The Wollotuka Institute proudly celebrates recent achievements

Guthi Wangga - Celebrating our Achievements

June - September 2015

Our Nguraki Celebrate great achievements

Aunty Colleen Perry was internationally recognised recently with the awarding of an honorary Doctor of Letters (Indigenous Knowledges) by the World Indigenous Nations University (WINU) which is aligned with WINHEC.

Aunty Colleen Perry also received a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Advisory Council Elders Award in June.

Both these awards are in recognition of Aunty Colleen's contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education in particular her outstanding work at the University of Newcastle with staff and students as an Elder in Residence and her contributions to local Elders groups and communities locally, nationally and internationally.

National Indigenous Tertiary Education Student Games (NITESG) – 28 June to 2nd July 2015


NITESG began as a joint class project between 13 students enrolled in a Diploma of Aboriginal Studies (Community Recreation) at the then Wollotuka School for Aboriginal Studies, the University of Newcastle, in 1996. The first Games were attended by around 30 students, and have since grown to host hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tertiary students from Universities all around Australia, competing in four core sports (touch football, netball, basketball, volleyball) plus a traditional Indigenous game every year.

The objectives of NITESG are:

  1. Celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture
  2. Promote unity, health, fitness and well-being
  3. Demonstration of self determination
  4. Initiating new communication networks
  5. Reinforce identity through positive role models
  6. Successful and ongoing outcomes

Usually the games are hosted by the previous years winning team but as the instigator of the first games Wollotuka hosted the 20th anniversary games this year  which was a great success with participants enjoying competing in the sports as well as immersing themselves in cultural and social activities. There were also many firsts:-

  • 420 students from across 22 universities with 28 teams competing – the largest number of students in games history
  • The event was live streamed on YouTube through BarTV and the highlights and finals are still on YouTube
  • A formal partnership was developed with Australian University Sport
  • Majority of financial costs for the event were sourced through third party sponsorships and registrations with minimal impact on Wollotuka's budget
  • Development of a National Indigenous Games committee with the establishment of a 5 year strategic plan to ensure longevity and sustainability of the games.

Wollotuka was crowned overall champions for the 2nd time in games history and the first since 2006. Next year's games will be held in Brisbane by Australian Catholic University.

Inaugural Uncle Leonard De Silva Memorial Lecture

Hosted by Wollotuka this lecture is in honour of Dr Leonard De Silva (1915-1995) who was the first Aboriginal person to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Newcastle and probably the first to receive such an award in the area of Traditional Lore.  He received this in 1992. Dr De Silva was born at Yellow Rock in North Eastern New South Wales and passed through the rules of his people in the 1930s.

The lecture titled "The Big Question: What innovation would most improve Aboriginal lives in the next decade? Aboriginal Futures and being impatient for Change" was presented at the Newcastle Museum on 4 August by Dr Lester-Irabinna Rigney, Professor of Aboriginal Education in the School of Education at University of South Australia. Dr Rigney provided a descriptive analysis of issues related to Aboriginal Futures and use of Information and Communication Technology among Aboriginal youth and their communities.

The NSW Governor Visit

The NSW Governor, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley, visited Wollotuka on 3 August and was extremely impressed with his engagement with staff and students.  From this meeting he sent an invitation for five staff and students to attend his reception for the International Day of World's Indigenous Peoples at Government House.  Well done everyone that was involved in the day and its organisation.

Our staff and students celebrating World Indigenous Peoples Day at government house.

International Partnership Agreements

Signing of Memorandums of Understanding

MOU's were signed with University of Inner Mongolia for Nationalities and Minzu University, China in July 2015. After our many meetings and negotiations we signed these MOU's as we could see the value in shared knowledges particularly in Education and Medicine (traditional medicines).

These exciting new MOU's will open doors in the international arena in the areas of student and staff exchanges, research opportunities and curriculum development opportunities.

Work Integrated Learning (Cooperative) partnership

This is a unique partnership between Wollotuka and University of Victoria, Canada where a student exchange between both our universities has already commenced where both students will be working and studying at each University

CATSINAM Conference - September 2015

Wollotuka Nursing students Student Quiz Night champs for the second year running!

Testament to the outstanding performance of Wollotuka Staff

Wollotuka can boast quite a few statistics in regards to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students which is testament to the outstanding and tireless work performed by staff within Wollotuka:-

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student enrolments continue to rise (see table 1).  In 2015, this 3.14% proportion of total University students is significantly higher than the national average of 1.47%. (Source: 2015 Institutional Performance Portfolio Report)

Table 1– Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander enrolments compared to total domestic enrolments (Source: University MIS, September 2015)





2015 YTD


775 (2.59%)

886 (2.81%)

963 (2.93%)

974 (3.14%)






Success and Retention rates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the University are currently higher than the national average (see table 2)

Table 2 – (Source: 2015 Institutional Performance Portfolio Report)







University of Newcastle










University of Newcastle








May 2015

World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) Accreditation Site Visit: 2 - 9 May 2015

The Wollotuka Institute embarked on an accreditation process with WINHEC in 2012 to acknowledge and recognise the strong outcomes being achieved within Australian Indigenous higher education.

The final stage of this process was a site visit to Wollotuka by a WINHEC Accreditation team.  A number of events/activities coincided with this visit:-

Bangiyal Ceremony

This ceremony is held to recognise a new beginning/a welcoming by the Wollotuka community – a welcoming of our Indigenous brothers and sisters from across the waters who will shared our country with us for 10 days during the site visit. It also recognises our custodianship responsibilities, providing an offering, a message or a commitment to our countries, spaces and communities, across all campuses, informed by traditional values and practice.

We achieved this through the utilisation of Burray (earth), Bathu (water), Guyal (fire) and Wipay (wind) where staff and students had the opportunity to provide a verbal or material offering/commitment to the elements that symbolises our past, present or future.

Yarning Circle on 1965 Freedom Ride in Australia

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the freedom ride Wollotuka hosted this yarning circle where an audience of 80 people heard the experiences of original Freedom Riders - Dr Robyn Iredale, Mr Brian Aarons & Ms Chris Page - voices from the past with visions for the future.

Mulubinba Exhibition

The exhibition was launched on 6 May and explored the history of the Aboriginal people of the Newcastle area tracing their stories and culture and their intrinsic relationship with the land. Significant sites, traditional practices and sharing stories were brought into focus as we celebrated the University and its community in 2015 and acknowledged the custodians of the land.

Original artefacts, flora and fauna accompanied early images by European artists and set the scene as the exhibition followed the history and development of Newcastle from an Aboriginal perspective.

Book Launch

The exhibition also included the launch of Professor John Maynard's book Callaghan, the University of Newcastle, Whose Traditional Land?

This book is the result of a study undertaken through a joint idea expressed by the then Department of Aboriginal Studies and the University of Newcastle in 1999.  The directive was to ascertain the clear identity of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land now occupied by the Callaghan campus of the University of Newcastle. The consensus indicated that findings would assist the University in recognising and symbolically acknowledging the traditional custodians' prior occupation of the University site.

The book can be purchased on-line.

"Living Cultures" Corroboree

The Corroboree celebrated the significance of the living cultures within our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community. A crowd of 250 people joined with us and  immersed themselves in a coming together celebration through dance, music, song, language and art.  They also enjoyed some good tucker cooked in our earth oven whilst having a friendly yarn with people by the fire.

Cultural Sites Tours

The Nations upon whose traditional lands the University of Newcastle and the Wollotuka Institute are located is respected and honoured thereby maintaining a pride in place and custodian responsibilities and obligations.

The site visit accreditation team were taken to our traditional lands and our sites including:

  • sites around the Newcastle area
  • Worimi cultural sites in the Port Stephens area
  • Karuah mission and sites along Karuah river
  • Site of our great creator, Biaime, in Wonnarua country

January to April 2015

Wollotuka Student Orientation

Orientation was held over both Callaghan and Ourimbah campuses on 16 & 19 February where close to 80 Aboriginal and Torres Strait students were in attendance. Both days were a great success with students receiving information on what Wollotuka has on offer such as ITAS and scholarship support and well as academic and social engagement activities.

oweek students

As of 31 March Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student enrolments stand at 864 which is an increase on 829 enrolments at same time last year.


Associate Professor Kathy Butler named Diversity Champion at the Hunter Diversity Awards

The trailblazing efforts of Associate Professor Kathy Butler was recognised on Friday 6 March when she was named for this award launched at the International Women's Day breakfast in Newcastle.

Supremely honoured, Kathy nonetheless believes the advancement of Indigenous causes will be best measured when there is no need for recognition.

"We are still in the position of seeing someone who is the first Indigenous person to do 'x' and I think we will have really come somewhere significant when we are no longer getting those firsts - because it's just a matter of everyday practice that Indigenous Australians are included," she said.

Dr Butler said the creation of the awards was important for people promoting equity.

"One of the things that happens for those trying to make a change is there is a sense that sometimes you are on your own and things aren't changing," she said.


Family and Community History Workshop and Field Trip to Canberra

This event was hosted by the Yuraki History, Politics and Culture Node of the National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network in conjunction with Wollotuka with the aim being for staff, students and Aboriginal community to research their family histories particularly in connection with ANZAC family history.

20 people attended a workshop on 10 March with presentations on archival research by Professor John Maynard – Director, The Wollotuka Institute; Assoc/Prof Victoria Haskins – Deputy Head of School of Humanities; Kirsten Thorpe – Manager Indigenous Unit, Mitchell Library, Sydney and Rebecca Bateman – Commonwealth Archives with 13 of these people then attending a field trip to Canberra visiting Commonwealth Archives, War Memorial and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies 11 – 13 March to research their histories.

Wollotuka student, Alex Devlin (pictured left), found service records and bible of his great uncle who at that time was his age.

Comments regarding trip:- "absolutely fantastic, very educating, do more often"; "great personal journey finding family service to country at war memorial"

Seminar: "World's Most Famous All-Coloured Revue" and the Case of Imagined Communities in Australia and New Zealand, 1955-56.

The Yuraki History, Politics and Culture Node of the National Indigenous Research and Knowledge's Network (NIRAKN) in conjunction with Wollotuka and Purai Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre proudly hosted this seminar on 17 March.  The seminar was delivered to an audience of 35 staff, students and community by Professor Ronald J. Stephens on his current transnational research on African American connections with Australia.

Hosting cast of "Black Diggers" production

We were proud to host the cast of this production at our weekly student bbq during their performance in Newcastle in March. This long overdue production was uncovers the contribution of First World War Aboriginal Diggers, following their exceptional stories from their homelands to the battlefields of Gallipoli, Palestine and Flanders

Congratulations to our Medicine students:

  • Bachelor of Medicine student, India Latimore, receives the NSW Aboriginal Land Council scholarship
  • Another Bachelor of Medicine student, Wayne Ah-Sam, showcased in University advertisements on television, website and buses. Great ambassador for the University and our Aboriginal students.