Using legislation to teach Indigenous cultural competence in an introductory law subject

Alison Gerard, Annette Gainsford

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Embedding Indigenous cultural competence into law curriculum at universities is an important project that recognises the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the custodians of one of the oldest continuing cultural traditions in the world.1 It is a critical responsibility of higher education institutions, particularly law schools, to lead social change in this area for several reasons. First, it pays respect to Elders as the guardians of Indigenous knowledges and fosters collaboration between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, students and communities. Second, incorporating Indigenous cultures, histories and contemporary social realities into law curriculum necessitates critical reflection on the role of the legal profession and the law in driving policies and practices of colonisation, many of them harmful, that continue to resonate widely in a contemporary setting. Third, producing law graduates who are culturally competent fulfills the overarching mission of law schools in Australia that are committed to the 'rule of law, and the promotion of the highest standards of ethical conduct, professional responsibility, and community service'.2 This mission ought to extend to being committed to enhancing cultural safety for staff and students, and to valuing the richness of cultural diversity. Finally, embedding cultural competence provides opportunities for students to benefit from authentic learning experiences that recognise and celebrate the unique nature of Indigenous knowledges and the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalLegal Education Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


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