Update on PARSA’s Support of and Engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate and Research Students
Following consultation with a variety of community members, PARSA wish to update the community on our planned path forward in support of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members. This follows significant review and reflection as a result of our failure to elect an Officer into this portfolio, which we understand is due to a variety of factors.
In this update, we provide insight into and plans for the following areas of concern:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation and connections with PARSA
- Training for cultural competency in PARSA
- The PARSA Strategic Plan’s efforts towards reconciliation
- Funding for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander portfolio
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Representation
Following consultation, PARSA understand that the current format of having one identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer representing the interests of all of our members may be culturally inappropriate. As a way forward, we resolved to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee. Within this new Committee, we would seek to support the development of key contacts between the Committee and PARSA in order to facilitate clear communication between the groups.
This Committee could also provide advice and consultation as to possible changes that could be made to the PARSA Constitution. PARSA is committed to ensuring that ongoing representation is appropriate and supportive of member interests, whilst also meeting the functional needs of the organisation. We note that this might take some time given the need to consider and consult the community in order to come to a recommendation. Further, there are also regulatory requirements PARSA must comply with in order to successfully pass amendments to the Constitution.
PARSA will continue with the requirement that only self-identifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members can vote for the PARSA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer.
Training for Cultural Competency in PARSA
In the interest of promoting understanding, we have determined that cultural competency training for all PARSA staff and student representatives is beneficial for the organisation. As an interim measure, all staff and student representatives have been encouraged to undertake the CORE training: Cultural Learning; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia Foundation Course which was developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). PARSA will also look to making future training mandatory.
PARSA would welcome further advice from the Committee, and the community, as to appropriate training we can offer to student representatives and staff. We welcome any opportunities to discuss with our members their needs and what PARSA can do to be supportive, grow understanding, and promote collaboration.
PARSA Strategic Plan
Upon review, we noted that the Strategic Plan makes no specific reference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement. The Strategic Plan is intended as a high level plan that articulates the core objectives of the Association. We acknowledge that the language used in this plan could be improved, and that there was a missed opportunity to include a specific objectives promoting reconciliation.
Whilst the current Strategic Plan is set for 2018 – 2021, PARSA welcome’s ongoing feedback in order to craft the next iteration of the Strategic Plan. This being the inaugural plan in the Association’s history, there is certainly room for improvement.
As an interim measure, PARSA welcome’s the Committee’s advice and support to create a specific plan to support reconciliation and our community. We note that there is also an opportunity to craft such a plan with reference to the ANU RAP plan which specifies, at a high level, student objectives. Additionally, PARSA would like to review how we can engage and support off-campus/online student as these make up the majority of PARSA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members.
Following advice from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA), last year PARSA determined that not bidding for funding for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander portfolio funding is detrimental to the interests of our members, as money will not be available to undertake initiatives. We determined that PARSA would continue to bid for a similar amount of funding for initiatives for the 2019 period as we received for 2018. We also determined that, going forward, decision-making for funding initiatives would be made with and through the Committee. The Committee will make funding decisions in reference to: the needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, the funds allocation granted to PARSA, and in compliance with PARSA’s legislative, regulatory, and contractual requirements regarding expenditure of student funds. PARSA will hold this funding and work with the Committee to expend it in 2019
Feedback and Review
PARSA welcomes and encourages feedback from the community in relation to the above plans of action. Such feedback will be used to ensure PARSA’s continuing improvement in support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, as well as to inform the Committee on areas of concern or interest.
If you have feedback on the above plans, please email the President at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Equity Officer at email@example.com.