Understanding the nexus between equity and indigenous higher education policy agendas in Australia

James A. Smith, Sue Trinidad, Steve Larkin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


In 2008, the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education highlighted the importance of ‘increasing the number of under-represented groups within Australia’s higher education system – including Indigenous people, people with low socio-economic status, and those from regional and remote areas’ (Bradley et al. Review of Higher Education in Australia: final report. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Canberra, 2008). Building on over two decades of equity policy development in higher education in Australia, these ‘equity groups’ were subsequently afforded a more legitimate place in the future national higher education policy arena. One notable example was a greater focus on Indigenous higher education, including the commissioning of the Behrendt Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Behrendt et al. Review of Higher Education access and outcomes for aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: final report. Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, Canberra, 2012). This review, in tandem with incremental investments in Indigenous higher education over the previous decades, has led to dedicated funding streams for Indigenous higher education initiatives. We argue that the parallel policy focus on the broad national equity agenda and the more specific Indigenous higher education agenda can be both complementary and divergent. These contrasting positions are particularly evident in the implementation of respective equity and Indigenous programs in higher education institutions across Australia. In this chapter we discuss the unique theoretical dimensions and principles underpinning each of these higher education policy agendas and explore the synergies and tensions between them. We adopt a strengths-based perspective to explain what the future possibilities and opportunities might be in promoting greater cohesion, integration and interdependence between equity and Indigenous higher education agendas in Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIndigenous Pathways, Transitions and Participation in Higher Education
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Policy to Practice
EditorsJack Frawley, Steve Larkin, James A. Smith
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9789811040627
ISBN (Print)9789811040610
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Higher education
  • Indigenous People
  • Torres Strait Islander
  • High Education Policy
  • Indigenous Student


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