BACKGROUND OR CONTEXT
The concept of 'Aboriginal engineering' has had little exposure in conventional engineering
education programs, despite more than 40,000 years of active human engagement with the
diverse Australian environment. The work reported in this paper began with the premise that
Indigenous Student Support Through Indigenous Perspectives Embedded in Engineering
Curricula (Goldfinch, et al 2013) would provide a clear and replicable means of encouraging
Aboriginal teenagers to consider a career in engineering. Although that remains a key
outcome of this OLT project, the direction taken by the research had led to additional insights
and perspectives that have wide implications for engineering education more generally.
There has only been passing reference to the achievements of Aboriginal engineering in
current texts, and the very absence of such references was a prompt to explore further as
our work developed.
PURPOSE OR GOAL
Project goals focused on curriculum-based change, including development of a model for
inclusive teaching spaces, and study units employing key features of the model. As work
progressed we found we needed to understand more about the principles and practices
informing the development of pre-contact Aboriginal engineering strategies for sustaining life
and society within the landscape of this often harsh continent. We also found ourselves being
asked 'what engineering did Aboriginal cultures have?' Finding that there are no easy-toaccess
answers, we began researching the question, while continuing to engage with
specific curriculum trials.
Stakeholders in the project had been identified as engineering educators, potential Aboriginal
students and Aboriginal communities local to Universities involved in the project. We
realised, early on, that at least one more group was involved - all the non-Aboriginal students
in engineering classes. This realisation, coupled with recognition of the need to understand
Aboriginal engineering as a set of viable, long term practices, altered the focus of our efforts.
Rather than focusing primarily on finding ways to attract Aboriginal engineering students, the
shift has been towards evolving ways of including knowledge about Aboriginal practices and
principles in relevant engineering content.
This paper introduces the model resulting from the work of this project, explores its potential
influence on engineering curriculum development and reports on implementation strategies.
The model is a static representation of a dynamic and cyclic approach to engaging with
Aboriginal engineering through contact with local communities in regard to building
knowledge about the social beliefs underlying Aboriginal engineering principles and
Ways to engage engineering educators, students and the wider community are evolving
through the continuing work of the project team and will be reported in more detail in the
While engineering may be considered by some to be agnostic in regard to culture and social
issues, the work of this project is drawing attention to the importance of including such issues
into curriculum materials at a number of levels of complexity.
The paper will introduce and explore the central concepts of the research completed to date,
as well as suggesting ways in which engineering educators can extend their knowledge and
understanding of Aboriginal engineering principles in the context of their own specialisations