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Reconciliation Action Plan

Reconciliation Action Plan & Strategies

View the highly innovative, progressive and creative Southern Cross University, Gnibi Wandarahn Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan 2019-2021 and related Strategies:

Gnibi Wandarahn Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan 2017-2020

Reconciliation Action Plan and Indigenous Strategies launch, November 2017

Staff, students and members of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous community celebrated the launch of the University’s inaugural Gnibi Wandarahn Reconciliation Action Plan and associated Indigenous Strategies on Friday 24 November, 2017.

Video duration: 52 minutes.

Reconciliation Action Plan and Indigenous Strategies launch, November 2017

Staff, students and members of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous community celebrated the launch of the University’s inaugural Gnibi Wandarahn Reconciliation Action Plan and associated Indigenous Strategies on Friday 24 November, 2017.

Dr Stuart Barlo

I would like to call on Uncle Greg Harrington as a Bundjalung Elder to come and give us a welcome.

Uncle Greg Harrington

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I would like to pay my respect to our Elders past and present and on behalf of the Widjabul People whose land we are on, I would like to say welcome to everyone and thank you for attending the Reconciliation Action Plan launch. Thank you.

Dr Stuart Barlo

Thank you Uncle.

Just before I call our Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Shoemaker up, I would like to let people know that there actually three different books. So when you leave it is not just the Reconciliation Action Plan, there is also an Education Strategy and an Employment Strategy. So all three of them are on the front desk or front table out here, so if you have only grabbed the one, you are short.

Professor Adam Shoemaker

There are many events that happen and have happened in this room and in all cases you would like to think that they are part of the process of discovering. But this one is one of the most important and can I add not only an acknowledgment but in fellow feeling and in absolute recognition of the Elders here present with us both inside, outside and together with us in this room and the knowledge that they have inspired, which finds its expression in all three of these plans as we take them forward today and into the future. We thank you so much for the time you have invested already and the knowledge you have given us. We really, really, appreciate it.

I think it is fair to say that this university is quite different. I have been in enough places to know. And Southern Cross is not here just to talk about fulfilment or procurement or meeting a target, it is talking about exceeding all of those things. Those things are just standards that governments set and that are set by departments. We want to define and go beyond. And I am wearing something which was a gift, which I am really proud to wear. The Reconciliation Action Plan and the attendant plans just mentioned, they are gifts, and this is a giving university. So we want to not only give but receive this knowledge and take it forward. So in a really practical way, if we are saying Southern Cross has to be seen, it has to be place making and sense making around indigenous language on the edges and through every campus. If we are saying as, the plan indicates, that the ceremony you have just had with the smoking ceremony is an acknowledgement with the greatest respect of Eldership. It shouldn’t be just the lucky few amongst those here today who benefit from that and from Uncles wonderful, I was just mentioning your wonderful smoking ceremony Uncle. But all students who begin in every session and every venue where the University commences in knowledge and it doesn’t have to be those studying with the wonderful Gnibi Wandarahn College, but with all disciplines. These are the things we can do.  

And taking it further, it is practical as well. We have a clinic on this campus which is a health and wellness clinic for the community and for our students and for those who are becoming health professionals in the future. Thousands and thousands of people come to use that clinic every year: it is open to all communities, indigenous communities and others. That is a symbol for the University. All the facilities here are knowledge and open knowledge facilities and the people most importantly are open as well.

So when I was asked this morning and we had two interviews, Norm and Uncle were involved in one and I was involved with ZZZ at almost the same time. I think they asked me why are you doing this? And the answer is – the time has come to do something different and not just to talk about the three words reconciliation, action and plan but actually exceeding all three. So I feel absolutely privileged to be able to speak with you and to be part of this process; it’s a family process, it’s a giving process and this is a giving university and an engaged university.  And we have been saying it recently, expressing it, what we do in the backyard has to matter in the front yard and for the rest of the world. And this is a fantastic example of that very process. Bring on the rest of the world. Thank you.

Dr Stuart Barlo

I would like to call on Professor Norman Sheehan now from Gnibi Wandarahn to talk to us about the Reconciliation Action Plan.

Professor Norman Sheehan

Wow. It’s good to see so many people here. I pay all my respects to the Widjabul People and the Bundjalung Nation and our Elders who are here, our Elders from Ballina and from Casino and locally and others from further afield. It’s a great thing to have people gathering. I was talking to Uncle Herb about a story. It’s a story that I also had a quick yarn to Uncle Charles about it. It’s a story about a kangaroo in this country that goes chasing a man that stole his daughter to kill him. And somewhere around here I think, not knowing that much about this country, he caught up with them and he heard his daughter’s laughter and realised that she was happy and forgave her. So there is sort of a strong presence in this place for me, when I hear stories like that, there is a strong presence in this place for forgiveness and for love.

I have a cousin Darren and he trains a certain Bundjalung boxer or he used to and he would say to me ‘that good strong goori love’ and then he would give you a hug and it would take you about half an hour to recover. The thing about it is that this idea of a caring community is what reconciliation is actually about. For me at the end, I have just announced my retirement. Uncle Greg announced my retirement on the radio, Thanks Unc, that was good. But that is a joke we have because the other side of this thing is a team of people who work together so well, from Elders through to very young people who have made this thing happen, and it is quite a different Reconciliation Action Plan. Like Adam said it is very, very different, it is different in a couple of senses.

So up on the screen there is a list of our Elders Council members from Beenleigh down to I think Macksville. And there is a couple of younger people there who we are asking to step up occasionally and help, senior people in the community who can come in and do heavy lifting when we have hard stuff to do. Because the other thing is caring for Elders, making sure that things like this are safe. So when we talk about that I am lucky to have on staff some Dr Nurses who are very strong people with good qualifications and who will support Elders in all our events. And we also have families like Rod Williams’s family who had the first nursing graduate from this region. So there’s a lot of connections there that can actually slip off into the distance and not mean anything and there are a lot of connections there that if certain forces come into play can be destroyed or disrupted.

There’s some really strong things in this place around two important things and they are throughout the Reconciliation Action Plan and it makes it different from any other. One is Indigenous Knowledge and that is as an academic discipline and I am really proud after teaching in indigenous spaces for over thirty years to say we have an Indigenous Knowledge school. That means that our understanding is accepted in this University at the same level as engineering or health sciences or law, and we are actually going to be and we do pitch in to those areas. So this idea that we are needy, Aboriginal people are needy. I don’t buy in with that idea because I see people in this community who are just so strong and able, that you can’t be anything but proud of them, proud of our Elders, proud of the community, proud of what it achieves and I think that that pride isn’t that sort of ‘oh I’m so proud’ pride, it is that actually just watching people doing things and taking notice of what they are able to do. There’s really skilled people at every level. Even people on the street, they’re really skilled at being on the street. This sort of thing is something that is part of what we’re writing up as a relational theory for education. And that relational theory is really based on some of the great minds we have in Gnibi and in the University. We have Aunty Mary Graham who is a professor working with us. We have people like Rachel Lynwood, who is a senior Bundjalung member of staff, Rod Williams who is a senior Bundjalung man who is a member of staff. We have these people and they are just so able.

The other side of it is bringing back language and being able to sit in the University and hear Bundjalung language spoken and to be part of helping that to happen, assisting the community to do that. That’s a huge honour. The other part of it is that it is going to keep growing and hopefully we’ll be able to reintroduce programs that are directly teaching Bundjalung language. And we already have two units on the books Aboriginal Language in the Classroom, and Aboriginal Language in Community.  Because teachers in the classroom need to know how to operate language with respect for the community.

The other part of this Reconciliation Action Plan is trauma aware practice, where people become aware of the pain, and how easy it is to cause pain when you are operating with communities that are being dispossessed. So, across the board we’ve got a very, very small number of staff. We’ve got quite a small group of Elders. They have all worked exceptionally hard for this strategy and this Reconciliation Action Plan. Our research strategy isn’t published yet; that’s because we have to do more consultation around it, and that consultation is going to be about ensuring that research is of benefit to the community.

Currently, as part of the Reconciliation Action Plan, when we have research students come into Gnibi, our Research Director, Shawn Wilson, he’s a Cree man, from Canada, very problem, that, people from Canada, hard to deal with. But we now have, if somebody enters our postdoctoral, our doctoral or our Doctor of Indigenous Philosophies program, they have to attend interviews with Elders. And explain to Elders how their research is going to benefit the community. Now for Aboriginal people doing that, it’s really, really, really hard. For non-Aboriginal people doing that, it’s really, really, really hard. And what you get is some wonderful conversations about what people want to research, and we’ve done that the last two days, and I think we’ve got another round next week. And the Elders are commenting, and asking questions of potential researchers, to ensure that the research fits with the community and contributes to the community – not just on a piece of paper, but through acting it out in practice.

And that’s the final part of this, is that this reconciliation action plan, it creates Aboriginal agency. Now some people are not going to like that, and quite a few haven’t liked it. Because some things are ‘hairy’ in inverted commas, and there’s nothing like a little bit of a singe to take the hairs off, and make it nice and clean and understandable. Some conversations are dicey and hairy, in academic areas, and we can come in quite strongly and say – no, with all respect, our knowledge is equal, and if it’s not, what century are you living in? And that little singe is really beneficial. Cleans things up. And we have some excellent staff members who can singe that bit of nastiness out of things. And it’s a bit like a psychic smoking occasionally, and that is part of the game. Quite frankly, Indigenous knowledge and reconciliation, part of the game is past violence, and how do you get past that? You mediate it. We mediate it. We use creativity, we use humour, and we use love. And that’s what this reconciliation thing is about. So please, as we operationalise it, and you start to get annoyed by what we do, just think of it as just a little singe. It’s just, it’s fine. It’ll be clean, it’ll be better, if you support it. So thanks very much everybody.

Dr Stuart Barlo

Thanks Professor Norm. I’d like to call on a couple of the reconciliation plan committee members to come and talk a little bit about the process and that sort of stuff and we have an Associate Professor Jen Neilsen from the School of Law and Rob Cumings from Equity and Diversity.

Associate Professor Jen Neilsen

I will start off, of course, by thanking Uncle Larry for the smoking ceremony and Uncle Greg for welcoming us to country today. And I would like to acknowledge that we meet today on the lands of the Widjabul Wia’bul peoples as part of the Bundjalung nation, and acknowledge the Elders who are with us here today, past Elders as well, and the emerging Elders with us. And as a lawyer, I feel like I should also acknowledge that these lands carry the oldest living legal tradition in the world and we have much to learn from those who carry this legal tradition, its philosophy and the wisdom that’s built from it. I also acknowledge all of the other members of the community. It’s wonderful, there is a few people I haven’t seen for a while, seeing them here today. And of course acknowledge the senior members of the University and acknowledging the other members of the SCU community.

Like Rob and Bill Boyd, we also carry Bill Boyd’s apologies, he also was asked to come and speak on behalf of the committee. We feel, all three of us, and I’m sorry, I’m speaking for you Rob, but we all felt so honoured. Not only to be part of the process, but to be given the opportunity to talk today about our part in that process and what we learnt from it really. And so we met together to talk about what we should say and what we should try and share in terms of what that experience. And really our discussion focused on how grateful we were to have been part of the process and we talked for quite some time about how much we’d learned and had been allowed to share through being part of this process.

And so foremost we want to express our gratitude and thanks to all of the Elders who led that process and were so generous in their sharing and leadership and giving their knowledge and time to us as part of the committee, but to the whole University as well. And in saying this we acknowledge that this RAP really represents a gift. A gift given to us by the Elders. Many of whom who have had a long association with the University that even pre-dates, of course, pre-dates the university being here, but part of the formation of the University as Southern Cross.

We also wanted to thank and acknowledge Rachel Lynwood as the chair of the RAP committee and thank Rachel for her guidance and leadership, and of course Professor Norm Sheehan for being such a strong leader in that process as well. And for guiding the RAP with such a principled approach that was respectful and inclusive of all of us who participated. And we really are so grateful for the care and respect that was shown to us as members of this committee, by the Elders and Norm, Rachel, everybody who was involved. And because of it in turn we treated the RAP process with care and respect. And for us it has been an enriching experience and I think we can really say that we have experienced first-hand the caring community that Norm was just talking about.

When we met to talk about our experience, each of us has been at the University for, I guess what we regard as quite a long time. Bill, the longest of us, having been part of the foundation faculty when Southern Cross was formed. I came here, I came to Bundjalung country in 1992 from Melbourne. Though I didn’t know it at the time, because of course as part of the mainstream population, or the non-Aboriginal population, our knowledge about things is still growing. And so I didn’t know whose country I was born on, but I was born on, I now know, the lands of the Boon wurrung People of the Kulin Nation, I should also declare that half of me is from Canada [laughs], so there’s a problematic side too. But I came to Southern Cross in 1994 and have had, I guess over time, though based in the law school, a different association over time with people in what was first of all then Gungil Jindibah and what became Gnibi College. And so I’m really grateful to all of the people that I have met in that time and I’ll hand over to Rob who will also introduce how he came here.

Rob Cumings

Thank you, and yes I would also like to give my heartfelt thanks to the Elders who have guided us through this process. One of the things that I have learnt from working with Rachel Lynwood and Jen and Rachel Callahan for nearly six years now, is the power of stories. And my story is I first came here twenty years ago on a holiday and I went to an event in town and there was an Aunty at the front door of that event, and she chatted with me, and did such a beautiful job of making me truly feel welcome here, that I thought ‘Ah, that’s where I need to be’. So I went back and did one of those ‘stepping off the cliff’ moments and gave up my job and came here. And my first job here was as the manager of the general education program at the adult community education college in town. And in my first week there I had to meet with the management committee, and who should be on that management committee, but the Aunt who I had met at that event. And in some senses, that Aunt is no longer with us, this is a wonderful honouring of the work that she did within the community. I’m really nervous, and really emotional today, it’s great. It’s a great day.

This RAP, and the Elders Principles, give us principles that we can live and work with. That set the foundation for respectful and honouring relationships. That’s very important.

Associate Professor Jen Neilsen

I’ve just got a little bit more, then I’ll hand back to Rob. Sort of still sitting with the reflections, the three of us had in terms of our involvement in the process, and one of the things because we had been at the University for quite some time, we wondered about whether we could have got to this RAP earlier, whether we could have done this years ago? That got us thinking, I guess, about on the way we think about time, and how we do things, and who we do them with. And so we reflected on the importance of the journey, and of taking the journey the right way. That simply finishing a process wasn’t the point. It was about making the journey with people. Making the journey the right way, and developing real and meaningful relationships because of that journey. And as Bill observed in our chat together, the time taken to create this RAP has been important because it has enabled the Elders and senior members of the University to build a foundation for a more mature and respectful relationship between the University and between the community. And as Bill also said, part of the respect we need to show to the RAP is that we believe is it shouldn’t be constrained by western notions of time and efficiency and planning cycles. Though those things have their place, they did not constrain or determine the RAP and so they should not constrain or determine how this RAP comes into life. And what this process has realised is a great gift to us, the Elders have provided us all with a principle-driven approach to the University’s journey of education, and a powerful statement of knowing in how to be decent human beings.

And we talked about this together, the three of us, as a gift because we observed just how, in our experience over time, through our various experiences, Elders and other community members had been so generous in sharing knowledge and wisdom. And so we’d also like take our opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Elders and all of the other indigenous peoples who’ve taught us over time, in sharing your knowledge, your wisdom, and your philosophy with us. It’s a very powerful gift, and it’s one we receive with respect. And as a university community we’ve been given such a special gift in being given this RAP, because it gives us principles, the Elders Principles, that we can live and work by, that are very much core business. That set the foundation for respectful, honouring relationships for all. And as Bill put it, in our discussion together, ‘It gives us an opportunity to re-think strategies and policy-setting frameworks, and that the RAP and the elders’ principles give us an opportunity to have a vision of the world as diverse, and we don’t have to have one single definition of what the university is, and what it can be’.

Rob Cumings

I’d also like to acknowledge that there has been a group at the University called the Southern Cross University Indigenous Events Coordinating Committee now for eleven years, and I was a member of that group for ten years. Being a member of that group taught me to be less impatient, to have a little more humility. And I would like to acknowledge the current Chair Troy Robinson and the previous Chair Viv Roberts, in their leadership of, really, reconciliation business in action, that’s been happening at the University during that time. The RAP gives us the opportunity to transform the University, it gives us the opportunity to transform the relationship between employees, between colleges – Indigenous and non-indigenous. And, if you go to the Reconciliation Australia website and look at the 2016 RAP barometer, you can see the sorts of impacts that happen with staff and processes and policies at institutions that have reconciliation action plans in place.

I work part time, I don’t work on Wednesdays, and my want, I guess, is on Wednesday I often watch the National Press Club address. And recently Larry Marshall, who is the chief executive of the CSIRO, commented in the context of innovation at his Australian Press Club address that ‘we need to take notice of the brilliance of Aboriginal people in being able to transform, through a complex process, a poisonous seed into a food staple, acknowledge the design-excellence of a boomerang, and learn better from the care and understanding of Country, that is evidenced by Indigenous fire-management strategies’. This RAP, as Norm has pointed out, gives us an opportunity to embrace Indigenous knowledge, to better understand a very ancient knowledge, and to make new discoveries, and in doing so to transform the academy.

Indigenous knowledge provides us with opportunities to better understand ourselves, our relationships, this land. Indigenous astronomy, for instance, sheds light on the origins of the Henbury crater field in Arunta Country in the Central Desert. Aboriginal Australians are the world’s oldest astronomers. Their understanding of astronomy made possible the earliest known sea-voyagers. Astronomy was used to develop calendars, predict and plan for the seasons, and to navigate the land.

There are great opportunities in learning from Aboriginal medicine. The Bundjalung people have long understood the medicinal benefits of tea-tree. They crush the leaves, and apply a paste to wounds, or they use it as a tea for healing throat ailments. Aboriginal x-ray paintings provide a clear and accurate methodology for teaching aspects of anatomy. The fundamental Aboriginal principle of respecting Elders, of valuing their wisdom, is an opportunity for us to re-think, re-frame, and improve the way we do aged care in this country.

At this week’s Equity Practitioners in Higher Education conference in Brisbane, Professor Steven Larkin, who is the Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Newcastle, in his keynote address, observed: The academy needs to come to terms with its own limited understanding of knowledge, that there is only one epistemology. He concluded that Indigenous knowledge must be unleashed to transform the academy. Our Reconciliation Action Plan sets a principled platform that provides us with that transformational opportunity, and we will be a better, stronger, more relevant, resilient, and caring university because of it.

Dr Stuart Barlo

Thank you very much. We can see that the committee had really considered what they were doing, in bringing this Reconciliation Action Plan together. I’d now like to call on Rachel Lynwood to talk about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy.

Associate Professor Rachel Lynwood

So first of all, as always, it’s important to acknowledge the Widjabal Elders on the country that we’re here on today and, of course, to show respect and love and acknowledgement to Elders that have come here from other places. So for example I spoke to an Aunty here this morning, who I actually haven’t met before, but I saw her sitting at the table with other Elders and we made eye contact and something about her was familiar to me. So I just felt, and trusted the impulse, and went over and spoke to her, and it turns out she knew my father very well and all my father’s brothers and sisters. So we had a very loving, warm conversation about that, and a few laughs. Because if anybody knows the Lynwoods they’re, we’re a pretty interesting bunch of people – characters, you know. So it was lovely having that conversation. That’s what I love about events like this – that they actually, you have these moments where it really confirms the importance of relationships within our communities, and within communities at large.

So before I get on to the other little points about the other things, I wanted to mention that because that’s actually an example of what a Reconciliation Action Plan is really about. It’s about the people and it’s about our play of those relationships in our lives. And in this context we’re talking about the Reconciliation Action Plan and how it will have its rippling effect, its outplay in very solid tangible terms within this institution and beyond. And this is what is a really important point to consider and other speakers this morning, in particular Norm and Jen and Rob, have touched on very strongly the fact of that when we have documents like this, it’s never just about having a nice document and for one to make themselves look good. It’s always about the bigger picture. It’s always about the collective, it’s always about the community. It is never about one’s self-interest. And I’ve always found that if any project, or any initiative that is instigated, if it’s about self, and it really is just about that, it tends to fall over. And the ones that do sustain, they might sustain, but with great difficulty.

So in terms of the work that’s been carried out with this plan, and Norm particularly asked me to touch on the areas around our Education Strategy, and around our Employment Strategy. And one of the things that I fell is really important for us to consider is that first and foremost, and Norm touched on this very, very strongly, as did Jen and did Rob, Indigenous Knowledge is a discipline. It’s not a nice little fluffy add-on that people add on to something to make it look good so they can feel good. It is a discipline that is equal in its own right to any other discipline within the curricular within this institution or any other institution. And this is important for us to consider. And people who know me, know that I’m the one that doesn’t fluff around things. Not that anybody else does. But I don’t fluff around things, I address things very truthfully, and very honestly, and very directly. Which is in fact a truly loving way to address things. And I know that Norm and others appreciate that about me, because they know me very well.

And if you actually look at the document, it actually uses words like ‘truth’. It actually uses words like ‘integrity’. It actually uses words like ‘courage’. It actually uses words like ‘honest’. It actually uses words like ‘equality’. And these are the things that in its underpinning philosophical context, but in its practical outplay. These are the values, these are the values that we need to be looking at where we’re looking at, you know, Indigenous knowledge, supporting Indigenous students, you know the further development-expansion of Indigenous Knowledge as a discipline, as a research pedagogy in its own right. I’ve known of perspectives or things that have been said about Indigenous research and Indigenous pedagogies over the years, that in fact have been very denigrating. This is only in recent times. And if they’ve been denigrated, the person who is making those comments needs to be very honest with themselves and ask themselves, why? Why they feel compelled to say things like that? Things that are not true.

So in terms of the outplay of the Reconciliation Action Plan, I could go into all the ins-and-outs of the document, but I’m not going to do that, because this is about making it about us, and you know, the importance of us working together as a community, as a community of people. As I’ve said, we have Elders here from far and wide. We have other community people here from far and wide, people that we don’t get to see very often. And so that is an important aspect of this in itself, because it shows people’s interest, it shows people’s commitment, it shows people’s respect. And, pretty much, when we talk about Aboriginal communities, and we talk about the true essence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the words that always come to me are ‘wise’, ‘solid’ and ‘true’. Our people are wise, solid and true.

And, as I was saying in the interviews we had yesterday with prospective students coming into Gnibi Wandarahn and our postgraduate program, is that, personally for me, I have a very deep, loving respect for our Elders. Which plays out in me being quite protective. So if I sense that something isn’t quite true, I am not particularly shy in saying that. I’ll say it in a good way. I’ll say it with respect, I will say it with decency, I will say it with the dignity with which I carry myself with. But I will not hold back, because our Elders are one of the top key, if not the key reason that we’re able to do this here today, that we’ve been able to actually progress this plan, to bring it to this point. That’s fact. And when we talk about our Elders, these are people, these are our old people who have lived, they’ve ‘been around the block a few times’, as I like to say, and they’re professionals in their own right. They have lived, they have lived at heart, they have lived well, and they have given much to our community. And so it is our responsibility to support and respect, and to work with them. Where they lead us, not the other way around.

And someone mentioned, I think it was Rob who mentioned humility, indeed, indeed there is great power in humility. True humility, not vain, faking it, making myself look good. True, solid, down-to-earth humility. That’s what changes things. And that’s what’s been able to bring this to this point too, is working with our Elders in such a fashion. Where that this allows them the space to bring all of their wisdom and all of their knowing to this.

So in terms of the Reconciliation Action Plan, in terms of, I’ve talked about a bit about Indigenous knowledge, but if we talk a bit about Indigenous employment. There’s some things that need to happen there. There’s some things that need to happen within this institution. And certainly, I forget who was saying it before, one of the other speakers that spoke earlier on, that Indigenous people, we, well I’m not needy, last I checked. So we’re very qualified, very well experienced people, who have lived, and been in the world, and still are in the world. And so in terms of our, in terms of employment, things in terms of the RAP and what it represents, there certainly needs to be more of an expansion there. We need to see more of our people in all kinds of different roles within this university. We, in fact, need to see more at the senior level. Fact. Whoever that is, is whoever that is. But we need to see more people at the senior level.

So really, there probably isn’t much more that needs to be said here, but certainly I encourage, and definitely invite, all members of the Southern Cross community to embrace everything that the Reconciliation Action Plan stands for. Because it’s not just a Gnibi Wandarahn thing. It’s a whole university, Southern Cross community thing, and beyond. And as I’ve said, when we’ve got Elders from as far as wide, who I’ve not met before, that tells me something. That tells me something about the potential. It tells me something about the possibilities here.  And someone was, I forget who it was, it might have been Jen or Rob, that was saying, you know, could this have been done before? Now, I have this view. Everything has it’s correct timing. There is an exact timeliness for everything. And so the correct timing for this plan to be brought to where it is now, where that will lead us next, is absolutely correct.

And certainly I would like to deeply acknowledge also the leadership and the continuing respect, love and commitment from our head of school, Professor Norm Sheehan. Because it is through Norm’s leadership that we have been able to do this too. That’s correct timing. And I would also like to acknowledge our Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Shoemaker. Because it is through his leadership, it is through his genuineness, it is through his commitment, it is through his respect, that this has been able to happen as well. So indeed we acknowledge everyone that’s involved, everyone that’s been involved has played an equal part. And certainly that always needs to be deeply honoured and deeply respected.

And I would just like to say, it’s fabulous to see my colleagues Jen Neilson and Rob Cumings present. The three of us, along with Rachel Callahan, as Jen mentioned, have worked with the Courageous Conversations About Race initiative for a number of years. And there is a great love, respect and equal participation between the four of us. We actually demonstrate true capacity to work together. There’s no nonsense, no big-noting, no ‘I’m better than you’, no ‘you can’t say that because you’re white’, no ‘you can’t say that because you’re black’. There’s none of that. So that’s the way it works, and that’s why it’s still going after the number of years it is, and that’s why it’s so successful, because of the way we work together. Not because I’m in it, because I happen to be the black one. Okay? It’s because we’ve all done it.

So having said that, once again, it’s just absolutely beautiful to see everybody here today, and I’m deeply touched that it’s been able to be brought to this point. It can be taken beyond. Because this is about our Elders, this is why. This is what it’s about, at that deeper level. So thank you everyone.

Dr Stuart Barlo

Thanks Rachel. I would like to call upon Uncle Greg, to bring an Elder’s response, and some thoughts on the RAP.

Uncle Greg Harrington

First of all, I would like to thank the Vice Chancellor, Adam Shoemaker, for his speech, it was great, and I also would like to thank Uncle Larry, for his smoking ceremony, and thank you to all the other guests for their speeches. Thank you. I’d like to just read a bit from the Gnibi Elders Principles, which we’ve put together. And it’s really great, so I’ll start from the top, and work down.

The Bundjalung Elders who advise Gnibi College at the Southern Cross University shared these guiding principles in 2014:

Indigenous knowledge is relevant, ethical, intelligent, effective, and a useful way of knowing.

Indigenous people are active, able, and worthy peoples.

The truth about our histories and value of Indigenous ways are determined by us, we carry this knowledge.

Elders hold our Aboriginal spirituality and our culture close. We choose what is open and shared and what will be closed. Aboriginal spirituality is the basis for life, Indigenous education and cultural competency, it infuses everything.

Our knowledge is relational. Our principles are the basis for Southern Cross University to establish and sustain an active, informed and respectful relationship with Indigenous Elders who will give considered collective input.

Culture is sacred to us. We are and own this living culture. We do not need a ‘book’. We share with you so that you can learn how to listen and hear what we say.

Identity is based upon things beneath the surface. Empowered, individual, affirmed identity is the basis of positive, productive, healthy and non-destructive lives - opportunities to engage and build knowledge builds strong mob through learning.

Learning everyday with each other has to be informed and sustained by a politic of open, positive and ethical interactions.

We as Elders have presented these things all our lives without being heard - we are often listened to but our message is not heard nor heeded. We take this opportunity to speak in the understanding that you will listen in the right way, hear us, and learn.

And to just finish off, I would also like to thank Professor Norm Sheehan and his staff, Elders and members of the staff from the Uni, for putting the Reconciliation Action Plan together, for this special day. Thank you.

Dr Stuart Barlo

As we come to the end of today, I would like to call on Professor Adam Shoemaker again to bring some closing remarks.

Professor Adam Shoemaker

Thank you. This is a place which listens, and a place which acts and you’ve just seen listening and acting. The part of Reconciliation Action Plan that interested me the most is the middle word. Now we’re going to really get on with that spirit and the spirit of doing. So I take that in this spirit of togetherness and thanks to all of you in saying that is the future, and we’re in it together. Thank you so much.