On Tuesday March 7, the First Nations community of students, staff and academics across the University of Wollongong converged on the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre (WIC) for the ‘Welcome to WIC’ event.
The event consisted of a Welcome to Country and a Smoking Ceremony to officially welcome students onto the land of the traditional custodians, followed by a lunch, giving the opportunity for students across multiple year levels to connect with each other and the broader First Nations community at the University.
From both personal experience and anecdotal experience of other First Nations students, the event was successful in providing a sense of welcome to the local community.
The Smoking Ceremony was a deeply spiritual experience, which, as a member of the Wiradjuri nation, gave me a sense of welcome onto the land of the local people. This sense of welcome and connection to Country is something I will carry with me through my study at the University and beyond, acting as a spiritual invitation to the Illawarra and South Coast.
Following this, the meet and greet lunch allowed myself and other Indigenous students to engage with WIC staff and local community members and make meaningful connections. As a first-year student, this has greatly expanded both my social and support networks, whilst also allowing me to remain connected to First Nations culture whilst living off Country and in a new space.
Overall, the Welcome to WIC Ceremony was an amazing event which both invited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to the UOW safe space and showcased all the opportunities and support, both academic and non-academic, as well as the friendly faces who make the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre a welcoming environment for First Nations students and a true asset to the University as a whole.