The appointment of the University’s first Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) was made in 2020. This position is responsible for providing strategic leadership and influence across Flinders and the Indigenous higher education sector. This was an important strategic and symbolic appointment aligning the University nationally in advancing senior Indigenous leadership across the sector.
In 2020, the University established its first Indigenous Advisory Council, tasked with providing advice to the Vice-Chancellor. Additionally, three Senior Elders-On-Campus were appointed: Dr Uncle Lewis Yarlupurka O’Brien, a Kaurna Elder based at Bedford Park; Dr Uncle Richard ‘Balang/Japaljarri’ Fejo, a Larrakia Elder based at Darwin; and Dr Aunty Pat Miller, an Arrernte Elder based at Alice Springs. These distinguished Elders collectively contribute their knowledges and wisdom to guide us towards reconciliation. Furthermore, in 2022, Uncle Richard Fejo was bestowed with an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his cultural knowledge, authority, leadership, and community engagement at Flinders University. To drive activities of the first, Innovate RAP (2020-2022), RAP working groups were established across all colleges and portfolios. The Vice Chancellor’s RAP Awards were developed in 2021 recognising the outstanding efforts of individuals and teams in leading activities or projects that promote reconciliation.
The University has implemented Indigenous governance mechanisms, comprising several committees to oversee various aspects of the University's Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student success. The Reconciliation Action Plan Oversight Committee (RAPOC) oversees the implementation, monitoring, and reporting of the RAP. The Tarrkarri-ana Committee is responsible for monitoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student success, while the Indigenous Workforce Strategy Committee monitors the implementation of the Indigenous Workforce Strategy. Additionally, the Elders Network provides cultural leadership on University initiatives.
Since the launch of the inaugural Innovate RAP in 2020, there has been a significant increase in Indigenous student enrolments at the university, growing from 1.4% to 1.57% in 2022, marking an overall increase of 0.2%. The Indigenous Higher Degree Research student intake also increased by 27%. To further improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enrolments, the University has established Indigenous Student Success Targets (2022-2025) which aim to increase rates of commencement (by 3%), completion (by 1.6%), and progression (by 80%). Additionally, the University is working towards a cumulative increase in the overall participation rate to 1.6%.
Flinders University’s Indigenous Workforce Strategy (2022-2025) was endorsed in April 2022, followed by the appointment of an Indigenous Employment Coordinator, a key deliverable from the inaugural RAP. Following this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff numbers increased from 37 to 71 which was an impressive 92% increase on pre-RAP employment numbers. The new Indigenous Workforce Strategy commits Flinders to increasing Indigenous employment to 3% (full time equivalent) by 2025. Four strategic priorities underpin this target – Attraction and Recruitment, Culture and Retention, Development and Advancement, and Governance and Leadership.
In 2021, three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff members received academic promotions, including a Level E (Professor) and two Level D (Associate Professor) positions. As of the end of that year, the University employed 11 senior academic staff who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander: Five at Level C, four at Level D, one at Level E, and one as Pro Vice Chancellor. By the end of 2022, this momentum continued with an increase to 13 senior academic staff, including four at Level C, five at Level D, and four at Level E, as a result of internal promotions and new appointments.
The University proudly demonstrates the prominence and contribution of Indigenous leadership with a total of four Professors and five Associate Professors. Additionally, the development of an Indigenous Research Strategy (IRS) in collaboration with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) marks a significant achievement. This initiative represents the first of its kind at the University and serves as a unique commitment to redressing social transformation and reconciliation through a robust, ethical, and sustainable Indigenous research agenda.