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INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION 2009

KNOWLEDGE AND

CULTURE

A young catalyst for change

Storytelling in motion

Reconnecting the past and present

Listening with respect

Northern exposure

Commitment to a united voice


The University of Newcastle For more information about the articles in this publication please visit www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/wollotuka

13 trees preserved for the future

Kate Reid, Media and Public Relations Kate.Reid@newcastle.edu.au

17 kg waterbourne waste not created

20,968 litres wastewater flow saved

278 kg solid waste not generated

547 kg net greenhouse gases prevented

Renee Chambers, The Wollotuka Institute Renee.Chambers@newcastle.edu.au Writers Editor Group

Savings from using emission-free wind-generated electricity:

278 kg air emissions not generated

Bounce Design

144 cubic metres natural gas unused

Photography

This amount of wind-generated electricity is equivalent to:

Design

McKean Photo

The Wollotuka Institute The University of Newcastle Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia UoN 2009/1201

Savings from using recycled fibre in place of virgin fibre:

Editor

Project Coordinator

Cover: Respected Awabakal Elder Aunty Sandra Griffin is a woman whose actions speak louder than words. Read her story on page 6.

Indigenous Collaboration is printed on Mohawk Options 100% PC White, which is made from recycled fibre and manufactured using non-polluting, wind-generated energy. This paper is certified by Green Seal and the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.

T: +61 2 4921 6863 F: +61 2 4921 6985 W: www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/wollotuka CRICOS Provider 00109J

not driving 976 km

OR

planting 42 trees


INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION

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CONTENTS 02 Message from the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Global Relations) and Director, The Wollotuka Institute 04 A young catalyst for change 06 Listening with respect 07 Ambassador for change 08 Gaining momentum 10 Northern exposure 12 Reconnecting the past and present 13 Doctor comes home to country 14 A living archive for the Stolen Generation 16 Commitment to a united voice 17 A passion for crocs and a passion to support 18 Determined to succeed 19 Killings, not disease, caused Aboriginal deaths 20 Interactions make history 21 Paving the way to success 22 Storytelling in motion 24 An unequalled commitment to Indigenous education


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MESSAGE FROM THE VICE-CHANCELLOR, DEPUTY VICE-CHANCELLOR (ACADEMIC AND GLOBAL RELATIONS) AND DIRECTOR, THE WOLLOTUKA INSTITUTE


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In 2009, the University consolidated its Indigenous activities with the creation of The Wollotuka Institute. A strategic and operational body, the Institute is designed to ensure the University remains at the forefront of Indigenous education, research and community engagement. By combining academic and research disciplines with Indigenous health and Indigenous student support, employment and collaboration, the University has developed a cohesive framework to deliver the leadership to meet national priorities for Indigenous education. The direction of this new Institute aligns well with the Australian Government’s response to Professor Bradley’s review of higher education. In Transforming Australia’s Higher Education System, the Australian Government committed to improving access and participation rates in higher education for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. This group

Professor Kevin McConkey Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Global Relations)

includes Indigenous students, and the University is pleased that its access and participation rates for Indigenous students are well above sector averages. This third edition of Indigenous Collaboration showcases the outstanding success of some of our Indigenous students. Commerce student Callan Nickerson has the first Indigenous Prime Ministership of Australia in his sights, while Pamalyn Hyde and Catherine Phoenix won sought-after scholarships to experience Indigenous culture in Malaysia.

the Australian Government as a Future Fellow. She is investigating and comparing the forcible placement of Indigenous girls and women in domestic service by government administrations in Australia and the United States. Pivotal to supporting our staff and students in their work is a network of Indigenous Elders. These respected community members pass on valuable life experiences when yarning with staff and students. Aunty Sandra Griffin is an Elder who gives tirelessly to University staff and students.

Our researchers continue to advance the world’s knowledge of Indigenous history. Dr Victoria Haskins was among the first in Australia to be named by

One of Australia’s most significant art shows visited the University this year. The In Living Memory exhibition displayed

Professor Nicholas Saunders Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor John Maynard Director, The Wollotuka Institute

surviving photographs from the records of the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board, which forcibly removed Indigenous children from their families in the 1920s to 1960s. Visitors to the exhibition were asked to contribute by identifying some of the children and people in the photos. This important exhibition combined education with culture, a balance that the University aims to strike in all of its Indigenous activities. This year’s publication is again testament to the University’s commitment to supporting the aspirations of Indigenous people, and the valued and needed relationships we hold with our Indigenous communities.


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I have always considered politics as a catalyst for change but I also want to approach it through small business


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A young catalyst for change Callan Nickerson was seven years old when he told his mother that he would be Australia’s first Aboriginal Prime Minister. At 18 years old, the commerce student still holds fast to that dream. “As an Indigenous Australian, nothing would make me prouder than holding that title,” said Nickerson, who is a member of the Australian Labor Party. While it is easy to dismiss Nickerson’s ambitions as youthful folly, you only need to look at what he has accomplished to date, and listen to his convictions, to see that he is someone of exceptional potential. Someone who is intent on using politics to make a difference. In 2008, Nickerson, a descendent of the Biripi people, was the first Indigenous Australian to be made school captain in the 106-year history of Newcastle High School. In the same year, he was awarded Newcastle Young Citizen of the Year, for his community work with the local Stockton surf, swimming and rugby league clubs and with Aboriginal education. He also accepted a Principals Recommendation Scholarship from the University of Newcastle, one of two higher-education scholarships he was offered. Add to this his many sporting, scholastic and citizenship awards, and his consistent track record on community participation, and a picture begins to emerge: here is a young man who is driven, gifted and clear-sighted.

By speaking at schools and other functions and through his involvement with the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, Nickerson encourages young Indigenous Australians to stick with their schooling. He also uses these opportunities to raise Indigenous issues and has become an advocate for including Aboriginal studies on the curricula of all Australian schools. “I would be speaking to students, a lot of them Aboriginal, and find it unbelievable that many did not realise the Stolen Generation went up to 1970,” Nickerson said. “Where does Aboriginal education come in? Where are Aboriginal issues taught? I would raise things like the fact there are 14 Aboriginal communities without proper sewerage, and four or five without running water – startling facts that you would expect to hear about in a developing country and yet it is right here in Australia.” For Nickerson, the continuing plight of Aboriginal Australians is personal. His grandfather was part of the Stolen Generation, taken from his traditional family as a boy and assimilated into white Australian society. Neither his grandfather nor his mother spoke about it, but Nickerson’s

cousin – Aboriginal artist Dion Larrigo – opened his eyes to his family’s past and politicised his thinking. “Humans do not like change, but it has to happen,” Nickerson said. “People might say their views about Aboriginal Australians have changed in the past 40 years and, yes, they have, but there is a way to go. If someone comes to me and says there is no such thing as racism in schools anymore, I have news for them. That is absolute rubbish. It still exists.” Nickerson believes he can contribute by speaking out. He admits he gets a real buzz from speaking publicly and was inspired watching Barack Obama in the lead-up to last year’s United States presidential election. He hopes his involvement with Young Labor will enable him to build a platform for Aboriginal advocacy and affirmative action. “I have always considered politics as a catalyst for change but I also want to approach it through small business,” Nickerson said. “Coming from a small community like Stockton, if you understand small business, you understand the people – that is the way I see myself headed.”


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Listening with respect

Indigenous Elders play an important role at the University, guiding and nurturing Indigenous staff and students. Respected Awabakal Elder Aunty Sandra Griffin is a woman whose actions speak louder than words. She is modest about her activities, humble about her needs, full of energy and exceptionally bubbly at 63 years of age. At the time of interview, Griffin’s week involved doing a Welcome to Country for a Newcastle Knights NRL match; looking after her two young granddaughters (four months and 16 months old); dropping into The Wollotuka Institute; visiting primary and secondary schools; and generally providing inspiration, support and guidance to young Aboriginal people wherever she went. “To hear someone call me Aunty Sandra makes me very happy,” she said. “I love being a blackfella. People here in Newcastle make me feel so proud and they are so respectful of you.” The fact that her own early schooling stopped at the age of 15 makes her sharply aware of the important opportunities the University provides to Indigenous people. Having seen larger numbers of Indigenous students than ever before going through University makes her happy. “The University has accelerated learning for our people and I thank it for that,” Griffin said.

People here in Newcastle make me feel so proud and they are so respectful of you

She worked for the Awabakal Medical Service and in her later years studied to become the first Aboriginal audiometrist, to be followed later by many others. It was an occupation driven by her daughter’s ear problems, a common health complaint among Indigenous children that has a high correlation with poor educational outcomes. These days, as an Elder in Residence, she is often visiting the University’s iconic Birabahn building on the Callaghan campus, which was developed in consultation with local community members, including herself. “It is a building we feel comfortable in. We wanted it to look Aboriginal and it does. It is not like any of the other buildings, it is unique on the campus.” Griffin loves being a part of the Aboriginal community at the University, mentoring young people and sometimes teaching. Her role is a special one, representing her nation with Welcomes to Country, yarning with students and staff, and sharing her experiences and wisdom.


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Ambassador for change One of Jeff McMullen’s earliest memories of Indigenous Australians is being tossed a pair of gloves and given “a quick intro” from the grandchildren of arguably this country’s finest boxing family, the Sands. Photo: Natalie Grono/Fairfaxphotos

But the decorated journalist, filmmaker and former 60 Minutes reporter also vividly recalls the stories his mother told about her childhood in the Hunter Valley. She told of the terrible discrimination shown to young Aborigines – how they were denied the same education as white children or permission to speak their native language in school. “That was the first lesson I had on the unfairness and injustice of Australian life,” he recalled. For McMullen, who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in 2009 by the University in recognition of his outstanding achievements in journalism and humanitarian work, it is a lesson he has carried throughout his life – and one he has tried to pass onto his own children in the hope, one day, it might be learned as a nation. With his boxing gloves still on, McMullen has spent more than 40 years fighting to improve the wellbeing of Indigenous people, whether

it has been covering their struggles here and abroad as a globetrotting journalist or, in more recent decades, through tireless involvement with significant humanitarian projects. His most notable contributions to helping Indigenous Australians have been through his association with Ian Thorpe’s Fountain for Youth (of which he is honorary CEO), the Jimmy Little Foundation, the Closing the Gaps campaign for improved Aboriginal health, and Indigenous engineering summer schools at the Universities of Newcastle and New South Wales. “The only way we are going to address the disadvantage in education and health is by valuing Indigenous knowledge,” McMullen said. “Then we have to convince the individual Aboriginal student that learning is not a white thing, a ‘gubba’ thing. Education is the only way we are going to help Indigenous children escape the maze of poverty and inequity.”

McMullen singles out Literacy Backpack (which is coordinated by Fountain for Youth and provides reading material to Aboriginal children and their families) and Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience among the many recent projects he is involved in that are making crucial headway. McMullen applauds the University’s commitment to Indigenous education, saying it has “the finest record of any university in Australia in ensuring Aboriginal undergraduates succeed”. He has witnessed the results first-hand, working for many years in remote communities alongside some of the country’s first Aboriginal doctors, who had all graduated from Newcastle. He considers the work of prominent Indigenous figures – such as Professor John Maynard of The Wollotuka Institute, and Dr Chris Sarra who heads the Indigenous Education Leadership Institute, inspiring

communities to take responsibility for the education of their children – as truly groundbreaking. “A powerful movement of Aboriginal parents insisting their children learn is starting to grow, which contradicts the media stereotype of hopelessness that has come with decades of welfare dependency,” McMullen said. He also sees young Aboriginal Australians grasping new ways of learning through digital media and combining them with traditional knowledge and stories. McMullen believes this knowledge, too, has a prominent place in our own learning with the rise of global climate and population issues. “Aboriginal knowledge and earth science are companion pieces that fit together perfectly.” If McMullen has one message in all that he does, it is this: listen to Indigenous Australians and, most importantly, trust them.


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Gaining momentum The University of Newcastle has long been renowned as a leader in Indigenous education, earning a well deserved reputation for innovation and excellence. The University has comprehensive student support services and a broad research program into aspects of Indigenous matters. It has engaged the country’s leading Indigenous academics and implemented a best practice approach to Indigenous staff recruitment.

The University’s efforts to enhance education opportunities for Indigenous students continues to gain momentum with the formation of The Wollotuka Institute, consolidating the University’s Indigenous activities into one strategic and operational body. Comprising teaching, research, Indigenous staff employment, and Indigenous student support and development, the Institute positions the University as a model nationally. It provides a structure that will advance the University’s efforts in these areas, support national

Indigenous education priorities, and align activities with the directions of local communities. Renowned for their varied contributions to the Indigenous community, Professor John Maynard, Leanne Holt and Associate Professor Peter O’Mara are Directors of the Institute. Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Global Relations), Professor Kevin McConkey, said the Institute would deliver benefits across the entire University. “The Institute will promote greater representation of Indigenous areas of study in the University’s curriculum development across all faculties and programs. “There will be increased Indigenous research opportunities through the Institute promoting

Newcastle is above the sector average for numbers of Indigenous students, it has graduated about half of the country’s Indigenous medical doctors and was recently voted the university of choice by Aboriginal students.

collaboration with researchers across the University and internationally. “Indigenous students will benefit from enhanced programs, and the development of programs and strategies that attract, support and develop high-quality academic and general Indigenous staff,” McConkey said. Meaning ‘eating and meeting place’, ‘Wollotuka’ offers both a beautiful physical space in the award-winning Birabahn building at the Callaghan campus and a supportive, nurturing environment for the University’s Indigenous staff and students. On the Central Coast campus, the Institute is housed in the Gibalee Centre. ‘Gibalee’, means ‘come along’, a fitting name for a centre that reaches out to the University and the wider community.

The Institute will promote greater representation of Indigenous areas of study in the University’s curriculum development across all faculties and programs


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Northern exposure Not many students can boast that completing their university degree involved sleeping in traditional Borneo long houses and experiencing customary dance, music, costumes and food.

Catherine Phoenix and Pamalyn Hyde were among four Indigenous Australian students from the University of Newcastle who travelled to Malaysia to experience first-hand the lives and customs of some of the country’s many Indigenous peoples. They met with some of the 80 ethnic groups and sub-groups scattered across Malaysia including the Orang Asli on Peninsula Malaysia; the Rungus and Bundu Tuhan on Sabah; and Sarawak’s Orang Ulu, Bidayuh and Iban. The students won scholarships to participate in the Global Student Mobility Partnerships program, run by the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). They also received additional support from the University of Newcastle to cover airfares and travel expenses.

“I am studying a major in Aboriginal Studies and the trip to Malaysia gave me the chance to compare Indigenous lives there with our own in Australia,” explained Pamalyn Hyde, a third-year arts student.

It is about trying to maintain our Aboriginal culture as much as possible and share it as widely as possible, especially with our younger generations

The four-week cultural exchange program, which carried 20 credit points towards the students’ degrees, kicked off with a week of lectures, discussions and presentations at the UKM campus about Malaysia’s Indigenous culture and peoples. “Malaysia’s Indigenous people are very fortunate in that they have maintained their own language and stories as well as their traditional costumes and dance, and have been able to pass them


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on,” said Catherine Phoenix, who is in her second year of a Bachelor of Aboriginal Studies degree. “That was really impressive because, where I am from, we have not held on to our past to the same extent. We do not have our own language any more.” Hyde was also impressed by the way traditional society has survived, particularly when she compared the Malaysian experience to the erosion of Australian Indigenous traditions. At the same time, she took particular enjoyment from the grass-woven dresses, dance and rice-based dishes, which were similar to those in the Torres Strait Islands, where her family originated. Phoenix said Malaysia’s Indigenous people lived a highly marginalised existence that was being transformed by tourism and a push to assimilate the young into mainstream Malay culture. This was threatening those same traditions they still clung to. When the students visited a village at Mount Kinabalu, in Sabah, she discovered that young people were being encouraged to leave their traditional jungle homes for urban centres. “Interestingly, the Indigenous people were proud the young were moving away, learning English and not coming back to work,” Phoenix said. Phoenix worries that, if traditions are lost, the lack of political recognition of Malaysia’s Indigenous people will make it hard to regain them. “Constitutionally, these people are not

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considered Malaysian. It feels like they are where we were 50 years ago. In 50 years, I can imagine that they will be fighting to reclaim their culture and language,” she said. Phoenix and Hyde were overwhelmed by the hospitality from the villagers and how much pride they had in their traditions, in spite of the encroachment of mainstream Malay culture. The students shared their experiences as Indigenous Australians with other international students, about 30 in total, who were part of the program, and the 30 Malaysian students who acted as buddies and translators. “In the final week, we used our presentation to provide some insight into our own Indigenous culture,” Phoenix said. “Many of the students did not even realise we were a part of that. Some thought we would all be dark, would not speak English and would play the didgeridoo.” Looking back on their experiences, both women believe that the chance to interact closely with other Indigenous cultures has enabled them to gain a better appreciation of their own. “It is about trying to maintain our Aboriginal culture as much as possible and share it as widely as possible, especially with our younger generations,” Phoenix said. Construction management student Nathan West and teaching student Jessica Melehan also participated in the Global Student Mobility Partnerships program.


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Reconnecting the past and present Connection to community is central to Indigenous culture, so the enormous enthusiasm of a reunion for 500 Indigenous alumni was hardly surprising. The two-day event incorporated a symposium and marked the official launch of the University’s Kunarr Indigenous Alumni Chapter. “We have loosely maintained some contact through locally based alumni, but many have returned to their communities or moved to other cities around Australia,” said Lillian Eastwood, who, as the Indigenous Alumni Coordinator, has spent the past year developing a strategy and action plan to establish the alumni chapter. “They are the ones we wanted to reconnect with.” Eastwood said Kunarr – an Awabakal word meaning clan or family – reflected the University’s strong focus on community. “One way of building community is by forging new friendships as well as reigniting old associations. That is what the Kunarr Chapter is about – encouraging dialogue and connection with the University.” Renewing ties offers both alumni and the University mutual benefits and creates

important opportunities to collaborate. Eastwood believes harnessing the skills and experiences of its Indigenous alumni will generate new cultural knowledge and understanding, as well as a ready network of business contacts, which is – as she sees it – “untapped and under-utilised”. “Alumni can become potential donors and patrons of the University,” Eastwood explained. “They can participate in our undergraduate teaching, social and cultural programs through mentoring, for instance, and foster enrolments.” At the same time, alumni have the chance to represent their businesses and market themselves, which can lead to new prospects and ventures with the University. Or they can continue with further study.

“We want to foster in Indigenous alumni a commitment to lifelong learning,” Eastwood said. “Some alumni who have gone through enabling and undergraduate programs now have an opportunity to go onto postgraduate study or to be involved in some of our programs where they can talk about their own successes and expertise, and showcase their talents and skills.” The chapter also enables the University to promote The Wollotuka Institute and Indigenous alumni to other Indigenous centres nationally and globally. “Our staff, for example, have strong connections with organisations in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. We are aiming to collaborate with places like these, so we can develop some exchange programs at both a graduate and undergraduate level.”

In strengthening the relationships between the University and alumni, Eastwood sees great potential to build bridges with Indigenous communities. “We want to make sure our Elders are part of our alumni body too. A lot of Elders come in and support us whenever we have a community function or with our entry programs.” The Kunarr Indigenous Alumni Chapter is still only in its early days and has some way to go before it is fully fledged, but Eastwood is encouraged by the positive response so far. “The alumni I have spoken to are genuinely excited to be involved and see great things coming.”


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Doctor comes home to country As he does his rounds at the Biripi Aboriginal Medical Service in Taree, Dr Keith Gleeson still finds it hard to believe that he is a medical doctor, respected and liked by patients. Currently completing his postgraduate training as a general practitioner, the 43-year-old University of Newcastle medical school graduate was once told by his high school English teacher that he had aimed too high and had no hope of completing a science degree. The former chairman of the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council has proven that teacher very wrong. Gleeson’s Biripi ancestors came from Taree, so serving the community there has meant returning to country. “It feels like home. I cannot explain it, but I feel at peace here.” He only learned of his Aboriginal heritage when he was seven. Gleeson said he came from a broken home and did poorly at school because of his “turbulent” family background. He was brought up in Bendoc, Victoria, where both his parents worked in the

sawmill. His father, who was illiterate, died of cancer when Gleeson was 11. His widowed mother had a series of relationships with sometimes violent men, forcing the teenager to seek refuge with various relatives. After working at Bombala sawmill, Gleeson enrolled at the local high school but failed his Higher School Certificate. Seared into his mind was the judgement of his English teacher, who told him he would never succeed. Gleeson took up a position as one of 10 Aboriginal rangers with the Victorian Parks Service, partly because the role required completing a TAFE advanced certificate course. “We went to Dookie Agricultural College, where we did components of the Bachelor of Applied Science in Natural Resource Management.” He enjoyed studying and eventually

graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Parks, Recreation and Heritage) from Charles Sturt University. By then he was married and worked part-time for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service in Gosford. He decided to change career paths and applied to do medicine through the Indigenous pathway program of the University of Newcastle. The University has produced about half of all Indigenous medical practitioners in Australia. His wife, Marianne, told him to go for it and supported him while he studied full-time. His mother, who qualified as a nurse at the age of 57, moved into their home to help care for the couple’s young children. By the end of his third year, Gleeson felt financially and emotionally drained and “wanted to chuck it in”. He was convinced he would fail

his exams. Professor Dimity Pond, head of the Discipline of General Practice, drove to his house and assured Gleeson that he had the ability to succeed. “She sat down with me and said: ‘You have come so far, you must carry on’. It gave me the extra strength to come across the line. I am so glad she did that.” In his fifth year, Gleeson accepted a nomination by the NSW Minister of Health to serve as the Aboriginal representative on the Hunter New England Advisory Health Committee. After graduating with a Bachelor of Medicine, Gleeson finished his twoyear internship and is now completing his postgraduate general practice training in Taree. “I want to work as a rural GP because I love this environment,” Gleeson said. “If the Aboriginal community loves me, I will probably end up staying here.”


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A living archive for the Stolen Generation Aboriginal Elders from the Newcastle region helped shed fresh light on a traumatic time, when the photographic exhibition ‘In Living Memory’ visited The University Gallery.

The photographs were selected from the records of the New South Wales Aborigines Welfare Board, which forcibly removed Indigenous children from their families and put them into institutions. The exhibition was organised by State Records and the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs following wide consultation with Aboriginal Elders and communities. Taken between 1919 and 1966, the photographs include group portraits of Stolen Generation children in boarding homes and training institutions. There are also some historic pictures of families and various community scenes. The pictures were taken to document the work of the Board and promote its policies. But there is scant information about many photographs, which had ‘unidentified person’ recorded on them, and no indication of where they were taken. “In terms of its sensitivity, this exhibition is extraordinary,” Gillean Shaw, Art Curator for the University, said. “It is the surviving photographs of this terrible period of our history from the 1920s to the 1960s.”

The University hoped visitors to the exhibition could identify some of the children or other people in the pictures and contribute to the archival database that forms part of the show. “It is an extremely important exhibition. I cannot think of another that has outlined so clearly what happened in our history in terms of cultural material,” Shaw said. The database, which forms part of the exhibition, could help local Aboriginal people trace family or identify relatives. The University show was sponsored by Professor Kevin McConkey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Global Relations), and The Wollotuka Institute. Student volunteers were trained to assist community members to use the databases that accompanied the show. If people identified themselves or other people in the pictures, they could add the new information to the archives. Due to the emotive nature of the exhibition, the University provided quiet, comfortable places where people could study the images, discuss them and have tea or coffee.


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Images left to right: AWB photo: Wedding photo of Emma Downey & Billy Richardson New Angledool, 1925 Reproduced with permission of Mervyn Bishop, Sydney; Rita Gibbs, Kelso; Marjorie R Little, Sydney; Iris Scanlan, Cooroy and approval of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs Studio portrait of Linda Fernando, 1920s Reproduced with permission of George Rose, Walgett and approval of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs Studio portrait of Ida Fernando, 1920s Reproduced with permission of George Rose, Walgett and approval of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs AWB photo: Pilliga Mission Reproduced with permission of Pilliga community and approval of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs AWB photo: Pilliga Building Site Reproduced with permission of Pilliga community and approval of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs AWB photo: Wedding photo of Leslie Howell & Eileen Carrol and Tom Jones & Minnie Howell Brewarrina Mission, 1925 Reproduced with permission of Lola Dennis, Walgett and approval of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs AWB photo: Wedding photo of James Barker & Evelyn Wighton Brewarrina Mission, 1925 Reproduced with permission of Roy Barker, Lightning Ridge and approval of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs

The exhibition draws together many strands, combining education and culture. It enables people to tell their stories and find answers to questions. Amanda Kelly, Resource Coordinator for The Wollotuka Institute, spent months liaising with Aboriginal communities around the Newcastle and Hunter region about the exhibition. “I thought it was an excellent opportunity for us to showcase this wonderful collection in our own community, especially to our Elders,” Kelly said. “I imagine that for many who have lived through the hardship of the Aboriginal protection policy this may be an opportunity for them to reflect and come to terms with the past.” University alumnus Kirsten Thorpe, Archivist, Aboriginal Liaison for State Records, is one of three State Records employees who played a key role in assembling the exhibition. “For a lot of people it brings back memories of really tough times, but it also represents resilience and people are really proud of what they

have survived, because it documents the Board, which was all-controlling of people and communities,” Thorpe said. Previously, people who wanted to trace their own or their family’s history had to go to State Records and search through pixelated microfilm images of the photographs. The exhibition has made the pictures more accessible and allowed people to contribute their own stories. “We are definitely getting a lot of Elders and other people giving us information and identifying people,” Thorpe said. She said allowing Elders to see the exhibition in places like Newcastle was important because it allowed them to talk as a community about their history. “A lot of people see that as a really healing aspect of the exhibition.” People reacted to the photographs with a mix of emotions, from sadness to pride, she said. “The exhibition is about reconciliation as well, for people to see the photographic history of what happened to Aboriginal people around NSW.”


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Commitment to a united voice Snapshot of the Reconciliation Statement The University recognises the impact of past alienation and other forms of injustices and the ongoing struggle for social and restorative justice.

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The University recognises that education plays an integral role in providing a foundation and platform for the exercise of selfdetermination and the empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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The University’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have supported the University in ensuring an Aboriginal presence at the University and appropriate and effective levels of consultation and collaboration through the sharing of Aboriginal voices, cultural wisdom and knowledge.

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The University is committed to providing an environment that is free from racism and discrimination, developing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to access and succeed in higher education.

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With respect and collaboration, the University embraces a united approach to equality and inclusiveness for all Australian peoples.

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The University of Newcastle declares its commitment to Aboriginal reconciliation: developing a strong community and fostering mutual respect, social justice and a united voice between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal Australians. The first sentence of the recently launched Reconciliation Statement captures the formal commitment the University has made to promoting strong relationships with Indigenous communities locally and nationally. An important acknowledgement of the University’s commitment to being an inclusive workplace, the Statement recognises and respects the traditional people and cultural significance of the lands on which the University’s campuses are located. Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Global Relations), Professor Kevin McConkey, said in the wake of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology last year to Australia’s Indigenous people, organisations around Australia had launched Reconciliation Statements. “These statements recognise an organisation’s commitment to unity and respect of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” McConkey said. Preparation of the University’s own statement was driven by Leanne Holt and Professor John Maynard from The Wollotuka Institute and McConkey. The group worked in consultation with many stakeholders to prepare the statement, which was approved by the University Council in 2009. “The Statement will now serve as the basis to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan. “This Plan will be developed to support the Statement and help build further positive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people at the University and in our communities. “By working in consultation with Reconciliation Australia to develop the Plan, we hope to be the first university in NSW to have a registered Reconciliation Action Plan to support its Reconciliation Statement,” McConkey said.


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A passion for crocs and a passion to support “Crocodiles are so ancient, you have got to be respectful,” said Cameron, Portfolio Leader, Support and Development at The Wollotuka Institute. “I just think that once you see one of those really big crocodiles, and you are leaning out of your tinny to photograph them, your heart stops just for a second.” On her desk at the University is her photograph of a very large croc, nicknamed Larry. When students ask her about the reptile, she tells them about her love of crocodiles and how she takes family members with her on her remote fishing expeditions. It is a way of breaking the ice and getting students to discuss their own experiences. Cameron believes that this sharing of stories is essential for Indigenous counselling. The support she provides aims to improve Indigenous people’s access to and participation in higher education. Cameron originally trained as a nurse and teacher and has taught at two TAFEs, specialising in working with teenagers considered at high risk of dropping out of the education system. Before joining the University she completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Indigenous Social Health. “Through my training and experiences, I have developed a really holistic approach to counselling, which has led me to where I am today,” Cameron said. “Indigenous counselling and guidance is about sharing personal stories.” Cameron said she told her Aboriginal clients where she was from and what her connections were in order to build trust. Students often prefer to meet her outdoors or at a coffee shop or even at their homes. “That is very appropriate to Indigenous counselling where you are yarning and telling your story. It is often far more comfortable for a person to be counselled outside rather than inside.” Crucial to her counselling are her own abstract acrylic paintings, which illustrate Aboriginal stories and social and emotional states. Cameron said her artworks were used to promote healing and health. She has printed about 30 of her paintings as cards, which she uses to prompt discussions with clients. She hopes to develop the set of cards into a tool for non-Indigenous counsellors as well.

On fishing trips to Arnhem Land, Liz Cameron searches for the biggest crocodiles she can find and captures their textured scales and saurian grins on film.

She commented that some of the paintings were of Aboriginal spirit figures while others depicted people who could be male, female, adult, child or even someone who had passed away. They sometimes illustrate issues such as domestic violence or loneliness. Others show patterns of plants or textures of animal or reptile skins. “You have to be very careful that you, as the counsellor, do not project your interpretation onto them. Because what one person may see in these cards or artworks is a completely different story to what other people see. “It acts as a little prompt, and people may say ‘this is me, this is happening to me’ when they look at an Aboriginal spirit painting.”


18 | INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION

Determined to succeed Education was not something highly valued when Cheryl Newton was growing up around the Port Stephens neighbourhoods of Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest. In her family, you had a choice – you went to school or you went to work. “I did not like high school much and wanted to leave early,” recalled Newton. “But there was not a lot of work around at the same time, so I stayed. Even though I did not see any point being there, it was the easier option.” Her decision to persevere with school paid off for the Executive Officer of the newly formed Wollotuka Institute, who has worked in Aboriginal education at the University for the past 17 years. After school, she finished a secretarial course – heeding her mother’s advice that this would ensure her a job – married, had three children and joined the workforce. A true measure of Newton’s determination, though, came

later when she found work as an administration officer at the University. Defying the odds and family expectations, she enrolled in higher education, first completing a Diploma of Aboriginal Studies and then the bachelor degree, while raising a family and holding down her job.

family to tackle higher education. “A lot of different emotions went through my head. But I am a determined person. If I start something, I like to finish it.”

That she took eight years of part-time study to complete her degree – an accomplishment made easier, she said, by working at the University and receiving support from her colleagues – only shows how determined Newton is.

It is that kind of commitment to getting the job done for which Newton received a Faculty Award for General Staff Excellence 2008, recognising her contributions to both the Wollotuka School of Aboriginal Studies and the Faculty of Education and Arts. (The School was a part of the Faculty until it was absorbed into The Wollotuka Institute in 2009.)

“I wanted to pull out many times and often asked myself why I was even bothering,” said Newton, the first in her

“The award is an enormous honour,” said Newton, who has added the general running of the Institute to her previous

responsibilities of looking after the academic and research portfolios. “What was especially fulfilling was being recognised for my work not only within the School, but across the entire Faculty.” Her no-nonsense attitude, she believes, has helped to set an example to young Indigenous people, her own three children included, who may be thinking about further studies or just looking to make something of their lives. “I talk to the Indigenous students who come to the University about what they can expect. I tell them that I studied while raising a family and working. I hope to show them what might look impossible is possible.”


INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION

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19

Killings, not disease, caused Aboriginal deaths When Dr Greg Blyton began investigating the disappearance of the Aboriginal population in the Hunter region after European occupation, he could find no significant evidence to support the historical theory that disease had killed most of the people. Blyton, Lecturer and Research Coordinator for The Wollotuka Institute, said he was trying to find the reason why the number of Indigenous people living in the Hunter area plummeted from an estimated 5,000 to just 500 in a 20-year period from the 1820s to the 1840s. A former health worker, he focused his doctoral thesis on the effect of colonisation on these Indigenous communities, particularly on epidemiology and the impact of disease. His conclusion was that Aboriginal people defended their land against the British occupation and 60 per cent were killed by the settlers. He believes only 10 per cent were likely to have died from diseases. Blyton said as soon as the area was opened up for occupation, there was a war around resources and killing became commonplace. He argues there was a conspiracy of silence around the deaths, with colonists disposing of Indigenous remains. Blyton explains that he is descended from Aboriginal people in Sydney and the south coast of NSW, and British people who arrived in the First and Third Fleets. “I go down to places like Circular Quay in Sydney, and I sit there in two minds. On one side I was the invader and on the other side I was the invaded – it is an interesting juxtaposition.” Researching his doctoral thesis, he used archival and ethnographic evidence to discover what happened after the Hunter region was opened up for colonial occupation by

Europeans in 1826. “Disease was used as an explanation for the disappearance of tens of thousands of human beings, but I could find no medical evidence to support that,” Blyton said. He found the deaths were tied to the usurping of Aboriginal land, conflict over resources such as water, and periods of violence. The military recorded shooting some Aboriginal people. But he contends far more Indigenous people were killed by colonists after Governor Ralph Darling gave them permission to use force against the Indigenous inhabitants if necessary. In 1826, missionary Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld wrote to his superiors that ‘alas the war has commenced against the Blacks’. In Port Stephens, Robert Dawson, manager of the AA Company, which received a million acres of land for pastoral and timber industries, wrote that the convicts had shot ‘Indigenous people as if dogs’. Blyton is currently furthering his research by investigating what happened to the Aboriginal people in Port Stephens. He will also re-investigate the Sydney smallpox epidemic and its impact on the Indigenous population. He said attributing Indigenous deaths to disease was a falsehood that had been accepted as fact. He is intent on setting the record straight. His main aim, he said, was to uncover the truth so people could acknowledge there had been a war between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and move on.


20 | INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION

Interactions make history Throughout Australian history, stories have often been told by people on one side or the other, but Dr Victoria Haskins says this does not accurately reflect reality. “Life is not like that. We are interacting all the time. I am looking at people who have managed to work together historically.”

A senior lecturer in Australian history, Haskins’ interest in cross-cultural relationships came about serendipitously, when she discovered that her great grandmother, Joan Kingsley Strack, had protested the removal of Aboriginal children. It was during the 1920s and 1930s, at a time when her grandmother employed Aboriginal domestics. Learning of the injustices they faced, she began campaigning for their rights. Her story became the subject of Haskins’ doctoral thesis, which she finished in 1999, and a published book titled One Bright Spot. She then conducted further research into the personal stories of other non-Indigenous women who worked closely with Aboriginal people, and compiled an anthology of their stories titled Uncommon Ground. It is relationships like these that Haskins finds most interesting. She weaves her often amazing findings into the courses she teaches, such as ‘The Australian Experience’, a first-year Australian history course, and ‘Maps and Dreams’, about Aboriginal colonial encounters in Australian history. The topics covered in ‘Maps and Dreams’ include Aboriginal people who were taken into captivity, and conversely, the ‘captive’ lives of non-Indigenous people who worked with Aboriginal people in colonial jobs such as on missions or

as teachers in isolated areas. Haskins’ courses are constructed with input from Indigenous colleagues and there are also guest lectures by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. She also takes a broader perspective to include other colonial histories of the world. North America, Fiji and India are just some of the places that Haskins has researched, seeking histories that show where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have come together to achieve unexpected outcomes. “Doing comparative studies makes you think about different outcomes and makes you realise that nothing is inevitable,” Haskins said. “Whatever history we have is due to different choices that people have made and it is not always a negative experience.” Haskins is currently writing a manuscript on Aboriginal domestic service relationships throughout Australian history, a three-year project funded by the Australian Research Council. She has also been awarded a prestigious Future Fellowship by the Australian Government. She will now investigate and compare the forcible placement of Indigenous girls and women in domestic service by government administrations in Australia and the United States, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Paving the way to success Annie Vanderwyk is excited when she talks about the Indigenous community engagement programs run by the University’s Gibalee Aboriginal Learning Centre, which is part of The Wollotuka Institute and is located at the Central Coast campus. The Centre’s Community Engagement Officer is also studying for her PhD on the role of tourism in Indigenous sustainable economic self-determination. “There is no shame in being a clever blackfella,” Vanderwyk said. “There is pride in education, knowledge and career building. We maintain a cultural integrity and appropriateness right through our programs that is specific to Aboriginal nations across the University’s footprint.” Gibalee’s staff, including Vanderwyk, implement a broad range of programs that bring the community, education and Indigenous culture together. Principally, they aim to enrol Indigenous students by providing educational pathways for people of all levels of achievement. “The highest attrition rate of Aboriginal students occurs in Year 9. The articulation processes we implement give young people incentives, understanding and a future in education, mentoring them through our schools and into University programs,” Vanderwyk said.

This is achieved by developing and maintaining links and establishing collaborative partnerships in a 450-squarekilometre region of the Central Coast that includes nine Aboriginal nations, University staff, student bodies and faculties, Aboriginal community and commercial organisations, reconciliation groups, government, alternative education providers, parents and students of all ages. Some of the most recent programs implemented by the Centre are focused on Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses in hospitality, cultural tourism, small business and governance, and aim to build capacity in the Indigenous community. Along with Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council, the Centre is collaborating with Aboriginal businesses that will provide work experience opportunities for students in VET courses and at TAFE. Another project, with the Dhanggatti nation’s Djigay Training Centre in Kempsey, involves incorporating Indigenous knowledge into

VET hospitality courses and TAFE curricula. One aim is to provide a bush tucker garden for students to use in their courses. Vanderwyk said the Centre worked to include Indigenous cultural perspectives through consultation with the Indigenous communities, role modelling and involvement from past students. To support this it has implemented summer school programs for business, law, engineering and other students, an Elders in Residence project and cross-cultural storytelling. There is also a multitude of cultural events, including National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week, open days and the Aboriginal Education Pathways awards nights for educational achievements on the Central Coast. For Gibalee’s staff, it is a huge load, but a very satisfying role that provides both the Indigenous and nonIndigenous communities with smarter philosophies, proactive education and employment outcomes for Aboriginal people of all ages.


22 | INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION

Storytelling in motion While bean picking with her family on a property near Bodalla on the south coast of NSW, a young girl has a number of strange encounters with family members of the past. This is the setting for Dr Romaine Moreton’s recently premiered film, The Farm, which tracks the young girl’s quest to understand the fate of her ancestors.

Based on her own family’s story and the experiences of Indigenous bean pickers in the 1970s, Moreton developed guidelines to ensure that the writing, directing and filming of The Farm were culturally appropriate. By extensively consulting her family and other bean picking families, Moreton aimed to ensure the film was appropriate to the memories of the people whose lives she represented. “Setting these guidelines enables Indigenous people to make media that represents their own philosophies and world view, rather than a repetition of colonial ideas,” said Moreton, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University.


I aim to develop a set of guidelines and values that will become the basis for teaching Indigenous media-making in schools

A poet, screenwriter, director, filmmaker, storyteller and academic, Moreton is examining Indigenous media-making nationally and internationally as part of a five-year ‘Portals to Protocols’ project. “The outcome is to determine how to use media to promote Indigenous values and perspectives,” Moreton said. “I aim to develop a set of guidelines and values that will become the basis for teaching Indigenous media-making in schools.” One year into the project, Moreton has already made considerable progress. She undertook a three-month residency at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra as the 2009 Indigenous Research Fellow.

That project, titled ‘Recovering Light: from visual anthropology to visual sovereignty’, enabled her to view the breadth of Indigenous ethnographic materials held in the national archives. In doing so, she found that even as far back as 1889, Indigenous people were involved in the first-ever film made in Australia by ethnographer Alfred Cort Haddon of Oxford University. Moreton, of the Goenpul people of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island) and the Bundjulung people of northern NSW, describes herself first and foremost as a writer. She has published two books of poetry, The Callused Stick of Wanting (1995) and Post Me to the Prime Minister (2005); produced two films, A Walk with Words (2000)

and The Farm (2009); and written the films Cherish (1998) and Redreaming the Dark (1998). She was recently invited to perform her poetry at the launch of the new Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research, at the University of London’s Royal Holloway College. The Centre is focusing its research on innovative methodologies, with a special emphasis on Indigenous people and post-colonial impacts on theatre and performance. The response to Moreton was so warm that she has received further invitations to perform and speak at overseas institutions in the future. “It was good to see. I feel very empowered.”


24 | INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION

An unequalled commitment to Indigenous education

Professor John Lester speaks very proudly when he talks about the University’s 20-year commitment to equity in Indigenous education. “In the 1980s, when Australia realised the extremely poor health of Indigenous people, most universities responded with welfare and nursing degrees. This University made the bold step of creating Indigenous doctors,” Lester said. This pioneering approach has resulted in the University consistently enrolling more Indigenous students each year than any other university in the country. About half of the Indigenous doctors in Australia are graduates of the University. Lester said the University was now renowned for its innovation and initiative in Aboriginal affairs, the implementation of compulsory Indigenous studies for all students studying teaching, and the culturally appropriate purpose-built building that housed The Wollotuka Institute. A director of Wollotuka between 1997 and 2005, Lester returned to the University in July 2008, taking over as Acting Director of The Wollotuka Institute in July 2009 for six months. In his time away from the University, Lester spent three years in the top job as Director of the Aboriginal Education and Training Unit of the NSW Department of Education and Training. Lester is excited about his return to the University. “The change is good. I am at the stage of my career where I want to back off senior management roles. I am now in a position to add value in terms of my lecturing and I have got the space and the time to do the writing I enjoy.” Lester’s research focuses on the inclusion of Aboriginal students and their culture in the mainstream education programs in NSW

schools. He said it had not been well recognised that Aboriginal students were broadly dispersed in schools, with 82 per cent of all schools in NSW having fewer than 50 Indigenous students. This means that small numbers of children often sit unnoticed in classrooms and are not effectively engaged. He said this had not been considered enough when planning policy and delivery of services for Aboriginal students. In his current role, he is working to ensure that the University’s emphasis will be on career outcomes for its 500 Indigenous students, mostly from around regional NSW. He said it was possible for all Aboriginal people who have a degree to gain employment, even in these tough times, unless they chose not to be employed or not to leave their home country. Ironically, the students in Lester’s three masters courses are all non-Indigenous. “This shows the genuine interest that non-Indigenous people have in Indigenous studies. This is important because the University is producing culturally informed teachers who can ensure that their curriculums are more inclusive of Aboriginal students,” Lester said. “There are now around 500 Aboriginal teachers and 350 Aboriginal Education Assistants in NSW schools, but the reality is that the vast majority of Aboriginal kids will be taught by non-Indigenous teachers. “This is why initiatives such as compulsory Indigenous studies for student teachers are critically important. It gives them understanding and insight. It helps them bring the best out in their Indigenous students.”


The University of Newcastle For more information about the articles in this publication please visit www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/wollotuka

13 trees preserved for the future

Kate Reid, Media and Public Relations Kate.Reid@newcastle.edu.au

17 kg waterbourne waste not created

20,968 litres wastewater flow saved

278 kg solid waste not generated

547 kg net greenhouse gases prevented

Renee Chambers, The Wollotuka Institute Renee.Chambers@newcastle.edu.au Writers Editor Group

Savings from using emission-free wind-generated electricity:

278 kg air emissions not generated

Bounce Design

144 cubic metres natural gas unused

Photography

This amount of wind-generated electricity is equivalent to:

Design

McKean Photo

The Wollotuka Institute The University of Newcastle Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia UoN 2009/1201

Savings from using recycled fibre in place of virgin fibre:

Editor

Project Coordinator

Cover: Respected Awabakal Elder Aunty Sandra Griffin is a woman whose actions speak louder than words. Read her story on page 6.

Indigenous Collaboration is printed on Mohawk Options 100% PC White, which is made from recycled fibre and manufactured using non-polluting, wind-generated energy. This paper is certified by Green Seal and the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.

T: +61 2 4921 6863 F: +61 2 4921 6985 W: www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/wollotuka CRICOS Provider 00109J

not driving 976 km

OR

planting 42 trees


INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION 2009

KNOWLEDGE AND

CULTURE

A young catalyst for change

Storytelling in motion

Reconnecting the past and present

Listening with respect

Northern exposure

Commitment to a united voice

Indigenous Collaboration 2009  

The University of Newcastle is recognised nationally for its active support of the aspirations of Indigenous people through access to higher...

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