Australia’s first indigenous knowledge faculty announced

QUT’s goal is to double its current number of Indigenous Australian students within the next five years. (L-R) Professor Chelsea Watego, Professor Jody Currie, Angela Barney-Leitch and Professor Margaret Sheil.

Soon, the grounds of Queensland University of Technology (QUT) will be a place where Indigenous wisdom and culture are not only celebrated but given an intellectual space that supports Blak excellence and innovation.

The new faculty of Indigenous Knowledges and Culture, announced this week, will operate as a stand-alone faculty, and will deliver academic programmes and conduct research.

Angela Barney-Leitch, QUT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Australians, told NITV that the faculty could influence other academic disciplines.

“The idea for us now is to focus on what Indigenous knowledges means to all knowledge ... and what difference it can make to the way people at university look at different issues and problems and perspectives.”

“It’s going to be like a whole Indigenous learning community.

“And the good thing about it for all Australians is that non-Indigenous students and staff can be part of this, but it will be Indigenous-led.”

‘Contests violent knowledges produced about us’

Angela Barney-Leitch, QUT's Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Australians, is proud the university is leading this space with a first-of-its-kind faculty.

The faculty, which will launch next year and enrol students in programmes from 2025, will be the first of its kind in the country.

Professor Chelsea Watego, QUT’s Carumba Institute Executive Director, told NITV that the new faculty will be a welcoming space that counters colonial narratives.

“The faculty that we will offer here will provide so many of our Blackfullas with the kind of environment to know who they are [and] where they come from.

“[The faculty] contests the violent knowledges that have been produced about us, that hold systems accountable, that should be doing better.”

“It’s a faculty, it’s a family but it’s the training ground for an intellectual army that is committed to the survival of our people.”

While the faculty is a learning space for all, there’s a central focus to double current QUT numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders students over the next five years.

There are currently just under a thousand First Nations students at QUT – the fourth highest population enrolled in university across the country.

“I’m hoping it will bring the best people, both academics and students and create an environment where we really are able to educate, celebrate Blak excellence,” Professor Margaret Sheil, QUT’s Vice-Chancellor told NITV.

Professor Watego also hopes it will help produce more well-informed individuals.

“I think the exciting part for non-Indigenous students is when you foreground Indigenous intellectual sovereignty there’s a whole different understanding of humanity,” she said.

Professor Chelsea Watego says the possibilities are endless for First Nations people with tools these institutions have to offer.

“What I find when we bring non-Indigenous people along into these spaces, is the way in which they reconfigure themselves in their relationship to this place, but also what it means to be human.”

By centring Indigenous knowledges, Professor Watego believes other areas of learning can see radical change.

“And there are really exciting transformative possibilities of rethinking what it means to be a nurse, an engineer, or teacher or social worker when you operate on an Indigenous terms of reference.”

“You can’t even begin to imagine the transformative possibilities and that’s the exciting thing for me to be a part of, is to see what our people can do with the tools of these institutions for the betterment of our mob,” she said.