An Elders on Campus program, the development of Indigenous governance structures, and involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in curriculum and content are some of the key initiatives underpinning Flinders University’s first Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling says the plan maps how Flinders University will establish its own unique approach to reconciliation.
“This comprehensive and detailed plan was developed over many months of consultation with students, staff, alumni and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“It reflects the immense enthusiasm of the Flinders University community to ensure Indigenous perspectives are embedded across our activities, deepening our commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their cultures in a spirit of equity, integrity and unity.” Professor Stirling says.
Launched on 1 June 2020 during National Reconciliation Week (27 May-3 June), Flinders University’s inaugural Innovate RAP builds on the University’s longstanding respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and efforts to advance Indigenous outcomes in higher education and beyond.
Ongoing implementation and progress will be overseen by a working group of senior University leaders, with implementation led by inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) Associate Professor Simone Ulalka Tur, a proud Yankunytjatjara woman.
“This plan will expand our University’s efforts into a comprehensive set of structures and actions to foster understanding, acceptance and respect for Australia’s first peoples, their cultures and their knowledges,” says Associate Professor Tur.
Flinders University has for decades celebrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, including perspectives in programs, and providing dedicated support for students. The Flinders University Poche Centre for Indigenous Health develops Indigenous leaders and champions health in communities throughout SA and NT.
“Implementing the specific deliverables within the RAP will now call for a strong collective effort across the University, continuing the momentum built throughout its development,” Associate Professor Tur says.
“Together, we will ensure reconciliation forms part of everyday practices across campuses, delivering better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our communities while advancing the national effort towards a shared future.”
The plan defines what reconciliation means to Flinders University, incorporates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across University policies and procedures, and leverages the Flinders University Museum of Art’s extensive Indigenous art collections.
A key element is deeper collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. As part of this, more Elders are being appointed on campuses to contribute to the University’s new Indigenous governance structures, enhancing first peoples’ perspectives, and student and staff recruitment and support.
“Last month we appointed our first Elders under the new program, Uncle Richard Fejo from the Larrakia Nation who is based at our Darwin site, and Auntie Pat Miller, an Arrernte Elder from Alice Springs. We also plan to have a Kaurna Elder or cultural advisor at Bedford Park within months.” Associate Professor Tur says.
The RAP announcement coincides with the launch of the In the hold Exhibition | Decolonising Cook in contemporary Australian art, and was preceded by a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony virtual event on Wednesday 27 May, which was filmed over several days across the Bedford Park, Alice Springs and Darwin campuses.
Flinders University’s inaugural Uncle Lewis Yarluburka O’Brien Public Lecture will also commemorate the RAP launch and National Reconciliation Week. The virtual lecture on 2 June, will feature Professor Tom Calma AO on the topic ‘Reconciliation thinking and you’.
Flinders University Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan is framed on four broad themes:
Relationships – Building and strengthening relationships, including promoting reconciliation and positive relations throughout the University’s broad stakeholder groups.
Respect – Increasing respect and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, including celebrating cultures and spirituality, and partnering with Indigenous staff and communities to foster trust, empowerment and a shared sense of purpose.
Opportunities – Increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation and success in higher education (both students and staff) and improving Indigenous health and wellbeing outcomes, including increasing the cultural capacity of graduates.
Governance – Ensuring the RAP is advanced by commitment at the highest levels of University leadership, with a working group comprising academic and professional staff with strong Indigenous representation.
The Flinders University inaugural RAP can be viewed, downloaded or a print copy ordered here.