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Andrea

Andrea HARMS

Year of Award: 2009 Award State: South Australia Business > Indigenous
Education > General
To study methods for accelerating the educational outcomes of Indigenous Australian students - Canada, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates
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Andrea Harms’ Churchill Fellowship in 2009 was to research Indigenous Leadership in education and economic development. Andrea is from South Australia and she travelled to Canada, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. In the countries where she travelled, she discovered that ‘Aboriginal ways of knowing are acknowledged and routinely built into school lessons and in university courses,’ as she writes in her report.

The Dare to Lead project, which Andrea at the time of her Fellowship had led for the past seven years, is for school principals. Dare to Lead is practised at 53 per cent of South Australian schools. One of its more recent strategies is to engage corporate CEOs and their staff in school-to-work transitions. According to Andrea, we need to achieve a critical mass of confident young Indigenous leaders who are able to succeed in education and careers. Andrea discovered that Dare to Lead is unique in the world.

Andrea was motivated to apply for a Churchill Fellowship because she wanted to explore questions such as: where are the Indigenous leaders in business and professions? How are young Indigenous entrepreneurs being supported to become economic leaders and leaders in all professions? She wanted to accelerate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership development so that they could seize economic and educational opportunities.

 Andrea’s aim is to facilitate links between schools and local businesses. She suggests developing models of mentoring for aspiring entrepreneurs and to encourage institutions and organisations that support business to develop cadetships or bursaries for Indigenous school leavers.

Andrea met Marie Battiste at Saskatchewan University, who wrote something that resonated with Andrea: that learning, as Aboriginal people know it, ‘is holistic, life-long, purposeful, experiential, communal, spiritual and learned within a language and a culture’. Marie Battiste said she sensed a revolution in scholarship as scientists began to realise the potential of Indigenous knowledge.

Marie Battiste writes, 'Today, Indigenous peoples from around the world continue to feel the tensions created by a Eurocentric educational system that has taught them not to trust Indigenous knowledge, but to rely on science and technology for tools for their future, although those same science and technologies have increasingly created the fragile environmental base that requires us to rethink how we interact with the earth and with each other.'

Andrea quoted Battiste’s article at length because it managed to draw together her thinking about discussions she had with people across Canada. Andrea noticed that what she said about understanding and respecting Aboriginal knowledge was something that kept coming up in conversation and was in university handbooks and brochures. Andrea writes in her report: ‘The difference in explicit articulation of the place of Aboriginal knowledge is in considerable contrast to what I have experienced in Australia’.

The University of Saskatchewan, Andrea observed, has an Indigenous Management MBA Specialisation, which is the first of its kind in Canada. Areas of study include Aboriginal organisations, Aboriginal economic and business development, contemporary issues in Indigenous management and economic development, and the implications of treaties and self-government on management decision-making.

Andrea observes that there is a world of difference between teaching about Aboriginal culture and knowledge, and teaching Aboriginal youth in a culturally explicit way. She believes that the education sector in Australia provides the former only, with the unfortunate result that Aboriginal cultural knowledge becomes regarded as ‘not relevant’ to contemporary times. This attitude must have had a big impact on the identity and pride of Indigenous students, and hence, Andrea continues working to improve the situation.

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

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