A group of ANU PhD students working with Indigenous Australians held the first of two major ANU events for National Reconciliation Week 2016 on Friday 27 May. Recommendations were made for increasing Indigenous employment and enrolment at the University.
The “Unpacking Reconciliation: Emerging thoughts from the ANU post-graduate community” seminar commenced with a shared lunch at the Tjabal Centre. In attendance were Chancellor Professor Gareth Evans, Vice Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt, and the ANU Council including its newest member Peter Yu. Aunty Anne Martin, Aunty Matilda House and Indigenous students from the ANU were also present.
Following lunch, the ANU leadership spent the entire afternoon with the students, who presented on their work with Indigenous Australians. The event was concluded with a discussion of the recommendations put forward by the students to the ANU Council, and a closing statement by the Chancellor.
“This was the best event I have ever attended in all my years associated with the ANU,” Chancellor Gareth Evans said.
Five hours together gave those in attendance an opportunity to discuss next steps for ANU toward true reconciliation action in ANU. Many of the recommendations put forward by the students follow previous suggestions made by Professor Richard Baker, who had previously presented postgraduate recommendations from Indigenous PhD students and Indigenous staff.
Baker’s prior recommendations concerned opportunities for meaningful employment for outstanding scholars and those with skills essential to the ANU , particularly in the space of lecturing in Indigenous studies.
In her Welcome to Country address, Aunty Matilda House stated that “we must have more Aboriginal lecturers here. Not white people teaching about our culture.”
The students’ recommendations included suggestions regarding a pipeline process to engage outstanding undergraduate Indigenous students in postgraduate would then be offered permanent academic appointments to improve the low numbers of Indigenous academics at the ANU.
This has led to many Indigenous courses being developed and lectured by non-Indigenous academics, many of whom have made their careers out of teaching content that Indigenous people should have the opportunities to deliver and produce.
The student committee recommended that a team or external agency be funded to review the structural and governance impediments that prevent ANU being an employer of choice for academic and non-academic staff.
Further recommendations include better inclusion of content across all courses respecting and highlighting Australia’s First Peoples, along with further support for practices of cultural respect by all academics. Such practices include the Welcome to Country at all public events and opening lectures, and improved ethics approval processes for research with Indigenous Australians.
The success of the event was followed by the second of two organised for this year’s reconciliation week. The second event, Unpacking Reconciliation – A Conversation with Stan Grant was held on Wednesday 1 June from 6.30–8pm in the Molonglo Theatre.