Dr Tamika Worrell, Noeleen Lumby and Dr Innez Haua, Department of Critical Indigenous Studies, share practical advice, examples and resources to enable teaching staff to model the use of correct language and terminology, select appropriate learning resources, and engage in best practice for including Indigenous perspectives in their unit.

The Mudang-Dali Indigenous Connected Curriculum Framework positions the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across the curriculum. We have seen this remains an area that our colleagues across the university are having difficulties with.

To address some reoccurring concerns, in this article we share suggested resources to reflect and engage on Indigenous inclusion in your own units. We will also share a few examples of practice that we utilise in all of our units in the Department of Critical Indigenous Studies.


Whilst teaching in 2023 we have found there has been amplified resistance to speaking and writing about Indigenous peoples appropriately. These instances range from being corrected by students in other departments and faculties who are willing to argue that ATSI is appropriate terminology – to eye rolling and back and forth arguing about a student’s disbelief regarding being marked down in an essay for using lower case terminology. These have been followed by violent and racist evaluations of teaching and learning.

Starting Point: Reflecting on your own knowledges

The AIATSIS Guide to Evaluating Education Resources offers an extensive starting point to engage in critical self-reflection to gain an understanding of how you view the world.

(AIATSIS, 2022)

Critical self-reflection requires educators, especially non-Indigenous teaching professionals, to consider their pedagogical practice and where they stand in relation to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-related curriculum content that they teach, to ask themselves the following questions:

  • What life experiences, early education, social media influences, television, books, or attitudes shape my choice of curriculum resources and the way I teach it?
  • How do my own histories and biases influence how I approach curriculum resource consideration and the language I use?
  • Where do I stand in relation to this resource and the ideas explored in it?
(AIATSIS, 2022, p. 7)
The AIATSIS Resource Evaluation Framework (AIATSIS, 2022).

This guide for evaluating and selecting educational resources is designed for educators, and we encourage our colleagues to read the guide in its entirety, and engage deeply in the self-directed reflections.

Getting it right: Terminology

The Terminology and Language in Indigenous Studies guide, created by some of our incredible colleagues in the Department of Critical Indigenous Studies is an essential document.

Roberts, Z., Carlson, B., O’Sullivan, S., Day, M., Rey, J., Kennedy, T., Bakic, T., & Farrell, A. (2021). A guide to writing and speaking about Indigenous People in Australia. Macquarie University. https://doi.org/10.25949/5tfk-5113

This guide discusses the importance of language, as well as discussing appropriate terminology. It is embedded at the top of every unit, and discussed and explored in class.

When introducing this, we guide students to explore why language is important and ensure they understand the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is important to emphasise there is no ‘one’ homogenous view of Indigenous peoples in Australia, and that students may encounter articles that do not reflect language in the guide. In some instances, course content, such as older readings, images and videos may contain inappropriate terminology. It is important to feel prepared to address this in class.

In our units, especially ABST1000, students have been directed to the terminology guide and reminded of correct terminology throughout their study, it appears that some students do not engage or even view the guide and continue to use incorrect terminology. This can be seen to be purposefully disruptive and dismissive of Indigenous staff. This reinforces the importance for convenors to engage in best practice and ensure they are embedding correct terminology within their units.

How well do you know appropriate terminology
when talking about Indigenous people?

Test your own knowledge and understanding of correct
terminology and Indigenous communities in this quick quiz:
https://forms.office.com/r/1jhRj1U9gk (or scan the QR code)

Putting it into practice

It is integral to move beyond tokenistic inclusion that serves to merely tick a box when including Indigenous perspectives. A key consideration we want to highlight when considering own practice – is to ensure you have the skills and resources to support meaningful inclusion.

For example, if your inclusion utilises an Indigenous specific essay question option in a unit of study, have you:

  • Provided the resources to talk about Indigenous peoples?
  • Considered whether the teaching staff are capable of navigating and shutting down instances of racism?
  • Ensured that staff are able to model appropriate language?

Whilst many units include and link the Indigenous Studies guide to writing and speaking about Indigenous People, there is additional work to be done to tie into it. Here we’ll explore some of the strategies that can be put in place to ensure appropriate scaffolding to engage in conversations around terminology.

Evaluating your own inclusion:

  • Are both Aboriginal AND Torres Strait Islander peoples represented?
  • Are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples positioned only in deficit?
  • Are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholars cited and included in readings?

When you’re assessing Indigenous content:

  • Does the rubric require students to draw on Indigenous scholarship for Indigenous content?
  • Does the rubric require appropriate terminology?
  • Do marking staff understand appropriate terminology, and how to mark it?
Examples of Turnitin Quickmarks for reoccuring instances of incorrect terminology and language use.

Download our example Quickmarks here and view the Quickmarks sharing guide to find instructions on how to import a set of Quickmarks into Turnitin so you can use them.

In addressing some of these considerations, we draw on a range of Quickmarks to elaborate and direct students according to reoccurring concerns in written work. This is affirmed through the rubric (see below). These Quickmarks attempt to explain some of the nuance associated with inappropriate term use, and to enable students to reflect and engage in alternate ways. In class, and in forums students are given opportunities to discuss terminology to gain an understanding of what should be used and why.

The below rubric includes direct connections to appropriate terminology and engagement with Indigenous authorship and perspectives. While we still see purposeful resistance to engaging with appropriate terminology, this rubric assists in affirming the necessity of using correct terminology. We also see students using easily accessible online searches for Indigenous voice rather than use Indigenous scholars/authorship. Sites such as ‘Creative Spirits’ are not reflective of Indigenous voice (see Quickmarks example above).

Concluding thoughts and final considerations

Importantly, the more work our non-Indigenous colleagues engage within this area, to model appropriate language and understanding, and increase their understanding of the use of correct terminology the less the potential of negative comments and violence that Indigenous staff experience.

The Department of Critical Indigenous Studies has been supporting the office of the PVC Indigenous to continue the roll out of the Indigenous connected curriculum across the university. Staff can engage further through this area by joining the Indigenous Connected Curriculum Community of Practice which meets monthly. Please register your interest via this link https://forms.office.com/r/L0MZ7v8FVM (or scan the QR code).

Post written by Dr Tamika Worrell, Noeleen Lumby and Dr Innez Haua, Department of Critical Indigenous Studies
Banner image: Created by Tamika Worrell and Midjourney 2024

Posted by Teche Editor

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