Service-learning in Indigenous Communities Symposium

Service-learning has had a profound impact on the community partners, students and staff involved in the program. In November 2018, a symposium was held at the University of Sydney to provide an opportunity for the community partners, students and staff to share their experiences of the program.

During the panel discussions it became clear that the project is changing lives and providing valuable educational experiences for students and tangible outcomes for communities. The following is a synopsis of how SLIC has impacted each group

Student Panel

Students reported that the experience allowed them to reflect on what it means to act ethically in intercultural settings. Through the program they were able to dissolve personal assumptions, recognise their own cultural lens, and understand that the university is not the expert in these relationships and in communities. They recognised the importance of the prioritisation of community as the decision makers. They found that the interdisciplinary approach allowed for a different execution and delivery and enabled a well-rounded and clear project and project outcomes. Overall, they found the program to be aspirational, detailed and led to practical outcomes for both students and communities

Community Panel

The community leaders were moved by hearing the students talk about their experiences of working with them. The SLIC program has been a vision and a journey and ultimately has worked. There is a real place for this kind of work in remote communities. It is a fresh exciting approach which provides a transformative experience that will improve things in the future.

The model works and has brought opportunities for partnerships between ACCOs and universities. They want to hear that people who come into communities are listening and found that students came with a different approach. They also made it clear that the relationship with the university needs security and long-term commitment to be sustainable.

Staff Panel

Staff on the panel were a mix of academic and professional staff who had been involved in different aspects of the project. Overall, they appreciated that it was community-driven and interdisciplinary. It was recognised that there was accountability, and that the university was honest and realistic about how it can contribute. It was a transformative experience that provided profound opportunities for students to learn to do things differently.

From a cultural competence perspective, the importance of including perspectives that addressed social justice, human rights, decolonising, and contributed to discontinuing harm was important. Cultural competence cannot be learnt froma textbook; you must have some sort of experience and opportunity for reflection,which this program provides