Swinburne University of Technology’s inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Engagement, is focused on ensuring the university maintains its leadership position in Indigenous education, employment and research, and wants to expand partnerships and engagement with Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations.
Speaking at an official welcome, Professor John Evans said he was looking forward to using his newly-created role at Swinburne to further embed self-determination, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and cultural safety across the university.
“Universities are one of the last organisations to still have an influence on social good as a part of their core mission,” Professor Evans said.
“I am delighted to be part of a university that takes this mission to build a better world seriously, utilising people and technology to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.
“I look forward to implementing transformational activities that improve the lives of Indigenous Australians,” he said.
Swinburne’s Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pascale Quester, said that Swinburne was proud of the achievements in Indigenous engagement over the past six years, and was looking forward to the next chapter led by Professor Evans.
“We have achieved fantastic growth in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student numbers, student support, teaching and research, thanks to the hard work of the team at the Moondani Toombadool Centre,” Professor Quester said.
“We know that there is a lot more work to do and we are delighted to have Professor Evans join us as part of the Swinburne team to continue to advance this leading work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement.”
Building on success in Indigenous engagement
Professor Evans will lead all Indigenous matters at Swinburne, continuing the significant work led by Professor Andrew Gunstone, Executive Director (Reconciliation Strategy and Leadership).
Professor Evans’ new portfolio includes the Moondani Toombadool Centre, as well as oversight over several Indigenous strategies, including the Indigenous Teaching and Learning Strategy, the Indigenous Research Strategy, the Indigenous Workforce Strategy, and the Moondani Toombadool Centre Indigenous Student Recruitment and Retention Strategy.
Professor Evans will work closely with Professor Gunstone, who will remain responsible for reconciliation and the Reconciliation Action Plan, as well as the newly-created National Centre for Reconciliation Practice.
Some of the successful initiatives during the past six years have been:
- Establishing and growing the Moondani Toombadool Centre, including the appointment of leaders Vicky Peters, Dr Sadie Heckenberg, Emma Gavin and Dr Mat Jakobi.
- Creating the Indigenous Research Fellowship Scheme and appointing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers Dr Justin Trounson, Associate Professor Emma Lee, Dr Sadie Heckenberg and Dr Wendy Hermeston.
- Increasing Indigenous self-determination at the university, including establishing the Swinburne Indigenous Governance Committee and advocating for a Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Engagement.
- Embedding Indigenous knowledges across the university and establishing Indigenous places on all three campuses, including the Aunty Dot Peters AM Flowering Grasslands.
- Increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education and vocational students studying at Swinburne from 81 in 2014 to 1,048 in 2022.
“It has been an absolute privilege to lead Indigenous matters at Swinburne over the past six years. I thank all my amazing Indigenous colleagues I work with, and learn from, and who do extraordinary decolonising and Indigenising work,” Professor Gunstone said.
“I am delighted to welcome Professor Evans to Swinburne. We are already working closely together to deliver key university and national outcomes in Indigenous and reconciliation spaces.”