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

To an audience of 80 people panelists discussed their views and opinions on the topic and afterwards took questions from the audience.

Director of the Wollotuka Institute, Professor Peter Radoll said it was important the Institute was central to the discussion of constitutional recognition, engaging both the Aboriginal community and the wider community in the issue.

"It is essential to the progression of social justice in our country that Aboriginal people play an active role in the conversations that directly impact upon us," he said.

"Constitutional recognition is one such conversation and we have a responsibility to not only our own people and communities, but also to the wider community, to discuss this issue alongside one another."

"I would like to encourage everyone to come along and participate in this event, to hear some new ideas and discuss their thoughts and feelings about this very important issue," Professor Radoll said.

"Australia's founding document does not recognise Australia's First Peoples. By amending this, by acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the traditional owners of the land, we will be better placed to move toward our goal of unification and true equality."

This inaugural yarning circle will be the flagship event for the Wollotuka Institute's new direction in social engagement and discussion, ensuring the local Aboriginal people and the wider community take a more active role in Indigenous affairs and issues.

"We want to engage young people as part of this discussion to ensure we are encouraging a new generation of strong, informed Aboriginal people who are connected to their culture and country and are passionate and positive about their futures."

 Learning Indigenous Languages – can universities help?

Indigenous language awareness is essential for professions such as teachers, legal and health professionals, community and language revitalisation workers. And yet training in Indigenous languages is rarely available to them through university courses on Indigenous Australian languages.  Nor are there many tertiary courses for speakers of Indigenous languages to enrich their study of their first language.  None of the languages still spoken by children have a university on their country, thus restricting their access.  The workshop held on 9 December aim to bring together people who want to improve the situation, and to discuss what universities could do to get more language skills into the hands of people doing grass-roots language work. 9 December 2014

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.