education as compared to just 16% of non-Indigenous prisoners (Rawnsley, 2003, p. 19). The majority of Indigenous people in custody have little opportunity to intervene in the offending cycle because they lack the education tools. Since 2000 our university has offered a Tertiary Entry Program (TEP) specifically designed for Australian Indigenous people who wish to gain the necessary skills for successful university study. The university has a growing Indigenous student cohort at various correctional institutions across Australia. As lecturers in the program, we sought to look beneath the shocking statistical reality and better understand our students. This was a qualitative research study to explore the education journeys of our students in one, local correctional centre. The project investigated the lived realities of our students from early education experiences through to their current studies. We asked; “Do we know our students and where they come from and is this relevant to effective teaching?” We sought to understand how their experiences of formal educational settings impacted on their current learning. While we adapt our program to accommodate the rigours of the correctional system and to provide our students with the best possible learning experience, we questioned how we could improve what we do. This paper explores aspects of student education journeys. Our students represent a fragile, double equity group, that of Australian Indigenous men in custody.
Keywords: Prison, Education Experiences, Australian Indigenous Students
Vicki Adele Pascoe
Lecturer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Nulloo Yumbah - Indigenous Learning, Spirituality and Research Centre, Central Queensland University
Lecturer in Marketing, Faculty of Business & Infomatics, Central Queensland University