Project Method

The Nulungu Way

The Nulungu Research Institute is based at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Broome (Yawuru buru) Campus in the Kimberley region and beyond. It focuses on research, teaching, cultural outreach and cultural training across the region. Nulungu is widely recognised as a research institute that meets the local, regional and national research requirements of Indigenous people and their communities. Since its inception in 2008, Nulungu has been a highly regarded centre of Indigenous research excellence that has built its reputation on a successful record of high quality work on complex issues for a range of clients. The underlying approach of Nulungu's research program is 'right country, right people, right way', which positions Indigenous people and communities at the centre of its research endeavours and ensures that the value of community-based Indigenous Knowledge is recognised and applied to meet its clients' objectives.

Completion of the Literature Review

Dr Judith Wilks (SCU) and Katie Wilson (SCU) completed the literature review with review and feedback from all project team members. The literature review provided an accurate estimate of the current statistics regarding the higher education population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, key constraints and enablers to higher education and models being employed to transition Indigenous students into higher education. It included a review of current policies, programs, practices and models to support the transition of Indigenous students, including identified under-represented groups into higher education. It also identified knowledge gaps, current initiatives to support under-represented groups, strategies to assist potential students to transition successfully into higher education, and best practice examples for deeper analysis of factors affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders' transition to Australian universities.

Project management, coordination and evaluation

The Project Manager and Research Coordinator provided three interim reports to the OLT reporting on project progress and the unfolding project findings. A project Evaluator, Mr Rod Little, was contracted near the completion of the project to evaluate the project management, methodology, findings and outcomes.

Data collection

Primary data collection employed three surveys targeting IEUs, students and key informants. Preliminary phone and email contact was followed with interviews with project participants. Information gathered during this stage focused on the role of aspirational and outreach programs and additional supports (structural and financial) and the specific transition and support needs of under-represented groups. All information was integrated and analysed to identify key constraints, key enablers and leading practice elements of successful Indigenous student transition to higher education.

The literature review provided the evidence base from which to frame questions for qualitative interviews with the key informants. The literature review also proved useful in identifying potential interviewees who were working and studying in Australian Universities and relevant representative organisations and government authorities. These people and organisations were contacted by telephone and email and provided with information about the project as per the requirements of the UNDA Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) clearance. Managers of IEUs, relevant staff members, students and other key informants were then contacted for either telephone or face-to-face interviews.

Three separate Interview schedules were created to capture a cross section of views regarding transitions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to higher education. Interviews were developed for:

  • staff members of IEUs in universities
  • key informants (including within universities, non-government organisations and government authorities, and
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Interviewee profile

Members of the project team who conducted the Interviews included Dr Judith Wilks, Ms Sue Thomas, Ms Terri Hughes and Mr Stephen Kinnane. These interviews, the literature review and analysis of recent relevant reports were utilised to address the research questions and arrive at the findings for this report. Interviews were completed with 65 individuals who were working or studying within 26 Australian universities and a range of aspirational programs in all states and territories. (Refer Appendix 3). Of the 65 individuals who participated in the project, 60 (92%) were Indigenous. This data was then analysed by all members of the project team utilising online platforms for sharing of information via online collaborative tools (discussed below). A writing team comprising Dr Judith Wilks, Mr Stephen Kinnane, Ms Terri Hughes, Ms Katie Wilson, and Ms Sue Thomas, completed the drafts of the final report and provided content for the completion of the website. All project materials and outcomes were evaluated within the final phase of the project's completion.

Ethical clearance

The project received ethical clearance from the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Notre Dame Australia. Appropriate ethical clearance procedures were followed with the partner institutions of SCU and BIITE. Ethics reports were provided to the Ethics Officer of UNDA throughout the life of the project and in the Final Report.

Project deliverables

Published project outcomes include, but are not limited to:

  1. Literature Review: The transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to higher education
  2. Final Report: Can't Be what you can't see: The transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to higher education
  3. Website: Can't Be what you can't see: The transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to higher education
  4. Published journal articles and conference papers; workshops. All interview notes, interim reports and project correspondence will be retained by the Nulungu Research Institute in a secure facility for five years in accordance with the Terms of Agreement with the OLT and in line with the requirements of the UNDA HREC.