Decolonising the student experience: Are we helping or hindering the evolution of student identities?

Thursday 5th December: 0930-1030

Chair: Arfa Noor, Associate Director, Sponsor Relations and Borderless Delivery at University of Adelaide; Board member, International Education Association of Australia (IEAA)

Panellists: Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, Human Rights Director, Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility; Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement), University of Queensland

Our identities are constructed and developed as we interact with our environment – moulded by power dynamics, defined by societies we exist in and nurtured through curiosity and knowledge.  The time that international students spend with us is critical in the formation and allocation of their identities. In many ways, we become gatekeepers of these complex identities. In an era of greater political engagement and mass information connectivity, we must question whether our approach to student engagement adequately caters to a generation better equipped to articulate their intersectional identities than ever before. In the pursuit of our vision to progress global citizenship and soft diplomacy, are we socialising our students to see their cultures and heritage as something of very little value beyond tokenistic cultural dress-ups and potlucks? Are we actively suffocating the evolution of critical elements of their selves that we see as ‘foreign’?

Join the conversation with Arfa Noor – a product of Australian international education, navigating the sector as a practitioner for over 8 years and slowly learning to reclaim her identity from the colonial baggage she has been carrying since her days as an international school student in Pakistan.


Arfa Noor 

Arfa’s career in Australian international education spans almost 10 years. Starting as a founding member and the second President of the Council of International Students Australia (CISA), Arfa has since been working in international education marketing, policy and strategy development across institutes and state government departments.

She is currently the Associate Director, Sponsor Relations and Borderless Delivery at University of Adelaide and a Board member with the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA).

Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran

Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran is the Human Rights Director at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR). ACCR is a not-for-profit association whose mission is to achieve advances on climate change, human rights, and worker’s rights by influencing ASX 100 listed companies’ through research, shareholder activism, and high impact media.

She began her career as a civil engineer at Sinclair Knight Merz (now Jacobs), and has worked for organisations such as the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) in Fiji, Net Balance (now part of EY), Small Giants, and was the co-founder of YLab (, part of the Foundation for Young Australians). She was a Lead Service Designer at RMIT focused on equity for marginalised students. Dhakshayini is also a yoga teacher and co-founder of a new start-up called Decolonised Design. Her favourite thing to think and talk about is how structural power impacts on design theory and practice.

Professor Bronwyn Fredericks

Professor Bronwyn Fredericks is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) at The University of Queensland (UQ), and has over 30 years of experience working in and with the tertiary sector, State and Federal Governments, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-based organisations. Professor Fredericks was recently awarded the inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Award at the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) awards. Professor Fredericks has also served twice as a Commissioner with the Queensland Productivity Commission (QPC).




ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education. For more information, please visit the ISANA website.

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