The first annual First Nation Celebration marks a new era for Indigenous cultural awareness at the University of Newcastle.
The week-long series of both entertaining and educational events organised and run by the University of Newcastle Students Association (UNSA) and the Indigenous Collective will assist in supporting and acknowledging First Nation people within the university community.
UNSA President Kearnie Kelly assisted in the co-ordination of First Nation Celebration events and outlines the week’s importance,
“We’re trying to create a fun atmosphere for our First Nation students at the University and show that we notice them, we’re glad they’re here and we want them here.”
Many of the Celebrations events are being held at the Wollotuka Institute at the Callaghan Campus. Wollotuka has played an important role in representing and supporting Indigenous Australians studying at university, beginning in 1983 as a support program for Indigenous Australian students on what was then the campus of Newcastle College of Advanced Education. The Institute thrived through many years of change and by the beginning of the 1990s Wollotuka had expanded its operations beyond student support and commenced the design and delivery of courses aimed at enhancing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation and equity.
The Wollotuka Institute provides cultural support and a safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and is a fundamental part of the University as explained by Indigenous Enabling Learning Advisor at Wollotuka Hannah Pipe,
“Safe spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are incredibly important and are often overlooked. Many of our students relocate to Newcastle to study and experience a feeling of displacement with being away from country and family. Wollotuka aims to fill that void and create a new sense of mob for ours student’s while they work towards their goals and is a space where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can come for support and guidance, or just a yarn and a laugh.”
“It’s a celebration of who our students are and what our culture is all about”
Hannah further emphasises the benefit of this week’s events,
“It’s giving visibility and a voice! It’s a celebration of who our students are and what our culture is all about. It’s a chance to educate our mob and the wider community; to share and celebrate. It is also giving our students a platform to speak up about culture, education, current events and policy that effects our/their future.”
Non-Indigenous students are also welcomed at this week’s events with workshops being held on what it means to be a good Ally to First Nation People and how to be culturally sensitive when acknowledging country.
Kearnie outlines why all students and staff at the Uni should attend the week’s events,
“Come and see the effort we have put in, learn about our culture and people and show that you want more events like this. Educate yourself, learn the name of the country you’re on, learn what it means to benefit from colonisation and start challenging western views that demonise our First People.”
To learn more about the First Nation Celebration Week visit the Facebook event here.
Feature image via:
This article was contributed to by Navigator team member, Ruvimbo Vusango.