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The “problem” of Australian First Nations doctoral education: a policy analysis

Maria M. Raciti (School of Business and Creative Industries, University of the Sunshine Coast Sippy Downs Campus, Sippy Downs, Australia)
Catherine Manathunga (School of Education and Tertiary Access, University of the Sunshine Coast Sippy Downs Campus, Sippy Downs, Australia)
Jing Qi (School of Global, Urban and Social Sciences, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 22 February 2024

Issue publication date: 7 May 2024




Social marketing and government policy are intertwined. Despite this, policy analysis by social marketers is rare. This paper aims to address the dearth of policy analysis in social marketing and introduce and model a methodology grounded in Indigenous knowledge and from an Indigenous standpoint. In Australia, a minuscule number of First Nations people complete doctoral degrees. The most recent, major policy review, the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) Report, made a series of recommendations, with some drawn from countries that have successfully uplifted Indigenous doctoral candidates’ success. This paper “speaks back” to the ACOLA Report.


This paper subjects the ACOLA Report, implementation plans and evaluations to a detailed Indigenous Critical Discourse Analysis using Nakata’s Indigenous standpoint theory and Bacchi’s Foucauldian discourse analysis to trace why policy borrowing from other countries is challenging if other elements of the political, social and cultural landscape are fundamentally unsupportive of reforms.


This paper makes arguments about the effects produced by the way the “problem” of First Nations doctoral education has been represented in this suite of Australian policy documents and the ways in which changes could be made that would actually address the pressing need for First Nations doctoral success in Australia.


Conducting policy analysis benefits social marketers in many ways, helping to navigate policy complexities and advocate for meaningful policy reforms for a social cause. This paper aims to spark more social marketing policy analysis and introduces a methodology uncommon to social marketing.



The authors wish to acknowledge and thank the members of the larger project team.

Funding: Australian Research Council under Grant DP210100647.

Disclosure statement: No potential competing interest was reported by the authors.

Data availability statement: Data is not available.

Ethics: Not required.

Article classification: Research article.


Raciti, M.M., Manathunga, C. and Qi, J. (2024), "The “problem” of Australian First Nations doctoral education: a policy analysis", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 264-279.



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