Indigenous doctoral literacy in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Zane M. Diamond, Peter J. Anderson

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For Indigenous Australian doctoral students, developing the core competencies required for successful completion of their PhD is commonly undertaken at what Nakata has insightfully termed ‘the cultural interface’ (Disciplining the savages: savaging the disciplines. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2007a). While not specifically concerned with doctoral literacy development, Nakata and colleagues (Martin G, Nakata V, Nakata M, Day A, Stud High Educ 42:1158, 2015) develop the theoretical groundwork for considering how the core competency of ‘written communication’ can be understood at this cultural interface, suggesting that there is a need for supervisors and others involved in doctoral training to consider a pedagogy that engages Indigenous persistence in tertiary study and that does not fall into deficit thinking or political correctness.

This chapter examines the multidimensionality of Indigenous doctoral literacy development in the Humanities and Social Sciences. There is a growing body of research about the core competencies associated with doctoral studies. Durette et al. (Stud Higher Educ 41(8):1355–1370, 2016) identify six core competencies developed during a PhD. The most frequently cited competency in their study was ‘Transferable competencies that can be formalized’ with written communication as a significant element. Murray and Nallaya (Stud Higher Educ 41:(7):1296–1312, 2016: 1298) observe that academic literacy is ‘fundamentally a pluralistic concept with each discipline having associated with it a set of literacy practices in which students need to become conversant’.

The authors report here on a critical, self-study of academic literacy development during our time as supervisor and PhD scholar, framed by findings of our analysis of de-identified data drawn from an Indigenous doctoral development program (2002–2008) and embedding our analysis in the Australian higher education policy landscape. Building on Nakata’s foundational work, we offer future direction for a sovereign rights-based approach to academic literacy development in a deimperialised, postcolonial Australian higher education system.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiteracy Education and Indigenous Australians
Subtitle of host publicationTheory, Research and Practice
EditorsJennifer Rennie, Helen Harper
Place of PublicationSingapore Singapore
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9789811386299
ISBN (Print)9789811386282
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameLanguage Policy
ISSN (Print)1571-5361
ISSN (Electronic)2452-1027


  • Doctoral literacy
  • Academic literacy development
  • Indigenous Australians
  • Aboriginal Australians
  • Sovereign rights-based pedagogy

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