Teaching Australian Indigenous Studies: Non-Indigenous academics negotiating structural impediments in a regional context


  • Genine Hook University of New England
  • Nikki Jessen The University of the Sunshine Coast




Australian Indigenous Studies, higher education, pedagogy, whiteness, student survey


This paper examines the experiences of two non-Indigenous academics in a regional Australian university who taught/coordinated a first-year course, Introduction to Indigenous Australia (SCS130). Drawing on our own experiences, we explore the implications and contentious nature of non-Indigenous academics teaching Indigenous Studies and align this discussion with structural critique. As non-Indigenous academics, some argue that it is culturally disrespectful and pedagogically problematic for us to deliver this course. We consider that the work of embedding Indigenous perspectives should not be relegated solely the responsibility of Indigenous academics, and that our teaching contributes to reconciliation and begins to fill a significant gap in awareness and understanding among Australian students in higher education. The course SCS130 aims to introduce students to Indigenous perspectives through narratives, film, documentaries, academic and non-academic texts, biography and art. The objective of the course is to engage students with the complexity of colonisation and its ramifications for constructions of individual and national identities. Student survey qualitative data is used to provide an analysis of the course and to illustrate the conflict between our pedagogic practice, student expectations and the structural impediments to our decolonising teaching aims.


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Author Biographies

Genine Hook, University of New England

Dr Genine Hook studied Sociology and Education (Secondary) as an undergraduate at Monash University and her studies culminated in a PhD from the Faculty of Education at Monash University in May 2015. Her research explored the experiences of sole parents at universities in Australia and her thesis was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Commendation for Thesis Excellence in 2015. Genine’s first book was published by Palgrave Macmillan (UK) in July 2016 titled Sole Parent Students and Higher Education: Gender, Policy and Widening Participation. Dr Hook has taught Sociology at La Trobe University, the University of New England and the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her teaching experience includes Social Theory; Introduction to Indigenous Australia; Social Justice, Welfare and the State; Family and Children in Society; Youth and Delinquency; Mixed Methods in Research; and Social Inequalities. Her research focuses on gender, higher education, family-based violence, familial norms, feminist pedagogy and social policy.

Nikki Jessen, The University of the Sunshine Coast

Nikki Jessen holds a Masters in Social Work and has a background in direct practice across the youth justice and disability sectors. Nikki has a strong interest in social inequality, critical theory, critical social work and sustenance in direct practice. Her teaching experience includes sociology and critical social work at the University of the Sunshine Coast and the Queensland University of Technology.


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How to Cite

Hook, G., & Jessen, N. (2022). Teaching Australian Indigenous Studies: Non-Indigenous academics negotiating structural impediments in a regional context. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 51(2). https://doi.org/10.55146/ajie.v51i2.23