MHC Forum 1999

Professional Development and Heritage

Issues in Education and Training

Professor Andrew Jakubowicz


As NSW faces the new millennium as a multicultural society, there are still serious questions about the capacity of our cultural and social institutions to properly represent our diversity. These questions are prompted by widespread community debate around multiculturalism, changes in government policy, some pressure to distance the community from its ethnic heritages, and the difficulty governments seem to have at times in acknowledging cultural pluralism as an environment for cultural interaction (rather than simply ethno-specific activities).

Research, commissioned by the NSW Ministry for the Arts in 1997 as part of the process to develop a Migration Heritage Centre (MHC), noted that many cultural institutions, (museums, art galleries, performance companies etc.), were unable to demonstrate either confidence or competence in their response to the realities of the state as a multicultural society. This is a view that has wide currency amongst ethnic community organisations and many multicultural policy change agents, but which is not widely recognised nor given much credence amongst major cultural institutions.

The MHC established a Workshop Forum advisory group to act as sounding board for a strategic engagement with the cultural institutions and their relations with culturally diverse communities, as partners and audiences. The Centre wished to ensure that the institutions could develop approaches that could overcome current problems. Having first secured an initial recognition that problems existed, the institutions would then develop a sense of ownership of the issues, and go on to integrate diversity awareness into everyday management practice. In order to do this the institutions would need staff equipped with cultural knowledge, and research, cross-cultural communication and conceptual skills, not a current strength in most bodies. At the same time, communities interested in entering partnerships with the institutions would need to build their own skills bases and develop capacities to work collaboratively.

This paper was commissioned to address a number of questions in relation to education and training which reflect on the capacity of institutions and communities to work together on migration heritage. The key issues to be addressed can be summarised as:

  1. Current role of tertiary education in preparation and on-going development of professionals for work in migration heritage;
  2. The relation of education and development to cultural aspirations of migrant communities;
  3. Model of possible development strategy at tertiary level.
The primary objectives of the paper are:
  1. To demonstrate the need for a more systematic preparation of personnel working in the heritage and culture field to enable them to work within contexts of cultural diversity, and to build partnerships across cultural or professional boundaries;
  2. To identify some of current approaches to dealing with these issues in tertiary institutions; and
  3. To develop an outline proposal for the types of programs that might help address the needs identified in this paper.

This paper is designed as a background document for discussion, and it is not intended to suggest closure on any of the issues raised. It is framed in terms designed to elicit participation by cultural and education institutions in how these questions could be taken further. The first step is to present a context for the policy proposals.

Cultural institutions and cultural diversity

Australian cultural institutions have developed historically within a fairly constrained set of understandings about the extent of culture and their roles in relation to it. While culture is a continuously produced range of meaning given form in material artefacts and social discourses, institutions tend to privilege, for preservation and performance, items and narratives which reflect the world view of their managers, staff and patrons, the more established or powerful parts of society. Yet as culture and populations change, institutions are faced a continuing challenge to adapt professional practices.

It is important to recognise the range of innovation and progressive co-operative activity which has already been put into place by a number of institutions and communities, while at the same acknowledging that in many areas the challenge has not been met. This challenge exists in relation both to the content of culture, and to relations with audiences/publics and the communities of which they are a part.

In recent history cultural institutions have been challenged in many dimensions:

As part of these movements to reclaim cultural space and assert self-definition, ethnic communities - from first generation immigrants through to the descendants of earlier arrivals - have argued for preservation, performance and development of their cultures in the Australian environment. They want Australian heritage narratives to include them, on their terms, from their perspectives.

Issues raised by ethnic communities relating to the production of culture have included:

We are therefore facing the need for a more extensive conversation between individuals and groups with a background in multicultural policies and programs, and institutions charged by the government with developing, preserving, communicating and performing the cultures of the state. There are many different groups with a stake in positive outcomes from such a conversation. They would all be able to participate more effectively were they to have skills development opportunities that enhance inter-cultural communication, cultural knowledge and cultural heritage analysis.

There is a need therefore for a sense of the skills and capacities appropriate for participants in these conversations - which are the formative components of the narrative of the nation. These capacities can be thought of as defining the shape of the global cosmopolitan professional.

Specifying the characteristics of the global cosmopolitan professional for cultural institutions

While there are quite specific skills that a training and development needs audit would determine, there are some general orientations that can facilitate a more effective interaction. It is not necessary to be au fait with the detail of every cultural group in Australia, to be an effective cross- cultural communicator in a cultural institution. Education is primarily a process of cultural formation and transformation - the bringing together of capacities of mind and hand. One of the challenges to cultural educators is to "imagine" societies in ways which do not rely on chauvinist and xenophobic models of inter-group relations, and to develop narratives which are not thereby imbued with sexist or racist assumptions and structures of thought and representation.

This is not simply, nor at all, about 'political correctness'. Awareness of cultural history and the ways such histories affect the frames through which we see the world are crucial elements in the intellectual capacity of the cosmopolitan professionals who will run institutions in the 21st century. The cultural workers need to be self-aware, self-critical, but also reflective of important social values (eg social justice) embedded in the public culture of Australian society. Education is not simply a matter of training, of generating unreflective automatons who respond to industrial imperatives, and whose creativity was abandoned in the cloakroom on their way to the labour market. It requires emotional, social and personal development, into responsible, insightful and socially aware professionals, capable of perceptive judgement. This means that simple models of history and society will not suffice - rather, professionals need to be exposed to and feel comfortable working in situations of ambiguity and complexity, and across cultural boundaries.

There are a number of key dimensions for an effective multicultural education and development policy (one which recognises and incorporates cultural diversity into mainstream practice):

In so doing the policy needs to recognise the range of resistance which exists, from the passive lack of interest or ineptitude, to the active hostility (eg One Nation).

  1. Resistance from old power hierarchies to demands for access by newly emerging groups;
  2. Resistance to the opening up of agenda setting;
  3. Resistance to personal cultural change and learning new social knowledges;
  4. Hostility by those in authority to what they see as challenges to their authority.

Within the cultural industries there are also historic debates and controversies over the place of migrant cultures. Some of the points of controversy that an education and development strategy would need to address include:

  1. Whether migrant cultural production is 'Professional' or 'Amateur'?
  2. Whether migrant cultural production is 'Mainstream' or 'Marginal'?
  3. Whether migrant cultural production should be thought of as 'Contemporary" or 'Traditional'?
  4. Whether migrant cultural production is 'Innovative' or 'Repetitive'?

The following diagram charts the field of cultural activities relevant to migrant heritage:


Given this background and the issues it raises, the questions of education, training and professional development can be first addressed by an overview of what sort of engagement tertiary education has with cultural diversity issues and the cultural industries.

Some examples of NSW tertiary education responses to training and development needs

While universities in Australia for many years have recognised the presence of immigrants and issues of cultural diversity, the growth of cultural heritage studies per se has been a phenomenon of the last decade or so. Migrant cultural heritage studies have been approached from a number of different disciplinary and organisational perspectives. The disciplinary approaches include anthropology, archaeology, arts administration, built environment and urban planning, leisure and tourism, museum and heritage studies, public and regional history, race and ethnic studies, and sociology.

In this selective review I will pay particular attention to some well-established programs, which identify cultural heritage as a central focus and also offer professional curatorial or similar production training. While Aboriginal studies forms a major segment of cultural heritage studies, it will not be dealt with in this report. However, Indigenous migration issues - especially contact issues between Indigenous people and new settlers - clearly form part of a brief for a Migration Heritage Centre and therefore issues in training and education.

A number of universities serving NSW offer cultural heritage programs. Some of these are the University of Canberra, Charles Sturt University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Sydney, the University of Western Sydney, and the University of New England. Most professional development training is offered at the post-graduate level through coursework programs, often a linked Graduate Diploma/Masters program, though some have quite extensive undergraduate offerings. I deal here with a selection - this is not exhaustive.

The University of Canberra has developed a program that allows for a concentration on cross-cultural heritage issues and practice. The graduate program in Cultural Heritage Management includes subjects in Cultural Heritage Management, Heritage Interpretation, Cross-cultural Heritage Management, Heritage Preservation, Museology, Tourism Marketing, and Professional Practice. The focus is on material culture, mainly in relation to Indigenous groups, within an international comparative framework. The Cross-Cultural Heritage graduate subject defines its goals thus:

This subject provides for the development of critical perceptions of cross cultural heritage management issues with reference to Indigenous and multicultural peoples of Australia. Comparative perspectives will also be provided with case studies from New Zealand and North America. Students will be required to prepare a report based on a compulsory field excursion.
Learning outcomes: Upon completion of the subject it is expected that students will be able to: debate the issues relating to human remains and secret and sacred objects; evaluate the need for access and equity; be able to outline legislative and governmental frameworks; and, express matters relating to copyright, cultural pluralism and corporate processes including matters relating to access and equity, and advocacy and networking.

The graduate Heritage Interpretation subject offers a set of generic professional skills:

Syllabus: The subject deals with the presentation and interpretation of cultural and natural heritage, represented as environments, sites and collections, in both indoor and outdoor contexts. Lectures and seminars will take critical approaches to the ideas of heritage and to the interpretation of heritage resources. Site inspections will expose students to contemporary professional practice in the field as well as to the experience of being 'heritage consumers'. Assignments will enable practice in applying the techniques to real situations.
Learning outcomes: Upon completion of the subject it is expected that students will be able to: apply basic interpretive techniques and the principles of evaluation; present the diversity of cultural heritage information to the community and to visitors at sites, parks, cultural centres and collecting institutions; and, have an understanding of people's perceptions and attitudes to heritage resources.

These courses are professional training for activities in traditional cultural institutions, and they do not for the most part prepare for work in oral history, music and performance.

Charles Sturt University offers an extensive program at the undergraduate and graduate level - a Bachelor of Arts, Graduate Diploma and Master of Arts in Cultural Heritage studies offered at or from Bathurst. The Graduate Diploma (offered in distance education and part-time mode) is aimed at students who wish to establish careers in the museum, heritage and cultural tourism industries; it is open to graduates and also to people with industry experience and academic aptitude. The MA (into which the Diploma articulates) describes its goals as meeting the needs of both the existing cultural heritage industry and the expanding entrepreneurial sectors of both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage industry. The coursework component includes four semesters of two subjects each - Culture, Heritage and Theory; Preserving the Public Record; Public History; Exhibitions and Applied History.

The interest in the field of 'public history' is also the focus of the University of Technology Sydney Graduate Diploma/ MA in Public History, currently linked in a joint program with Sydney University. This is an on-campus program offered in part-time mode in Sydney, building on the media and cultural history work of the faculty. The Graduate Program in Public History prepares graduates for roles in the broad field of historical communication and public history. It aims to produce graduates who can combine historical research and interpretation with an ability to communicate historical ideas to a wide range of audiences, in fields such as museums, heritage, electronic media (including film, television, radio and interactive multimedia) and popular print. It aims to develop skills in independent research in public history and to enhance the professional skills and networks of individual students It includes subjects such as Oral History and Memory, Heritage and History, Image and History, History, Computers and Interactivity and Researching and Writing History. Students also undertake a Professional Placement and a Professional Project. There are no specific cross-cultural subjects, though the program has a strong interest in Indigenous history, and some interest in immigrant and ethnic histories. Many of the student projects focus on cross-cultural and ethnic community history issues.

The University of Sydney program has a complementary focus - it concentrates on museum studies, public archaeology, shares an interest in the heritage industry, and has a strong social history orientation. It has an interest in heritage and planning and ideas of citizenship. Its graduate program in museum studies concentrates on developing museum management skills, including exhibition development, visitor and education programs, collection policies and strategies, material culture analysis, research and information management, media and communication practices, and funding museums. It does not signal an interest in alternative cultural perspectives, though students do work on cross-cultural issues.

The University of New England provides a range of programs relevant to migrant heritage. These include a graduate diploma program in heritage studies, local, family and applied history at the undergraduate and graduate level, relevant elements in Multicultural Education, and research degree opportunities. UNE also has a strong background in flexible and distance education work.

The University of New South Wales offers cultural heritage programs through the Faculty of Built Environment (sites of significance, including those for ethnic communities) and through the Arts Faculty in Cultural Heritage Management. In the latter case this is one subject in an undergraduate degree, which deals almost totally with indigenous issues. The University also offers an Oral History program, which is linked to the Local History Centre, a group that promotes community historical research.

In summary, NSW universities clearly have an interest in heritage, there appears to be no program which allows specialist development of skills in a full range of migrant heritage issues and skills. These would include at least oral history, community story telling and narrative, community history, museum work, and performance development and management, and audience development. However many universities have expertise that could be drawn on in developing a state-wide response to the heritage training and development needs previously discussed. Such a strategy would need to include:

  1. Short-courses and seminars relevant to professional development in institutions and the community;
  2. Undergraduate subjects within heritage and culture courses;
  3. Graduate subjects in more general heritage programs;
  4. Graduate program in the central area of migrant heritage;
  5. Opportunities for a professional doctorate program.

Goals for Education and Training in Migration Heritage

Migration Heritage education and development may appear a specific and limited area of expertise that could be accommodated through moderate refashioning of existing university programs. There is a strong case for existing programs to respond to cultural diversity rather more than they have - though it is acknowledged that many programs can include electives that allow students to pursue multicultural or ethnic studies as a part of their program. Yet this is an insufficient strategy for advancing the general goals of the Migration Heritage Centre, as it fails to ensure the inclusion of ethnic and inter-cultural issues and perspectives in mainstream organisational expertise. An innovative program in content, format and delivery mode is required, that can meet the needs of the diverse publics that might use it.

The stakeholders in such a program include:

  1. The Migration Heritage Centre;
  2. State cultural institutions, including galleries, museums, significant sites, and performance companies and spaces;
  3. Current and potential employees of cultural institutions;
  4. 'Mainstream' cultural institutions supported by state or federal government funds, which need to meet multicultural policy objectives;
  5. Ethnic (as immigrants and their descendants) communities and their cultural institutions
  6. Audiences and publics for cultural institutions.

The criteria for an effective educational preparation and continuing professional development program would therefore include:

  1. Support from cultural institutions as part of their long term strategic planning
  2. Commitment from the Migration Heritage Centre
  3. Support from ethnic communities through participation in advisory committees and as partners for work-based learning
  4. Interest from graduates in developing professional skills in migration heritage and cross-cultural practice
  5. Involvement by a consortium of tertiary education institutions, which can offer expertise in cultural heritage, ethnic community studies, flexible delivery, collaborative partnerships, work-based learning and diverse professional practice.


A possible model of collaboration between two educational institutions

This outline reflects a preliminary exploration of how a Sydney inter-institutional program might work. It is not prescriptive, but reflects one approach to how the issues could be addressed.

A graduate program could be offered jointly by the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Western Sydney, with potential for cross-institutional subjects to be taken from other universities.

The graduate program would be three semesters full time equivalent (usually offered in part time mode and available remotely), with the first semester providing a Graduate Certificate, the second a Graduate Diploma and the third a Masters degree. The program would have the following characteristics:

  1. Entry into the Masters directly to be based on an honours degree; otherwise entry into Grad Cert or Grad Dip based on pass degree, or extensive industry experience and academic aptitude
  2. Core subjects to be Cultural Diversity as Policy and Practice (UTS); Communities and Cultural Diversity (UWS), allowing professionals from different sectors to develop cross-cultural problem solving skills and build network links with communities and other institutions
  3. Opportunities for Work Based Learning, where cultural institution employees, their employer and the universities develop a learning contract which is carried out under joint supervision in the cultural institution to meet institution goals and student learning needs
  4. Web based learning packages developed, including discussion lists, on-line seminars, best practice projects etc.
  5. Projects would be developed which link students with institutions and communities through programs such as the UTS Shopfront. These could include neighbourhood studies of sites of working lives, oral history work, material culture projects, performance and creative projects, and audience development work.

In addition a professional continuing education program could be offered, which could include intensive delivery at institutions. These subjects would be designed to be assessed, and used as credit towards graduate qualifications at a later date.

Identifying learning needs

One of the crucial elements in the program would be the identification of student learning needs and how they relate to institutional strategic planning. Thus the close liaison between the universities, the communities and the cultural institutions would be crucial to the realisation of the program.

  Subject 1 Subject 1 Subject 1
G Cert
24 CP
1 semester equiv.
Cultural Diversity as Olicy Practice (I) Communities and Cultral Diversity (I) Work Based
Learning/Learning contract
G Dip
(inc.seminar 1)

24 CP
1 semester equiv.
1-3 Selected from UTS Graduate Programs in Applied History, Information Management, Communication Management, International Culture and Communication etc 1-3 Selected from UWS Graduate Programs in Communication and cultural studies and applied ethics Optional Project Unit via Shopfront or WBL
MA (includes Sem 1&2)

24 CP
1 semester equiv.
Methedology Seminar Project or attchment or WBL Project or Attachment or WBL