As Swinburne University of Technology progresses its third Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), it continued to strengthen and embed reconciliation across the university in 2020 – achieving remarkable outcomes under challenging COVID-19 conditions.
Through the work of Swinburne’s Moondani Toombadool Centre (MTC), the university created opportunities for leadership, innovation and engagement with students, staff and community.
Swinburne Executive Director Reconciliation Strategy and Leadership and Executive Director Moondani Toombadool Centre, Professor Andrew Gunstone said university-wide commitment to reconciliation benefits all.
“Our RAP is a mandate to progress reconciliation at Swinburne,” says Professor Gunstone.
“Reconciliation is about respectful relationship-building. We are uniquely placed to explore those relationships and encourage others on their journey: whether it’s a pathway to education or a deeper understanding of Indigenous matters.
“In 2020 we continued our progress together, with teams and colleagues from across the university applying our vision for reconciliation, and we are stronger for it,” he adds.
RAP and national leadership
The MTC finalised Swinburne’s 2020-2023 RAP, achieving Elevate status for the second time. The RAP includes commitments to self-determination, Indigenous knowledges, cultural safety and significant targets such as creating an Indigenous Pro Vice-Chancellor position by 2023 and a National Centre for Reconciliation Practice based at the university.
Swinburne reiterated its commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact, Dr Emma Lee was appointed to the National Co-design Group for an Indigenous Voice.
Professor Andrew Gunstone is also co-chairing two national RAP committees to measure the impact of RAPs, and to create a university RAP network to support other tertiary institutions on their journey.
Keeping students engaged in their learning and community was a top priority for Swinburne. The MTC’s Indigenous Student Services team, led by Manager Vicky Peters, used social media, newsletters and the creation of innovative online opportunities, including Wayapa Wuurrk yoga, basket weaving, and even pizza making through Indigenous business Pawa Catering, to engage with more than 800 Indigenous students studying at Swinburne.
Working across the university, the Indigenous Student Services team created a NAIDOC Week art competition for Indigenous students with the winning student design printed onto apparel in partnership with Indigenous business Position Promo, and sold at Razor’s shop, with a portion of sales contributing to Indigenous scholarships.
Connecting with community
Maintaining connection to community was a priority in 2020, despite the changing COVID-19 restrictions. Through Vicky Peters’ leadership, Swinburne strengthened partnerships with Worawa Aboriginal Girls College and Girls Academy, and developed a new partnership with Clontarf Foundation – partnerships that will all help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people pursue ongoing education and career pathways.
The MTC also organised many public events, including Swinburne’s annual Reconciliation Lecture with Senator Pat Dodson and Barak Wonga Oration with Dr Lois Peeler AM – both of which received record numbers of registrations.
Teaching and learning
2020 saw the creation of several Indigenous cultural competency, and teaching and learning, online programs. Lecturer of Indigenous Cultural Capability, Mat Jakobi, led a team that launched a module for all commencing higher education students, and co-led the development, with Manager PAVE Industry Programs, Jeremy Glover, of a teaching module for PAVE staff and students. Indigenous Employment Officer, Angie Martin, led a project to further strengthen the compulsory module for all staff.
The MTC’s 2020 annual teaching and research symposium, Chaos, Change and Transformation: Ethical approaches in Indigenous Teaching and Research, co-chaired by Mat Jakobi and MTC Indigenous Research Fellow Dr Sadie Heckenberg, helped Swinburne engage with Indigenous knowledges, with academics from Swinburne and other universities sharing their experiences and innovations.
Speaking at this year’s MTC Symposium, Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pascale Questor, said it was clear reconciliation is an important pillar of our Swinburne values.
“From my interactions with our colleagues, to the conversations I saw on Swinburne Unlimited (engagement platform), it is clear that Swinburne’s commitment to reconciliation is encouraged and strengthened by people at all levels – and in creative and innovative ways,” says Professor Questor.
“Reconciliation is a journey, and we are determined to shape the future together.”
About reconciliation at Swinburne
Swinburne has a strong commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander matters and to reconciliation. In 2017, we were the first Australian university to achieve Elevate status for our 2017-2019 Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). In 2018 we established the Moondani Toombadool Centre, responsible for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander matters and reconciliation at Swinburne. The Centre also publishes the Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, a leading international journal on Indigenous Affairs. Swinburne continues to lead at local and national levels to progress reconciliation, and their third RAP 2020-2023 has been recognised with Elevate status.