Team Member Reflection: Aurelie Girard
My role within WCE helped me understand the barriers and challenges that Aboriginals based in Northern Territory face in regard to access to tertiary education and employment.
As part of my duties, I liaised with the different stakeholders within the University for employment, salaries, travel and IT equipment for our team members working in the six communities. I was faced with a lot of barriers due to complex structures and processes within the University that did not incorporate the scenario of working with community members from remote and very remote communities in the NT. In some instances, it was a first for the University to be involved so directly with these communities and settings. After working together and presenting the different barriers to our stakeholders, we were able to work towards improving employment, salaries, travel and IT issues.
It was important for me that my contribution to this project was to make stakeholders understand the complexity and the barriers that community people face when working within mainstream organisations and especially large organisations like CDU.
During my time with the Whole of Community Engagement initiative, I started to understand and identify the impact of the digital divide on remote and very remote communities in the NT, and the issues they face. Although we are in the 21 st century and most of Australia is switching to the NBN, communities in the NT still struggle with a good bandwidth to make work calls and to engage with team mates via phone. Access to a computer with reliable internet is also a problem. This posed real challenges for the WCE initiative in providing equitable access for staff and students to what is now considered to be essential technology. I have been left wondering how adult learners from remote communities can access tertiary education that is becoming more digitally focused, when basic equipment and internet access is not necessarily available in their communities. How can Indigenous adult learners’ then be better supported to study online when there is a lack of training and lack of equipment to integrate computer use into their day-to- day life (or habitus if I’m referring Bourdieu)?
I believe that during this initiative, I have contributed as much as I could in my capacity of a marketer and project coordinator and as a Generation Y. Unfortunately there is a long road ahead to definitively close the gap in Indigenous tertiary education and Indigenous employment for remote and very remote communities in the NT. Higher education is within easy reach for remote Indigenous learners of the digital divide if access issues are addressed as a priority.