July 31, 2023
UOW launches Djiringanji Community Learning Resource
New artwork and learning space at Bega Valley Campus strengthen cultural connections with local community
The University of Wollongong (UOW) officially launched the Djiringanj Community Learning Resource and Artwork this week (Tuesday 25 July) at its Bega Valley Campus with a celebration that brought together close to one hundred members of the community.
The Djiringanj Community Learning Resource aims to share knowledge and information that will create a culturally safe place for students and staff. It also features a new artwork, titled ‘My Dreaming Track of Knowledge with Community and Elders’, by local Djiringanj and Ngarigo artist Bronwyn Luff.
The event began with local Indigenous students from Bega High School welcoming guests with an ochre ceremony and Aunty Glenda Dixon giving a Welcome to Country.
Aunty Ellen Mundy officially launched the Djiringanj Community Learning Resource, welcoming the staff and students of UOW Bega Valley as well as the many members of the wider community. Djiringanj singer Michelle Dixon performed a song in Djiringanj language and all guests participated in a Smoking Ceremony and stayed for a celebration lunch.
Emma Stewart, Indigenous Student Success Advisor at UOW Bega Valley, was the driving force behind the new space and said it has been wonderful to have such support from the Bega community.
“We planned to put an artwork on the door to the campus but then realised that there’s so much cultural knowledge, we could go beyond an artwork,” Ms Stewart said. "The aim was to create a space that is culturally informative about Djiringanj and also culturally safe for all staff and students.”
She thanked Samantha Avitaia, Campus Manager at UOW Bega Valley, for her ongoing support in spearheading initiatives that celebrate Indigenous culture and ensuring the local community feels welcome at the campus. Ms Avitaia said she was delighted to see UOW become a place of cultural connection, particularly for young students in the region.
“The opening of this resource is an incredibly proud moment for UOW Bega Valley. I grew up here in Bega and there were no cultural stories or history shared in schools at that time. It’s so wonderful to see here today children from primary schools, high schools, and university here together with community learning about the cultural significance of Bega,” Ms Avitaia said.
“We now have a website, flyers and poster resources for local schools and community to learn from and we are already working with community on the next project.”
Djiringanj Country has always been a place of immense significance for Indigenous peoples, a place of education and ceremony.
Ms Stewart said initiatives like this ensured that the local Indigenous community realised there was a place for them at higher education institutions.
“The community have trusted us with their cultural knowledge, and we’ve built such a strong relationship,” Ms Stewart said. “To be seen and heard and accepted, and to be embraced by the wider community, creates so much healing and reconciliation.”
During the launch, Ms Stewart introduced the Djiringanj Community Learning Resource while artist Bronwyn Luff spoke of the inspiration behind her artwork, which welcomes all visitors to the campus. The artwork is a vibrant depiction of the cultural significance of the Djiringanj area.
UOW Bega Valley Indigenous Student Success Advisor Emma Stewart.
UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Strategy and Assurance) Professor Sean Brawley attended the launch and said it was incredible to see the University become a place of celebration and community.
“The Djiringanj Community Learning Resource will become an important place at UOW Bega Valley, a place where all students and staff can learn more about the history of this beautiful region and its significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Professor Brawley said.
“Congratulations to the team at UOW Bega Valley for creating a valuable resource that showcases knowledge of the Djiringanj people and history and art, while also continuing to build deep connections with the community.”