Service Learning in Indigenous Communities (SLIC) is centred around listening and sharing knowledge for mutually beneficial outcomes. The program allows students to deepen their understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s history, values and perspectives, uncover causes of social inequality, and develop skills in cultural competence to find empowering ways to engage with First Nations communities.
The program draws together genuine community aspiration with the planning and provision of services, fosters meaningful connections between people and place, and provides a model for what is possible through open dialogue and cooperation.
Students in the SLIC program are given the opportunity to engage in authentic collaboration by working on essential projects co-designed and led by Indigenous communities around Australia. We asked students who participated in the program this year to share their experience and what they learned.
As a student studying wildlife conservation, I am very passionate about environmental issues, and I believe there can be no climate justice without First Nations justice. This program offered a unique opportunity to hear directly from Indigenous communities on the issues that are affecting them, and to collaborate to find some possible solutions. It was a privilege to sit down and hear from the Indigenous people of the Northern Rivers region and to share stories with them. I know that I have made friends and connections that will last a lifetime.
The SLIC program this year offered a unique opportunity to work with First Nations communities from the North Coast region of NSW who continue to be directly affected by the ongoing impacts of climate change and the current housing crisis in Australia. This is the first time during my studies that I have had the opportunity to do this type of direct community engagement that is inspired by an action-research and action-learning approach, and to hear first-hand from leaders of community organisations in Yaegl Country (Lower Clarence) about the depth of work that they are doing in training, housing, land management and more.
We took part in a Family Wellbeing workshop for three days overlooking a tea tree lake. The workshop is an Aboriginal designed group empowerment program, and it really moved us all. It set the group up to form strong bonds and be more equipped emotionally when going out and consulting with community. There are so many incredible Indigenous organisations supporting First Nations communities, and it was so frustrating to learn how much government funding was such a barrier to their services. I am so grateful for all the knowledge that was shared with me from communities and from my fellow group members.
For me, this program reinforced that Indigenous people are the experts on the issues that affect them and their communities. They already have the solutions; they're just not being listened to. We see governments try again and again, without consultation, to implement programs and solutions they deem as appropriate for Indigenous people, and we continue to see these solutions fail. Being on Country and hearing directly from the communities on the historic issues that affect them was profoundly impactful.
I was blown away by the community’s compassion, warmth, and love, even while sharing personally difficult experiences. It was the hope in their voices and words that motivated me. I along with other students always had discussions about how the community draws the motivation to overcome the mountains of challenges they face – Professor Melissa Haswell beautifully described it as ‘hope without expectations’. It helped us manage the nervousness leading up to the referendum, and gives us the strength to move forward with hope.
SLIC is delivered in partnership with the ICPU program and provides credit towards your degree.
Applications to participate in the program in Semester 1, 2024 are now open.