Rally supports indigenous education

Issue 

Rally supports indigenous education

By Robert Milne

DARWIN — Seventy staff, students and supporters rallied at the Northern Territory University (NTU) on November 26 to protest the sacking of more than half of the staff in the Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (FATSIS).

FATSIS is a bridging and assistance course for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, providing support for students from the pre-literate level right up to PhD. This program is needed because many indigenous students have little formal education.

NTU students union vice-president Tracey Johnstone said FATSIS is "not just a faculty".

"The courses are designed to introduce indigenous students to tertiary education and to encourage them, in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways, to go on to change their lives and prospects through education", she said.

The program has been successful: 20% of students enrolled at the NTU are Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders.

Twenty-one of the 40 staff in FATSIS have been "disestablished" — either moved to other faculties or sacked. The decision was made by the university council and Vice-Chancellor Ron McKay (who said only three months before gutting this unique program that he wanted things in the university that are "unique in this country").

Over the past month, Tracey Johnstone and FATSIS lecturer John Burke have talked with 43 indigenous students about the cuts. All said they would not continue the courses without FATSIS assistance.

The sackings are part of a one-third overall reduction of NTU staff this year, caused by education minister David Kemp's savage cuts to the education system.