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Indigenous art above UWA Law Library

How to explore and support Indigenous culture at UWA

27/11/2020 |

Western Australia’s Indigenous people have a rich heritage that makes them among the oldest cultures on Earth. With such a wealth of stories, art and spirituality right here on our doorstep, it would be a shame not to immerse yourself in them – and an even greater shame to ignore the chance of preserving them into the future.

Here are six ways you can find inspiration in Aboriginal culture past and present, and do your part to make sure tens of thousands of years of history and society survive and are respected into the future.

Explore society from an Indigenous viewpoint

School of Indigenous Studies students discussingFrom the philosophical foundations of Aboriginal peoples to Indigenous Knowledge, the Indigenous Knowledge History and Heritage major at UWA is a deep-dive into the centuries-old Indigenous culture and how it exists today. 

You’ll have the chance to meet and learn from Aboriginal people and Elders, hear stories from local communities and families, and develop your understanding of the relationships and interactions in Indigenous society.

Study an Indigenous language

If you live in Western Australia, chances are you already know some Noongar words or phrases, whether it’s how to say hello (kaya) or the term for the land sacred to the ancient people (boodjar). But if you really want to get to grips with Noongar language, a Linguistics major offers you the chance to study it more closely. 

UWA is home to several leading experts on Indigenous languages, and offers a final-year unit in the Linguistics of Australian Indigenous Languages that will enable you to understand not just the languages but also their origins and evolution.

Dig into Aboriginal history

Students looking at archaeological artefactsBecause its Indigenous people have lived on the continent for millennia, Australia has opportunities for archaeological research that you won’t find anywhere else on the planet, including unique examples of ancient rock art. 

Whether you’re just beginning to explore through an Archaeology major, or you’re ready for a more advanced research study in the field, Western Australia is the place to do it, its sites attracting experts from all around the world. And with archaeologists also working alongside Traditional Elders to preserve sites of historical and cultural importance, you can make a difference to the future while you study the past. 

Of course, if you’d prefer not to get your hands dirty, you can always visit UWA’s Berndt Museum, which houses one of the most significant collections of Aboriginal pieces in the world.

Health and wellbeing

Tackling the impact of illness and health issues on Aboriginal communities requires a unique approach and understanding.

Studying Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing as a major in UWA’s Bachelor of Biomedical Science provides the skills and knowledge needed to approach health concerns with recognition and awareness of Indigenous historical, cultural and spiritual perspectives. 

And if you’re passionate about preserving Indigenous culture and peoples into the future, the Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA) has trained more than 1,000 doctors to serve country communities, with hands-on learning opportunities in everything from general practices and health centres to regional hospitals.

Take on a legal challenge

Students by Swan River listening to Indigenous manKnowledge of Indigenous peoples and cultures and their place within Australia is important to our society, with more and more emphasis on cultural awareness in everything from the workplace to the courts. 

You can give yourself a greater understanding through UWA’s Law and Society major, which offers a specialised unit in Indigenous Peoples and the Law

But if you’re looking to make an even greater impact on the ways the legal system interacts with Indigenous people, the Indigenisation of the Juris Doctor project at UWA Law School is the only initiative of its kind in Australia. With the aim of addressing the vital need for law students with a grasp of Indigenous culture, it’s a way to make a definite difference to the future of Australia and how it treats its traditional owners.

Inspire the next generation

One of the best ways to learn about a culture is from its children and UWA’s Master of Teaching (Secondary) gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in Indigenous communities, with the option to take one of your professional placements in a rural school.

If you’re already considering the Indigenous Knowledge History and Heritage major, you can build on what you have learned by following it with the Master of Teaching to become a specialist HASS teacher. 

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