The Wollotuka Institute proudly celebrates recent achievements

Guthi Wangga - Celebrating our Achievements

July to September 2014

Dean of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Education and Research

First and foremost welcome to Professor Peter Radoll as our new Dean.  Wollotuka Nguraki (Elders), along with Wollotuka staff, provided Peter with a warm welcome to Awabakal Country during his first week at University.  Peter was already well known to a number of Wollotuka staff through Community networks and having been a member and deputy chair of the University's Board of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Training (BATSIET).

Peter is a descendant of the Anaiwan People of northern NSW. As Director of the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre at the Australian National University for five years and more recently Acting Director at the Ngunnawal Indigenous Higher Education Centre at the University of Canberra, Peter has developed a wealth of experience in education and research for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well as demonstrating significant institutional and community leadership. Peter holds a Bachelor of Information Technology and Master of Information Technology from the University of Canberra and a PhD from the Australian National University.

Peter's appointment is a valuable addition to the already innovative Director management structure of Wollotuka (now four Directors), which is a traditionally-oriented method and the only one of its kind in Australia.


We are moving closer to 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student enrolments with semester 2 enrolments currently standing at 953, a marked increase on semester one's total of 829. This outstanding statistic, among others, maintains the University's national leadership role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education.

Congress for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses (CATSIN) Conference

This conference was held in Perth from 23-25 September was attended by two staff, Vicki Holliday and Jenelle Hammond, who accompanied four of our nursing students, Amy Thompson, Lisa Leslie, Joshua Paulson and Imelete Tavete. These students jointly presented a paper titled "Using Talking Circles to develop identity and resilience with first year university students" which was well received by the audience. The students were also the 2014 trivia winners.  Well done!

National Indigenous Tertiary Education Student Games

These annual games continue to promote and celebrate culture, unity, health, fitness and well-being for our students. During the week-long event in mid September we supported a team of 15 students to attend and compete in the games which were held at the University of Western Australia, Perth. 26 universities participated with our students making the quarter-finals for volleyball, netball and basketball. It is usual for the overall winners to host the following year's competition but with next year being the 20 Wollotuka hosted the inaugural games it was announced that University of Newcastle will host for 2015 – another important event for UoN 50 celebrations.

Scholars Breakfast

Wollotuka's annual scholars breakfast was held on 15 September as a celebration and recognition event for all of our Indigenous Scholars with 30 students attending who had not previously been awarded their certificates.

Donors presented students for scholarships such as Indigenous Commonwealth Scholarships, Friends of the University Scholarship, Hunter New England Health Indigenous Medical Scholarship, Hunter New England Health Indigenous Allied Health Scholarship and Koiki Eddie Mabo Scholarship.

Anzac Trip of Respect – a mark of Reconciliation

After being inspired by stories of the roles Aboriginal men and women played in the war, and mindful of this year's NAIDOC theme of 'Serving our Country' young non-Indigenous Novocastrian, Jordan Levi, who was fortunate enough to secure two tickets in the ballot to attend next year's Anzac Day commemoration in Turkey, decided to donate his second ticket to a local Aboriginal youth whose ancestor had served in the war.

Levi contacted Wollotuka to ask if we could assist after hearing about Professor John Maynard's research on the history of Aboriginal people in the war. Jack Gilmer, a Bachelor Design (Architecture) student, was the successful applicant and will embark on the Gallipoli Cruise 2015 with Levi. The cruise will also play host to war historians and Australian entertainers.

This is a true mark of reconciliation with Jordan commenting "I thought it was a great opportunity to highlight the significant role our Indigenous people played in this conflict and who better to share this incredible experience with than someone like Jack, who is related to an Aboriginal soldier who fought in this war".



This is an eventful week for Indigenous Communities across Australia including ourselves.  We held promotional stalls at a number of Community events at Newcastle, Central Coast, Lake Macquarie and Bahtahbah. We also held events at the University including a flag raising at Wollotuka, a cultural day at the Bar on the Hill and screen showing of "The Sapphires"

Immersion – a Cultural Celebration

On the evening of 21 August this collaborative event between Wollotuka and the School of Creative Arts saw 250 people converge on the grounds around the Birabahn Building immersing themselves in song, dance, drum and stories whilst yarning with friends, enjoying good food and warming themselves by the fires. The University Choir, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance groups, a yidaki and drum group and singers entertained the crowd with Wollotuka staff and students providing significant spoken word around our Aboriginal stories.


Congratulations to Associate Professor Stephanie Gilbert who received the Faculty of Education & Arts Award for RHD Excellence 2013 Commendation at their awards ceremony in August. This was in recognition of the outstanding quality of her RHD thesis.

Congratulations to Professor John Maynard who has been honoured by his peers with his election as a Fellow of the esteemed Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA). The honour recognises his outstanding achievements promoting the advancement of the social sciences, through his work in Indigenous history.

True Light and Shade – An Aboriginal Perspective of Joseph Lycett's Art

This recently published book by Professor John Maynard is filled with beautiful paintings that powerfully capture the life of Aboriginal people within the vicinity of Newcastle and Sydney between 1816 – 1822. John writes an engaging short biography of Lycett and his life in Australia and follows this with a detailed commentary on each of the 20 paintings, reproduced from a sketchbook by the convict.

A must for everyone's coffee table!

Unlocking the Chains of Oppression – Is education the key?

The Yuraki History, Politics and Culture Node of the National Indigenous Research and Knowledge's Network (NIRAKN) in conjunction with the Wollotuka Institute and Purai Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre proudly presented a day with legends of the political struggle, featuring Aboriginal political activists Gary Williams, Gary Foley and Gordon Briscoe joined by eminent British scholar and activist Professor Chris Mullard. These four men first met in 1974 when Charles Perkins invited Chris Mullard to Australia to investigate the shocking living conditions and inequality of Aboriginal life. Chris subsequently produced the study Aborigines in Australia today that had been commissioned by the National Aboriginal Forum.

The Engagement Australia Conference

This conference was held in July in Wagga Wagga, involved several staff members who presented two papers in quite different formats.  The first was an academic paper presented by Gabrielle Fletcher and Maree Gruppetta titled "The floating CORE: Indigenous Community as Pedagogical Practice".

The second was a narrative style paper, performed by a group of Wollotuka staff and was titled 'Speaking from our CORE: Reviving Indigenous Community as Pedagogical Practice.  Although the actual participants in the performance style presentation were Gabrielle Fletcher, Stephanie Gilbert, Dawn Conlan, Joe Griffin and Maree Gruppetta, it must be acknowledged that Aunty Bronwyn Chambers and Raymond Kelly were also involved in the project and contributed to the presentation even though they were unable to attend the actual conference.

The CORE project involved taking the notion of what community means, how it is practiced, and the ways it mobilises differences in cultural Knowledges, and re-imagining our community from within the context of where we work – disrupting the lines of Academic and Professional staff. We devised a floating tool we have named CORE: Culturally Open Respectful Exchange. Each member of staff is CORE, and engages in CORE work depending upon experience and cultural Knowledge. As part of this project we investigated the effectiveness of having a cultural panel (academics and professional staff) develop a cultural literacy rubric to culturally assess the major group presentation in one of our courses. Although the grade was only worth 5% the students were engaged within the importance of meeting the cultural expectations of the panel and excelled themselves in their achievements for this assessment. Therefore both these papers discussed facets of this projects and invited ways to improve engagement.  The Performance paper in particular was very well received and retweeted by UoN and other academic staff.