Keynote speakers

Professor Baden Offord
Curtin University, Australia

The promise of higher education in a complex and unequal world
Over the last few decades, the purpose of higher education has been significantly stress tested by the neo-liberal conditions in which universities, TAFEs and Independent providers operate. The rationalisation of the tertiary sector has become tied to economic, corporate and reputational outputs: learning and teaching have become primarily focused on “work-ready” graduates, while research activity in universities has become hobbled by narrow political, cultural and economic ``applied`` expectations. Yet we know the promise of higher education is its vital role as a key place for activating knowledge and understanding in a complex and diverse world. We also know that the most remarkable examples of higher educations’ successes are driven by passion and energies to make the world a better place, informed by questions of social justice, human rights, democracy, and equality. In the wake of issues and matters such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, gender inequality, sex and consent, the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and global warming – to note just some – the role of higher education has never been so important or deeply relevant. In this presentation, I will invite conference participants to consider what the ``promise of higher education`` means; to question what is essential and necessary for higher education to fulfil its purpose in the 21st century.

Baden Offord is Emeritus Professor of Cultural Studies and Human Rights at Curtin University. Between January 2015 to December 2020, he held the Haruhisa Handa Chair in Human Rights and was Director of Curtin University's renown Centre for Human Rights Education. Baden was born in Aotearoa/New Zealand of Māori and Pākehā heritage, and has lived most of his life in Australia, as well as several years in Spain, South India, and Japan. He was educated at The University of Sydney, Australian National University and Southern Cross University. A recipient of several national teaching awards including an ALTC and Carrick, he has an abiding passion for the purpose of higher education and its transformative potential. An internationally recognized specialist in human rights, sexuality, culture, critical suicide studies and education, he is also part of a scholarly and activist community that works collectively to decolonize and destabilize the study of sexuality in Southeast Asia. Prior to Curtin University, he was Professor of Cultural Studies and Human Rights at Southern Cross University and Co-Director of the Centre for Peace and Social Justice (1999-2014); Chair (Visiting Professor) in Australian Studies at the Centre for Pacific and American Studies, The University of Tokyo (2010-2011) and Visiting Professor in the Facultad de Filología at The University of Barcelona between 2003 to 2012. He remains an Adjunct Professor in Cultural Studies at Southern Cross University. In the field of human rights, he is known for initiating a series of landmark Activating Human Rights conferences and books, including (with Christopher Newell) Activating Human Rights Education (2008). His most recent book (co-edited with Fleay, Hartley, Woldeyes and Chan) is Activating Cultural and Social Change: Pedagogies of Human Rights to be published by Routledge in 2021.

Professor Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

The need for dis(trust) in the management of teaching and learning
In recent years, higher education systems around the world have experienced the introduction of practices intended to make the provision of public services more cost efficient and accountable. These practices, broadly associated with what is termed ‘New Public Management’ focus on areas such as quality assurance and institutional planning and, increasingly, on the ‘management’ of teaching and learning.

Attempts to manage teaching and learning tend to draw heavily on the development of policies that often draw on very superficial understandings of what it means to teach in higher education and which promote broad concepts such as ‘student centredness’ in doing so. Another common management strategy is for the professional development of academics in their capacity as educators to be identified as a means of enhancing teaching and, thus, improving learning. Educational Developers are then pulled into the process in order to offer courses and workshops on teaching and learning drawing on their own specialist knowledge in order to do so

In all this, what is often missed is the disciplinary knowledge of academics themselves. Academic teaching, as Educational Developers often point out, is a profoundly scholarly activity. In managing and attempting to enhance teaching and learning, the way that academics have drawn on their understandings of the disciplines themselves to develop contextualised pedagogies is often overlooked. Instead, this knowledge specialist knowledge can be dismissed and academics themselves pathologized for failing to be interested in teaching and drawing on the most ‘up to date’ methods.

This presentation asks questions about trust: the need to distrust the idea that teaching and learning can be ‘managed’, the need to distrust that the idea that our own specialist knowledge as Educational Developers is the only way to enhance teaching and learning, and, importantly, the need to trust academics and the specialist knowledge they can bring to what we know.

Emeritus Professor Chrissie Boughey has worked in Academic Development in South African for more than thirty years. At Rhodes University, in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, she served in a number of roles including Director of the Centre for Higher Education Teaching & Learning, Dean, Teaching & Learning and, finally, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic & Student Affairs.

She is now located in the Centre for Postgraduate Studies.

Her research interests range from academic literacy, the student experience, the professional development of academic staff and higher education more generally.

All her work has been located within a critical perspective. Work on academic literacy, for example, draws on understandings which see the entire being of some students negated by the university, not always consciously. Her most recent project, called ‘Going Home’ involves looking at the experiences of black working class students in relation to their home of origin and asks how ‘calls’ from home impact on the development of their academic selves.

With colleague Sioux Mckenna, she has written a book (currently in press) that identifies a continuum of understandings of students’ learning ranging from what is termed ’the model of the student as a decontextualised learner’ to ’the model of the student as a social being’. The model of the student as a decontextualised learner sees successful learning as dependent on characteristics inherent in the individual. The model of the student as a social being, on the other hand, acknowledges the multiplicity of knowledge forms and ways of learning and the ways in which some are privileged over others. The book argues that it is only the model of the student as a social being that will explain the unevenness of student performance data, even though the ‘decontextualised learner’ dominates as the explanation for student success and failure.

Much of her work has focused on South African higher education more generally and has included a big piece of work commissioned by the Council on Higher Education looking at the impact of the first cycle of institutional audits on universities.

As Dean and Deputy Vice Chancellor at Rhodes University, she was responsible for developing the teaching and learning strategy for the institution. This task involved the development of policy, and the strategies associated with it, that acknowledged the status of the institution as ‘research intensive’. In all this work, she was very critical of the encroachment of 'New Public Management’ into the functioning of universities, arguing instead for the need for academics to retain control of the leadership and management of the academic project. Thinking developed as a result of this area of work informs her HERDSA keynote.

Professor Peter Anderson
Queensland University of Technology, Carumba Institute, Australia

Panel: Creating and sustaining Indigenous futures: The role of higher education
Within the Indigenous higher education sector in Australia there exists a sense of urgency to maximise participation at all levels also shared by both the federal government policy drivers linked to Indigenous student support program (ISSP) funding (Scullion, 2017) and Universities Australia’s (UA) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education strategy 2017–2020 (Universities Australia, 2017). Yet whilst a commendable ‘call to arms’ to bring about systemic change, we as a sector are still to develop a sophisticated organisational consciousness where Indigenous business is regarded as core business, moving beyond the reactive organisational fridges. Participants on this panel will explore ways to move beyond the current state of Indigenous higher education to one that looks to the future by privileging Indigenous standpoints and expertise in creating long term societal change through higher education.

Peter J. Anderson is from the Walpiri and Murinpatha First Nations in the Northern Territory. His research theorizes the understandings of the organisational value of academic freedom in Australian universities and also more broadly in the polar south.

Professor Anderson is the inaugural Executive Director of the Carumba Institute and Professor of Education. Under Professor Anderson’s leadership, the Carumba Institute aims to transform both Indigenous research and Indigenous education. Central to these objectives are training and employment-enhancing initiatives as well as strategies to foster engagement and partnerships that matter to Indigenous people and communities.

Panel: Creating and sustaining Indigenous futures: The role of higher education

The following panelists will join Professor Peter Anderson for this session:

Professor Gary Thomas
University of the Sunshine Coast

Professor Gary Thomas is the Dean Indigenous Education and Engagement at the University of the Sunshine Coast and is responsible for leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues related to the student experience, learning and teaching, research and community engagement.
Professor Thomas has worked at the University of Southern Queensland, the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University, the Queensland University of Technology and the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. He has held academic, professional and senior executive roles.
He has contributed to national and international Indigenous education agendas as an office bearer within the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium and the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium. He currently serves as a member of the Advisory Board to the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.
Professor Thomas was an Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) Honorary Auditor and is currently a Registered Expert for the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Authority (TEQSA).
In 2016, Professor Thomas became the first Indigenous Australian to be awarded Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK).

Darcel Russell
The Australian Education Union

Dr Veronica Goerke
Curtin University

Veronica Maria Goerke (PhD) is a descendant of the Tavelli and Bertola families from the Valtellina, Italy, who was born and lives on Wadjuck Noongar Country, Australia. She is a senior lecturer at Curtin University whose current key role involves working with the Director of Regional Education and Strategic Projects. Veronica’s previous roles include teaching in both secondary schools and universities. At Curtin she has also coordinated large first year communication skills subjects before working in Academic Development, creating, leading, and delivering professional learning. She first became involved in Reconciliation in 2007 as Curtin developed its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). She continues now, to work on the current RAP, along with broader equity and regional curriculum projects and is a researcher, and writer. Her research and experience on the place and impact of Reconciliation and RAPs in universities informs all her work. Veronica aims to keep working and researching in partnership with First Nations colleagues, and likeminded non-Indigenous colleagues, to continually decolonize higher education and nurture Australian Indigenous Knowledges beside Western and other Knowledges. This way of working is based on her desire to enhance respectful, inclusive relationships amongst everyone, whilst always honouring the rights of First Nations.