The Wollotuka Institute proudly celebrates recent achievements

Guthi Wangga - Celebrating our Achievements

October to December 2014

Prominent Aboriginal locals graduate with their Phd's

Dr. Joe Perry, Worimi Man and Lecturer at Wollotuka graduated at the April 2014 ceremony with his Doctor of Philosophy (Aboriginal Studies).  Joe's thesis titled "'Mission Impossible': Aboriginal survival before, during and after the Aboriginal Protection Era" focuses on the history of the small Aboriginal mission at Karuah where he was raised. He undertook this important study for his family, local Worimi Community and wider community.

Dr. (Aunty) Laurel Williams, Biripai Woman and Wollotuka Nguraki graduated at the October 2014 ceremony with her Doctor of Philosophy (Education). Laurel's thesis titled "People Places and Pathways in NSW Aboriginal Education" focuses on the impact of Aboriginal Community on education provision in NSW.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research and Innovation Cluster (ATSIRIC) Information and Planning Day

The day was held on 1 October 2014 and was about starting to form relationships, sharing information and identifying the issues that are important to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people and communities and what the University can do to make a difference in these areas of importance. As well as this, it was hoped that participants could start identifying the direction the Cluster should take and activities the Cluster should focus on to start making an impact.

The event was attended by approximately 70 University staff and local Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations and was fortunate to have the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillan in attendance to welcome participants to the event.

The Vice-Chancellor suggested the Clusters operate a bit like communities, in that they aim to bring together organisations and individuals with distinct but complementary strengths to build stronger outcomes for all. ATSIRIC's mission is exactly what the Vice-Chancellor suggests, bringing these groups together with the primary focus on improving the outcomes for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people and the Information and Planning Day was the start of developing these outcomes. In particular, we were privileged to have many of our elders participate in the event.  The Vice-Chancellor stated 'to the members of our local Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations who have given us their time today, my warmest and most sincere welcome. Particularly at this early stage of development, it is critical for us to hear – and listen to – your voice, to ensure that the cluster is representative of the vision you have for your community and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders nationally'.

Some of the main discussion points from the morning sessions were topics such as:

*      The importance of cultural safety

*      The role of the cluster in providing capacity building for both the community and the university

*       The value of Indigenous knowledges

*       The community challenges and concerns include: health, education, sport, land, housing, employment, human rights and social justice

The next step for the Cluster Leaders is to carefully consider the strategy and framework for the Cluster based on this feedback to enable it to deliver on its aspirations.


In December 2014 Cheryl Newton, Senior Administrator at Wollotuka, was one of five UoN staff awarded with the Vice Chancellor's Award for Professional Staff Excellence in recognition and appreciation of outstanding performance and contribution to the University of Newcastle and in particular her work associated with Wolllotuka's World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium accreditation process.

Also in December 2014 Karen Moran, Indigenous Education Coordinator, Port Macquarie Campus was awarded the Faculty of Health & Medicine External Professional Staff Award. Karen has been working extensively with the faculty staff and her work has assisted in the development and strengthening of relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and faculty staff at Port campus.


Dreamtime Stories inform Flood Research

Four years ago Alex Devlin applied for a new scholarship for Indigenous students funded by resource company Coal & Allied. Alex, who was studying civil engineering, was awarded the scholarship and undertook industry placements with Coal & Allied throughout his degree.

On top of his scholarship he was also awarded the prestigious Ron Yates Award in October 2014.  The award recognises leadership skills as part of the University's Industry Scholarship Program.

As part of his studies Alex learned that flood records are important to engineers but that records in the Hunter only date back to 1820. "When I became aware of this fact I thought Aboriginal people have been here well before 1820, why can't their knowledge be recognised and included", Alex mused.

This question became the focus of his recently completed research thesis as part of his final year project.  Alex's research in using Aboriginal knowledge opens the door to future application for engineers all over Australia.

Congratulations to Wollotuka's Rugby 7's tournament team

During November 2014 eight Indigenous students attended the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) in Redfern to compete in the inaugural Lloyd Mcdermott University non-contact Rugby 7's tournament. 

The team performed very well finishing on top of all teams after pool games however fell agonising short in the final to go down by one try. Congratulations to the students who performed extremely well and were a credit to Wollotuka with the way they carried themselves on the day.

This is just one of many social/cultural events organised for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the University.


Native Bee Workshop

In collaboration with the Tom Farrell Institute at the University Wollotuka hosted two native bee workshops at Birabahn on 9 October 2014.  Both workshop were attended by 40 people where they learned about the Australian native stingless bee's (tetragonula carbonaria or in the language of the local Aboriginal people Gapayn) habits and habitats.  Participants were shown how to split hives and extract honey as well as using the bees to pollinate their garden.  Wollotuka also shared knowledge of traditional use of native bees.  Wollotuka has purchased a hive with the aim to introduce more native bees into the surrounding environment.  The value being more for conservation and pollination rather than honey production.

The 2015 Koori Knockout

The Knockout took place at Raymond Terrace over the October long weekend and again Wollotuka were bronze sponsors of the event. Staff representatives from the Community Engagement team at Wollotuka were in attendance for the entire weekend holding an information stall designed to raise awareness of Wollotuka and the University to the wider community and possible prospective students. Staff engaged with a large number of community members and received 250 enquiries.

Culture on the Coast

On 16 October 2014 UoN Services held a community engagement cultural festival on the Ourimbah campus called 'Culture on the Coast'. Wollotuka was invited to participate and design a culturally engaging experience for students, community and staff attending the event. Wollotuka's Elder in Residence facilitated educationally enriching cultural walks highlighting the native plants and bush foods on campus along with history of the local area. Across the course of the day we had 50 participants take part in the walks. We also held a cooking demonstration using Aboriginal bush foods which was really well received and complimented this with an information stall with Aboriginal artefacts, plants, fruits, berries and local herbs and spices.

Aboriginal students from Kanwal Public School also performed on the day and entertained the crowds with the Yidaki. Local Aboriginal artist Brett Parker also participated in the day created a mural to represent the day to be hung on campus.

Caring for our Country Cultural Event

In collaboration with Wetlands Care Australia Wollotuka held a cultural event on 6 November 2014 as part of a Caring for our Country grant to revitalize bushland areas surrounding the Callaghan campus of the University.  Wollotuka plays a key role in the Indigenous capacity component of this grant.  The day was attended by 60 people which included UoN staff, students, local community and students from nearby Waratah West public school.  Participants enjoyed taking part in campfire stories, dance workshops as well as a bush tucker walk and talk around the grounds of the Birabahn building concluding with a delicious and social luncheon.


Wollotuka Yarning Circle on Constitutional Recognition

This yarning circle was hosted by Wollotuka at the Birabahn Building on 11 December 2014 to discuss how constitutional recognition impacts the lives and social justice aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The panelists for the discussion were:

Mr. Jeff McMullen AM - Jeff McMullen has been a journalist, author and filmmaker for the last 45 years.  Throughout his professional life, Jeff has written, filmed and campaigned around the world to improve the health, education and human rights of Indigenous people.

Ms Sharon Claydon, Federal Member for Newcastle - Sharon is a fifth generation Novocastrian with more than 15 years' experience working in her local community.  Sharon has completed an Honours degree in Anthropology and worked in remote Aboriginal communities and the community-based disability services sector.

Ms Teela Reid - An Aboriginal woman from Gilgandra NSW, a University of Newcastle Alumni graduating with a Bachelor of Teaching/Bachelor Physical Education and currently working with Gilbert & Tobin Lawyers in Sydney whilst completing her Juris Doctor at UNSW.

MODERATOR - Professor Bob Morgan (Gumilaroi), Conjoint Professor, The Wolllotuka Institute