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Navigating two worlds: Indigenous Australian students' transitions into higher education

Matthews, Aaron Richard (2020) Navigating two worlds: Indigenous Australian students' transitions into higher education. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

While participation is slowly increasing, Indigenous Australian students are still significantly under-represented in higher education. The reasons for this are complex and varied, including: Cultural unfamiliarity with Western-dominant university epistemology; historical exclusion from participation in higher education; and socioeconomic factors. However, little is known about the lived experiences and collective narratives of Indigenous Australian students as they transition into university.

This study was designed to address this gap, by exploring the narratives, experiences and perceptions of Indigenous students who are transitioning – or have transitioned – into a medium sized university in Western Australia. To better understand how Indigenous students negotiate the transition into higher education, in depth individual yarning sessions, facilitated by an Aboriginal researcher, were conducted with a total of eight Indigenous students- five enrolled in a pre-university enabling course and three in undergraduate degrees. Thematic analysis was then applied to the yarning data to elucidate synthesis and dissonance in the Indigenous students’ stories of transition, providing a shared narrative of negotiating the interface between Indigenous and university-student identities.

The findings illustrate that Indigenous identity was a core strength for participants, but it was fragmented through disruptions to connections to country and kinship. In addition, negotiating trauma played a large role in the collective narratives of all participants. Thus, this study suggests that pathways for Indigenous participants into higher education bring unique challenges, as well as opportunities for growth and self-development. On a practical level, it highlights that, while there has been much work in developing support mechanisms for Indigenous students, there are further opportunities to strengthen support in the areas of peer mentoring, equity support plans and consistent financial support, whilst studying.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
Supervisor(s): Cumming-Potvin, Wendy, Jackson-Barrett, Libby and Bennett, Rebecca
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/60411
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