Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies

School of Arts & Sciences

The Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Studies covers a range of significant and contemporary areas of Aboriginal study. The program covers Aboriginal history, spirituality, culture, politics, and issues surrounding the principles and practices of reconciliation, and 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 the two-week intensive at Notre Dame’s Broome Campus in Western Australia 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 2020.

    Students will do one online course per semester. In Winter Term 2020 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 2020

    Course Study mode Key dates
    Term 1 (February to June)
    Aboriginal People in Contemporary Australian Society (ABOR5030) Online learning virtual classroom (or on campus for Broome students) Weekly classes
    Week beginning 17 February - 12 June
    Winter Term (June/July)
    Aboriginal People: The Silent History (Core Unit)1 (ABOR5000) Intensive, on Broome campus includes an overnight camp on country Wednesday 17 June - Friday 26 June
    The Cultural and Spiritual Life of Aboriginal People (ABOR5010) Intensive, on Broome campus Monday 29 June - Friday 3 July
    Term 2 (July to November)
    Aboriginal People and the Media (ABOR5040) Online learning virtual classroom (or on campus for Broome students) Weekly classes
    Week beginning 27 July - 21 November

    Limited places available. Early enrolment highly recommended

  • 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.

    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.

    ABOR5720 History of the Aboriginal Peoples of the Kimberley Region
    The aim of this course is to develop a critical understanding of the interaction between Indigenous and mainstream Australian values, government policies, their administration and the imperatives of socio-economic development within a regional context. To assist in achieving these objectives, the introductory topic examines the vexed question “who writes history?” or, put another way, “whose histories do we listen to?” With this question firmly planted in the back of our minds, the focus then shifts to a relatively brief examination of the diversity of social structures and resource management regimes developed by pre-colonial society in the Kimberley. The following topics then pick up on the consequences of non-Indigenous contact through an examination of the relationships that developed between colonised and coloniser over a period of approximately one hundred years. The attitudes and responses of diverse groups such as non-Indigenous explorers, pastoralists, missionaries, government officials and others to an Indigenous presence will be included in these topics. Conversely, the attitudes and responses of the Indigenous people will also be examined. The concluding topics will then provide an overview of what is often referred to as the post-colonial period commencing with the initial implementation of the policy of self-determination in 1972 through to the 1990s. Events covered by these topics include the growth and incorporation of Aboriginal communities and organisations, land rights and native title issues as well as an exploration of the role played by significant Aboriginal figures in the post war development of the region.

    ABOR5750 History of Aboriginal Education
    This course offers education students an opportunity to develop an appreciation of historical events, which is an essential element in their understanding of contemporary issues relating to the education of Indigenous Australians and, as educators, their active involvement in the reconciliation process. The course is also designed to extend and round out other Aboriginal Studies courses offered by the School of Arts and Sciences as part of the Aboriginal Studies program, providing students with a more in-depth understanding of social, cultural and political historical and contemporary relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

  • Fees

    Indicative fees are approximately $2,600 per course.

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

    As well as 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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