Meeting to support indigenous education

Issue 

By John Burke

DARWIN — This year's major review of indigenous education in the Northern Territory by former NT senator Bob Collins reiterated that the problems facing indigenous people are systemic, bridging justice, health, housing and education issues.

Twenty years ago, an attempt to address tertiary education access resulted in a task force which has evolved into the Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies at the Northern Territory University (NTU). Last week, FATSIS lost half of its staff through non-renewal of contracts, "disestablishment" of positions, redundancy packages or vague offers of redeployment to other faculties.

The NTU has waged a year-long campaign to dismantle FATSIS. In November 1998, it was proposed that FATSIS disappear into another faculty. Political pressure provided a reprieve of some months, during which the NTU established a review committee.

The committee's report was delivered to the vice-chancellor in October. Its 12 recommendations were accepted by NTU management without either community or faculty input.

FATSIS staff disagreed with many of the recommendations and refused to meet with a committee charged with implementing four of them. The vice-chancellor accused staff of refusing an offer of "consultation".

Appeals to the vice-chancellor to reconsider the process fell on deaf ears. The faculty's dismantling began with five of the most profitable courses in FATSIS being moved to other faculties on the spurious grounds of "duplication" and "core business".

These grounds were conveniently shelved in the decision to leave struggling interventionist programs, which could have been aided by the more financially viable programs, within FATSIS.

With unrivalled sophistry, the NTU maintained that FATSIS benefited from the reduction of non-indigenous staff because it "increased the proportion of indigenous staff"!

The NTU has opted to support the non-indigenous at the direct expense of the indigenous people, who are being denied the opportunity to attend to their own affairs. A November 30 public meeting at FATSIS will demand that indigenous education at NTU be safeguarded. You can support FATSIS by contacting the vice-chancellor, Professor Ron McKay, at fax (08) 8927 3480 or e-mail <vc pea@ntu.edu.au>.

NTU students are also planning a protest action on December 3.