The 2011 Census confirmed Western Australia as one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse states in Australia, where 31 per cent of Western Australians were born overseas and 15 per cent spoke a language other than English at home. People from more than 190 countries and 130-plus religions call WA their home. At UWA, our staff and students reflect this rich diversity.
In educating the employees of tomorrow, we follow our Education Principles. We aim to promote among our students the ability and desire to develop personal, social and ethical awareness in an international context, to respect Indigenous knowledge and to acquire cultural literacy.
Cultural literacy is a vital attribute to achieving success in a global higher education environment. A culturally diverse workforce and student body encourages unique perspectives and enables a competitive edge.
We aim to progress our commitment by developing a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) performance assessment framework which replicates that of Athena SWAN. We also aim to address identified gaps in CALD representation and distribution in staffing profile, embed cultural literacy as part of an inclusive leadership framework and engage effectively with new and emerging CALD communities.
In recent years, UWA has demonstrated a strong track record in cultural and religious diversity, notably through initiatives such as:
- cultural literacy training
- the Language and Cultural Exchange Program (LACE), an intercultural friendship program
- FIRSTatUWA, a program for international postgraduate students
- the interfaith calendar
- explicit recognition of the need for cultural and religious leave for staff
- a dedicated prayer room for Muslim staff and students, and halal food on campus
In order to broaden students' minds and experiences, we strongly encourage our undergraduates to participate in student exchange at more than 180 partner universities, while our Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) students are provided with a scholarship-supported, study abroad experience.
In addition, the Student Guild’s International Students Service looks after the welfare of international students studying at UWA. Each year, it organises the immensely popular Multicultural Week which celebrates the diversity of the student body and increases awareness of cultural diversity in the community.
UWA is committed to maintaining a work and study environment which is free from racial harassment. Racial harassment conflicts with the University's Equal Opportunity Policy and with the rights of staff and students to receive fair treatment.
Courageous conversations about race workshop
The internationally recognised UWA initiative Courageous conversations about race aims to further develop cultural competence and literacy among participants. The workshop strives to engage deeply through translating passion into practical action in both the personal and professional lives of participants. The process engages, sustains and deepens the race/cultural diversity dialogue at all levels.
Cultural and religious commitments
Recognising the religious and cultural diversity of its community, UWA offers many entitlements to assist staff in managing their work and cultural/religious commitments.
The University adopts an inclusive definition of family which encompasses a wide range of relationships. 'Family responsibilities' includes responsibilities associated with extended families and religious or community structures.
The University has an Interfaith calendar which details key dates for major religious groups on campus.
The calendar assists those staff required to have an understanding of the cultural and religious obligations of staff and students, especially when these involve an application for cultural or religious leave, deferred exams or alternative arrangements.
Ceremonial and cultural leave
Ceremonial/cultural leave is available to assist staff to meet their customs, traditional law and participation in ceremonial or cultural activities.
Indigenous Australian staff are entitled to a further two days of ceremonial/cultural leave each calendar year. The University recognises the importance of NAIDOC week to Indigenous Australian staff and supports their participation.
This area is a gateway for students and staff to services and groups which support spiritual life at the University.
Calendar of cultural and religious dates
This calendar aims to raise awareness of key cultural and religious events and national days.
Major religions in WA
View culture and religion information sheets on the Department of Local Government and Communities' Office of Multicultural Interests website.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spiritualities
Australia has two distinct Indigenous peoples: Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal peoples are the oldest living culture on earth and comprise some 250 separate language groups with their own law, knowledge and belief systems, often collectively referred to as the Dreaming. The Dreaming is an English word often misinterpreted to indicate that Aboriginal belief systems are not real, but imagined, and therefore many Aboriginal groups or ‘nations’ prefer to use their own particular language name for the Dreaming and the stories, song, dance and ceremonies within it.
Aboriginal people see themselves as part of the natural or physical world, and this everyday realm is also interconnected to and continuous with the spiritual world; past, present and future all exist in the same time and space. For Aboriginal people, the land is our mother, everything is alive and everything is related, law is not man made but given to us and we have responsibility to uphold this, care for each other and the earth. Aboriginal peoples talk about spirituality rather than religion.
Spirituality is expressed differently between Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. Torres Strait Islanders' spirituality comes from stories of the ‘Tagai’. Torres Strait Islander communities celebrate the Coming of the Light Festival (1 July) which is a religious celebration.
While Indigenous spirituality cannot be translated into a calendar per se, significant dates for Indigenous Australians are listed below.
Information about Indigenous Australians can be found at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
This is a brief guide for members of the University to the use of language that avoids expressions offensive to some groups in society and to assist in complying with equal opportunity legislation.