Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies

School of Arts & Sciences

The Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies covers a range of significant and contemporary areas of study. The program covers Aboriginal history, spirituality, culture, politics, and issues surrounding the principles and practices of reconciliation. It may lead to or enrich careers in community and youth work, justice, education, local, state and federal government departments, health care and health promotion and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).

At a glance

  • One year part-time study
  • Flexible blended delivery
  • Opportunity to attend Notre Dame's Broome Campus in Western Australia for intensive study to gain a sound understanding of issues related to Aboriginal people
  • Why study this degree?

    While the Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies will be of particular value to those already working with Indigenous communities, this program also provides a useful background for anyone whose career in health promotion, medicine, justice, education or social work brings them into contact with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. In particular, this degree will be of great value for anyone working in local, state or federal government – or indeed staff employed by NGOs in Australia.

    The Graduate Certificate is a part-time program, with four courses completed over the year. All students are required to undertake a course entitled The Silent History. This provides you with a foundational knowledge of the history of Indigenous Australia, as well as how various government policies have affected the lives of Indigenous Australians.

    The remaining three electives allow you to specialise in topics such as Aboriginal People and the Legal System, the role of the media in representing Indigenous Peoples, Aboriginal culture and spirituality and more. To encourage a genuine understanding of Indigenous cultures, students will have the opportunity to spend time at Notre Dame’s Broome Campus.

    You will be mentored by well-known and highly respected Indigenous facilitators, who have previously included Yawuru man and WA Senator, Patrick Dodson; Peter Yu, a Yawuru man from Broome with more than 35 years’ experience in Indigenous affairs and advocacy; and Traditional Owners from both Yawuru Country (Broome) and Karajarri Country (just south of Broome).

  • Program summary

    The Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies requires the completion of four courses which can be studied in one year, or up to a maximum five years. Students are required to undertake one compulsory core Aboriginal Studies course, ABOR5000 The Silent History, and three additional elective courses.

    ABOR5000 The Silent History is delivered as a face-toface intensive session over 8 days at the Broome Campus. This course is not offered online due to the valuable learning and understanding that students gain from the on-Country experience which cannot be replicated in an online environment. It includes an overnight camping trip with Karajarri Rangers and Traditional Owners.

    Most students who come to Broome in June for ABOR5000 also stay on to complete the elective course ABOR5010 The Cultural and Spiritual Life of Aboriginal People over a further 5 days. This course is also not offered online.

    Students doing both ABOR5000 and ABOR5010 in the 2 week Broome intensive program need to study a further two electives to complete the program. The two electives can be chosen from the following online courses, via weekly webinar lectures and group discussions:

    • ABOR5030 Aboriginal People in Contemporary Australian Society
    • ABOR5040 Aboriginal People and the Media
    • ABOR5310 Aboriginal People and the Legal System

    A further self-directed, literature-based research project is also available to those who have completed at least two other courses and who have a particular area of research that interests them. This course, ABOR5250 Special Projects, is completed independently, with regular supervisor meetings across semester 1 or 2.

    Full details of the program requirements are contained in the Program Regulations.

    Please note: The availability of these courses is indicative only and may be subject to change.

  • Entry requirements

    A Bachelor’s degree from a recognised Australian or overseas university or equivalent, plus alternative pathways for those with relevant work experience.

  • Mode of study and assessment

    Courses for the Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies combine independent study with intensive learning on the Broome Campus during the June/July Winter Term. Electives will also be offered over the duration of Semester 1 and 2 using webinars and online group discussions. Assessment usually comprises three written pieces per course which may include critical reviews, research papers, essays or reflective activities.

  • Accommodation

    The Broome Campus offers quality on-site accommodation in the Student Village. The Student Hostel provides short-term low-cost accommodation for students who attend intensive courses. Travel to and from Broome, accommodation and living expenses are additional to the course fees.

  • Information for the next intake

    The next opportunity to commence the Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies is July 2021.

    Students will do one online course per semester. In Winter Term 2021 from late June, students will have the opportunity to do either one or two Broome intensives.

    Students who are not able to attend the second Broome intensive are able to complete the Graduate Certificate over the next two semesters, undertaking one course per semester.

  • Indicative Program schedule 2021

    CourseClass No. Study mode Key dates
    Semester 1
    Aboriginal People and the Legal System (ABOR5310) 1006Online learning virtual classroom
    (or on campus for Broome students)
    Weekly classes
    Week beginning 22 February - 18 June
    Winter Term (Non-Standard 27)
    Aboriginal People: The Silent History (Core course)1 (ABOR5000) 1003 Intensive, on Broome campus includes an overnight camp on country Wednesday 23 June - Friday 2 July
    The Cultural and Spiritual Life of Aboriginal People (ABOR5010)11004 Intensive, on Broome campus Monday 5 July - Friday 9 July
    Semester 2
    Aboriginal People in Contemporary Australian Society (ABOR5030)1003Online learning virtual classroom
    (or on campus for Broome students)
    Weekly classes
    Week beginning 2 August - 26 November

    1 Limited places available. Early enrolment highly recommended


    What is involved in online learning?
    Provided you have a computer with an internet connection, you can access the virtual lectures and tutorials from anywhere. Contact time is 3 hours per week and includes:

    • 2-hour lecture (recorded)
    • 1-hour tutorial (not recorded – recommend real-time attendance)
      Additional hours will be required for reading and assignments.

    What is involved in intensive study?
    The two intensive courses run across 2.5 weeks on the Broome campus in June/July, with pre-intensive online readings and activities to be completed in the two weeks beforehand. Learning experiences incorporate a variety of guest speakers, field excursions and overnight camps, as well as classroom-based lectures and discussions. Assessments are due approximately two-weeks post-intensive.

    Is accommodation available?

    Accommodation is available for visiting students on Notre Dame’s Broome campus in the Student Hostel at an indicative cost of $30-60 per night. Accommodation comes in the form of air-conditioned single, double or triple rooms, with shared kitchen, bathroom, laundry and parking facilities. To book your accommodation, contact the Broome Accommodation Coordinator:

    How do I enrol?
    Students who have been accepted into the Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies (GCAS) program can enrol via the Student Centre. If you have not yet applied for the GCAS, please do so via How to Apply

  • Course descriptions

    ABOR5010 The Cultural and Spiritual Life of Aboriginal People 
    The first part of the course looks at Aboriginal society and culture in its more traditional forms and the elements of culture and spirituality as they were prior to the European invasion of Australia. Topics such as the social organisation and structure of traditional Aboriginal society; the relationship with the land; The Dreaming, and how this connects Aboriginal people to country, rituals and healing, are explored. In the second part of the course, students develop an understanding of the dynamic nature of Aboriginal culture. Contemporary issues are studied such as kinship and customary law, land use, Aboriginal heritage protection, and the arts, demonstrating the cultural continuities that sustain Aboriginal world views.

    ABOR5030 Aboriginal People in Contemporary Australian Society
    This course has been developed for students whose future careers require an in-depth understanding of the complex, multi-layered field of contemporary inter-cultural relationships.  In particular it aims to develop in students an appreciation of this relationship within the socio-political context of conflicting values and beliefs, government policies and service delivery.  To achieve this objective the course commences with an examination of the nature and diversity of Aboriginal knowledge and experience as an introduction to the fundamental issues underlying contemporary debate over land, native title and regional agreements.  The basic interconnections between federalism, bureaucracy and service delivery are then analysed at the macro level, through an examination of our current political/funding structures, before utilising case studies as a means of developing an understanding of what is happening “on the ground”.  The issues of relationships of power, community governance and the employment of non-Aboriginal expertise within the Aboriginal domain are dealt with in the context of local studies situated within WA. The final module then focuses on welfare dependency, symptom or cause, as the major issue currently under the socio-political spotlight.

    ABOR5040 Aboriginal People and the Media
    This course has been developed within the context of Notre Dame's commitment to the process of reconciliation and the provision of opportunities to enhance personal growth through engagement in challenging intellectual undertaking. In attempting to meet these commitments Aboriginal People and the Media offers students an opportunity to study the problematic relationship that exists between the media and the Indigenous peoples of Australia using media analysis techniques of semiology and discourse analysis to ‘read’ media texts. The course explores the media as the public sphere, where information about social, cultural and political issues of national importance are presented and debated, and how Aboriginality is represented within the public sphere of Australian mainstream media. In the final module, the course examines the growing Aboriginal response to the power and influence of the media through active involvement in establishing Indigenous alternatives within and outside the mainstream public sphere – the Indigenous public sphere.

    ABOR5250 Special Projects
    Pre-requisite: Completion of 75 units of credit of post grad ABOR courses
    This course provides students with an opportunity to undertake an individual directed study as a post graduate elective. It is therefore based on a negotiated field of study that primarily utilises secondary source material. For example, an extensive literature review of publications and other forms of critical commentary on contemporary Aboriginal Art, Aboriginal involvement in the tourist industry, etc. The course is designed to explore, in depth, one of the many issues raised within the broader context of courses undertaken in order to seek further specific knowledge and skills to satisfy particular interests and/or enhance employment prospects.

    ABOR5310 Aboriginal People and the Legal System
    This course will focus on certain aspects of Aboriginal law in communities, leading into an understanding of the legal implications of European settlement on the Aboriginal population. The content will then move into an exploration of the contemporary issues faced by Aboriginal people under current domestic and international law.

  • Fees

    Indicative fees are approximately $2,750 per course.

    Eligible students are able to access FEE-HELP. Contact the fees office on 08 9433 0536 for information.

    In addition to the cost of the course, students are responsible for their own travel/transport, accommodation and living costs for intensive study. Early booking of travel and accommodation is encouraged.

  • More information

    For more information on the Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies, please contact the Prospective Students Office on +61 (8) 9433 0533 or email

    All international enquiries should contact the International Students Office on

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