A driving force behind Swinburne’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), Dr Andrew Peters, has received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Swinburne Vice-Chancellor’s Awards.
Dr Peters’ Swinburne journey spans more than 20 years – starting as an undergraduate business student in 1996 to his position today as Senior Lecturer in Indigenous Studies and Tourism.
During that time, he has been instrumental in deepening Swinburne’s Indigenous links and understanding.
Swinburne Vice-Chancellor, Professor Linda Kristjanson AO, says Swinburne is proud of Dr Peters’ contribution to the community.
“Andrew is known throughout our community for his passion to ensure Indigenous culture is embedded across all aspects of Swinburne…he values relationships and his colleagues will tell you he embodies intelligence, warmth, inclusion fun, humour and respect.”
A driving force for reconciliation
Dr Peters played a key role in the creation of Swinburne’s RAP, which received the highest level of endorsement – ‘Elevate’ status - from Reconciliation Australia in 2017.
As chair of the RAP working group at Swinburne, Dr Peters says the importance of the plan is in engaging the university with Indigenous culture.
“The main thing for me is getting non-Indigenous people to understand why this culture and this heritage is important to them. Learning about this will help them as people and also in their future careers,” he says.
“I’ve seen a massive change in my time here in embracing and engaging with Indigenous culture.”
Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellor (Health, Arts and Design), Professor Scott Thompson-Whiteside, says Dr Peters has led positive dialogues and collaborations on Indigenous affairs and studies at Swinburne.
“I believe his influence on staff and students and his generosity of time has enabled the university to turn a corner and recognise the importance of Indigenous history and culture in all that we do,” he says.
Championing indigenous culture and heritage
Dr Peters’ high-quality teaching has been recognised through other prestigious awards, including a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning from the Department of Education in 2008 and a Vice-Chancellor’s Education Award for innovative Indigenous Studies curriculum design in 2012.
He has been integral to the growth of the Indigenous Studies discipline at Swinburne, with his efforts resulting in an Indigenous Studies major being offered for the first time in 2019.
Dr Peters’ research focuses on the role and contributions of Indigenous culture in areas such as sport, education, disability, incarceration and homelessness services.
He is a current research lead on an Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) inquiry into the effectiveness of the homelessness services system in Australia. His other recent research projects include assessing the effectiveness of programs that equip Indigenous prisoners with skills for rehabilitation at Port Phillip Prison and evaluating a young Aboriginal leaders’ program at Richmond Football Club’s Korin Gamadji Institute.
Meaningful student experiences
Part of Dr Peters’ legacy at Swinburne, is the unique study tour he established to give students first-hand experience of other Indigenous cultures and histories.
During his honours year in 1999, Dr Peters took a research trip to Canada where he learnt about its Indigenous history and formed relationships that led him to co-develop a study tour with the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and the University of North Carolina in the United States.
The tour was first hosted in Saskatchewan in 2018 and this year Swinburne hosted the tour, giving overseas students the opportunity to be immersed in local practices, visit important culture sites and learn from elders and community leaders.
A lasting legacy
Dr Peters says his mother, the late Aunty Dot Peters AM, has shaped him into the person he is today.
“Something my mum was really passionate about was teaching people about Aboriginal culture and getting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people together to make this world an easier place…I wouldn’t be doing this work without her guidance.”