Australia’s new era of Indigenous education starts in Northern Territory 


Darwin was the site of a historic meeting this week that set in motion a new era of Indigenous Australian participation in higher education.

Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission Dr Tom Calma chaired the inaugural Governance Committee meeting of the Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ACIKE).

The Centre is the first of its kind in Australia and brings together the capacities of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE) and Charles Darwin University (CDU).

During a break in the two-day meeting, Dr Calma said ACIKE held one of the keys to “closing the gap” on Indigenous disadvantage.

“The establishment of ACIKE recognises the importance of providing Indigenous education that is effective and sustainable. It has to be a key priority if we are to ‘close the gap’,” he said.

“The Centre combines the considerable resources and skills that BIITE and CDU direct to Indigenous higher education to create undergraduate and postgraduate programs that increase the focus on the areas of greatest need in our communities.

“We want to achieve Indigenous leadership in health, education, policy and governance,” Dr Calma said.

ACIKE’s main education hub will be located in a $30 million building funded by the Australian Government and under construction on CDU’s Casuarina campus in Darwin.

The Centre delivers ACIKE study programs at three locations across the NT in Darwin, Batchelor and Alice Springs. These include BIITE’s two main campuses at Batchelor, 100 km south of Darwin, and at the Desert Peoples Centre at Alice Springs, and CDU campuses at Casuarina and Alice Springs.

The Governance Committee will have ultimate responsibility for ACIKE, which has equal representation of CDU and BIITE. The committee’s membership comprises:

Dr Tom Calma (Chair), Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Mr Russell Taylor, Professor Steve Larkin, Dr Scott Snyder, Ms Trish Angus, Mr Adrian Mitchell, Professor Yvonne Cadet-James, Dr Patricia Miller.

The Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education is led by interim inaugural Director Associate Professor Terry Dunbar and will be fully operational next year.