Student support during a pandemic: Insights from those on-the-ground in Indigenous higher education
Journal of Global Indigeneity
Indigenous leadership is critical in enabling the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students. Supporting students to navigate the complex space of the cultural interface (Nakata, 2007) in the context of higher education is vital in improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, their families, and communities. In times of crisis, this specialist support becomes more crucial as the usual factors that impact Indigenous students’ experiences become compounded by unprecedented challenges and major uncertainty. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this collaborative auto-ethnographic study discusses the experiences of three Indigenous leaders and five student support staff, across two universities, in responding to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the context of a global health crisis. The study finds that despite students facing multiple and complex challenges, students demonstrated persistence in their continued engagement with their learning. Furthermore, for staff, adapting to this continually evolving professional context led to greater collaboration amongst university staff, student support innovations and reflections on the importance of systematised approaches to student support. These findings highlight the importance of Indigenous-led student support and may also inform recommendations for future practice in the context of Indigenous higher education.