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SCU College of Indigenous Australian Peoples launches landmark Indigenous Education Degrees


3 August 2004
Southern Cross University’s Gnibi College has much to celebrate this week with annual NAIDOC celebrations under way as well as the launch of their landmark degrees in Indigenous Studies (Trauma and Healing) and Master of Indigenous Studies(Wellbeing).

The new degree programs are the first of their kind in Australia. They have been designed for Indigenous students, are taught by indigenous lecturers and the curriculum is focused on Indigenous culture and healing.

Indigenous artist Chris Edwards-Haines is a student in the inaugural Indigenous Studies Masters program.

Chris has a remarkable life story – his father was killed while he was in the womb and he was taken from his mother at nine months of age. Through assimilation policies Chris grew up in non-indigenous homes and spent his adolescence in detention centres before ‘graduating’ to adult prisons.

“By the time I hit prison, I was hard in my heart completely, so I was totally disconnected from feelings and very damaged spiritually inside. I was blaming and putting it out on other people,” Chris said.

Since then Chris’ life has turned around, he is now a successful artist and an invaluable member of SCU’s Lismore campus. Chris is part of a team from Gnibi College that goes out to communities that have requested help with problems such as family violence, sudden death, murder or assault. He says safe places are needed to allow people to heal.

“My safe place was unfortunately in jail, but now I have found a safe place outside jail and I am trying to create these safe places for others out there in the community.”

“People need safe places to be able to tell there stories and make sense of them,” Chris said.

Professor Judy Atkinson, Head of the College of Indigenous Studies at Southern Cross University (SCU) said the courses were established because Western models of education were not meeting the needs of Indigenous peoples.

“We wanted to offer Indigenous students a model that would deepen their knowledge of themselves, and provide them with the skills, therapies and processes that are successful in supporting healing for themselves and for other Indigenous people and communities,” Professor Atkinson said.

“The degrees are focused on providing students with the skills to work in Indigenous communities in a range of areas such as health, education, law, the environment, art and humanities.”

The courses are ground-breaking in incorporating traditional arts such as storytelling and the drawing of “story maps” to help individuals and communities recover from traumas such as those associated with the “Stolen Generations”.

The NAIDOC day celebrations will include the launch of SCU’s new online gallery which will showcase the work of SCU students. Masters student Chris Edwards-Haines is the first artist to be exhibited with work illustrating the themes of the 14 units covered through in the Master of Indigenous Studies(Wellbeing).

To see Chris’ outstanding work go to

SCU NAIDOC Day Celebrations

Wednesday 4 August 2004
9.45am – 2.30
Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Bundjalung Square, SCU
Special guests include:
Bundjalung Elder
Professor Judy Atkinson, Head of the College of Indigenous Studies
Artist & Masters student Chris Edwards-Haines
Kev Carmody

For more information:
Kasturi Shanahan, Media Officer – 0439 858 057
Or Brigid Veale, Media Officer – 0439 680 748