Tanya Plibersek hears stories of UOW’s Bega students during Yarning Circle
Women of all backgrounds come together to share education journey
Women from across the Far South Coast had the opportunity to share their stories with the Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP, and Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain MP, during a visit to the University of Wollongong’s Bega Campus on Tuesday (14 December).
Ms Plibersek, the Shadow Minister for Women and Education, and Ms McBain were invited to take part in a Women and Education Yarning Circle, led by Aunty Glenda Dixon.
The event was part of a tour Ms Plibersek and Ms McBain took of UOW’s Bega Campus.
During the Yarning Circle, the participants, including Djiringanj women, reflected on the importance of cultural knowledges and ensuring educational opportunity in regional areas. Many of the women were first-in-family and mature-aged students, representing the ways in which UOW helps people from myriad backgrounds to access education, particularly in remote/rural regions such as the Far South Coast.
Samantha Avitaia, Campus Manager of UOW Bega, said it was a meaningful event that enabled the participants to discuss the connection between culture and education. They were given the chance to share their experiences with Ms Plibersek and Ms McBain, and with the women coming from all walks of life across the Bega Valley.
“It was such a privilege to sit in a circle of Bega Valley women of diverse ages, cultures and backgrounds, and share stories of how education has impacted our lives,” Ms Avitaia said. “The importance of embedding Indigenous cultural knowledges in school and higher education curriculum, and providing flexible education opportunities in regional areas, came up again and again.”
“Tanya and Kristy also shared their own personal education journeys and, having both been the first women in their families to go to university, they listened deeply, asked many questions and thanked all the women for their insights, which would help frame their policies and advocacy moving forward.”
Tanya Plibersek and Kristy McBain with members of the Bega community at UOW Bega.
Ms McBain said it had been a privilege to be invited to campus to hear the stories of the women present.
“A highlight of the visit for both of us was a Yarning Circle we were part of at the UOW Bega Campus, led by Djiringanj elder, Aunty Glenda Dixon. We sat with Aunty Glenda and 12 other women and shared the stories of our educational journeys, our experiences, our contributions, and our hopes for the future,” Ms McBain said.
“It was wonderful to hear stories across several generations, and from the perspective of Indigenous women, migrant women and women with a disability. Tanya and I are honoured to now carry these stories with us.
“Our thanks go to Sam Avitaia and the staff and students of UOW Bega Campus for inviting us both to be part of this special event.”
Tanya Plibersek (centre) with UOW Bega Campus Manager Sam Avitaia and members of the Bega community.
After the Yarning Circle, the group was joined by local female teachers, employers and mentors for a morning tea in the Bega Campus courtyard.
“The idea to run the event as a women’s Yarning circle came about through UOW’s relationships with Djiringanj elders of our region and our local Bega High School’s Aboriginal Education Officer, Erika Luff. She was so supportive and encouraging throughout the whole organisational process,” Ms Avitaia said.
“We’re also deeply grateful to Jade Kennedy and UOW’s Jindaola program for providing us with the insight and courage to explore an event of this type. All the women agreed it had been a beautiful meeting and would like to run events like this again in our region, as it was enlightening, respectful, unintimidating and meaningful.”
Main photo: Tanya Plibersek MP and Kristy McBain MP take part in the Yarning Circle at UOW Bega. Photos supplied by Ruth Ayling.