UOW celebrates National Reconciliation Week
Panel discussion focuses on theme of 'More than a word. Reconciliation takes action'
The University of Wollongong (UOW) is celebrating National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June) through various events and activities to grow awareness and understanding of Indigenous culture, knowledge and history, and build a more cohesive and equitable community.
Each year UOW staff and students come together during National Reconciliation Week to celebrate the individual and professional achievements of people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their contributions to making UOW a culturally diverse and inclusive university.
The events are organised by UOW’s Woolyungah Indigenous Centre (WIC), which is committed to increasing the participation and engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the University.
UOW hosted a panel discussion on the Reconciliation Week theme of “More than a word. Reconciliation takes action” on Monday (31 May), exploring how we can all take action for reconciliation.
Members of UOW’s Indigenous community were invited to reflect and share their own lived experiences, and the panel discussion ranged across topics of cultural competency and cultural safety, values alignment, becoming a change agent, and understanding what reconciliation is in the workplace.
The panel included UOW Executive Director (Indigenous Strategy) and Woolyungah Indigenous Centre Director Jaymee Beveridge, Dr Summer May Finlay from the School of Health and Society, UOW Reconciliation Action Plan Manager Jo Goulding, and Centre Manager of the establishing Regional Universities Centre – Country Universities Centre Adam Gowen.
Ms Beveridge, a proud Aboriginal woman from far north Queensland with family ties to the Torres Strait Islands and Palm Island, said that as a country we need to look at “truth-telling, historical acceptance and healing as mechanisms for motivating change.”
“Look at reconciliation beyond being politically correct or politically ‘careful’. Do Reconcilation everyday. Be change agents and ensure your Aborignal staff and clients are safe – from embedded racism,” she said.
“It’s not just about watching what you say when there’s an obvious audience, it’s about putting on your armour, getting in the arena and putting a stop to racism and any other barrier that prevents our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from advancing. It’s a transformational journey.
“Two-hundred and thirty years on and we still have a long way to go! As a country we need to look at truth-telling, historical acceptance and healing as mechanisms for motivating change.
“Hearing and actioning the voices of First Nation Peoples in spaces and places is critical to unity and a better tomorrow for all.”
This year’s events also include Reconciliation Walks on Friday May 28 and Thursday 3 June, and an invitation for people to contribute to UOW’s Reconciliation Book 2021, thinking about their own reconciliation journey and adding their ideas on the themes of “reflect” and “intent”.
UOW inaugurated its Reconciliation Action Plan in 2019 to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can enjoy their identity in an inclusive and dynamic learning environment and to inspire institutional, systemic and cultural change through a process of learning, exchange and growth.
Pic (L-R): Jo Goulding, Dr Summer May Finlay, Jaymee Beveridge and Adam Gowen at the panel discussion.
UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Patricia M. Davidson said the University is committed to increasing the participation and engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through collaboration and supporting professional and career development.
“It is important to understand and learn about our shared histories and culture to achieve reconciliation in Australia,” Professor Davidson said.
“Diversity is one of the strengths of UOW, and that’s what makes UOW an exceptional university in the world.”
“UOW remains committed to providing an equitable and an inclusive working and learning environment for everyone who is a part of the University community.”
“National Reconciliation Week is an opportunity for communities to come together to understand our history and foster unity and reconciliation of our country.”