Learning from Indigenous cultures around the world

Tuesday 23 July 2019

People picking gum leaves

The Study Tour participants were welcomed by Swinburne’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Linda Kristjanson AO, and the Moondani Toombadool Centre at the International Indigenous Exchange Consortium.

In summary

  • Swinburne has hosted an international Indigenous Study Tour co-developed with the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and University of North Carolina (United States)
  • Participants get the opportunity to learn firsthand about Indigenous cultures and histories
  • The study tour explores how traditions and modern life intersect for Indigenous communities, and the contemporary challenges they face

Swinburne has proudly hosted a unique Indigenous Study Tour on Wurundjeri land. The tour was co-developed with the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and University of North Carolina in the United States to provide Indigenous students and those studying Indigenous studies with global context to their experiences.

The tour, which was first hosted in Saskatchewan in 2018, gives participants the opportunity to learn firsthand about Indigenous cultures and histories. Students from the three universities are immersed in local practices, visit important cultural sites and learn from elders and community leaders.

The study tour explores how traditions and modern communities intersect and of the contemporary challenges they face.

On Wurundjeri land

Students from the University of Saskatchewan and University of North Carolina joined Swinburne students on a visit of various sites on Woiwurrung land, the language of the Wurundjeri. The two-week tour was held during the Victorian and National NAIDOC Weeks, which are held across Australian each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Participants had the opportunity to meet Wurundjeri elder Murrundindi, and to hear and learn the Woiwurrung language in a workshop run by Mandy Nicholson. They connected to country during tours of Birrarung and Coranderrk Reserve, and joined the Victorian NAIDOC march from Fitzroy to Melbourne’s CBD. A visit to Healesville Sanctuary and Phillip Island introduced students to the unique local wildlife, while a trip to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch an AFL match featuring Richmond Football Club inspired students as they learned of the club’s Elevate Reconciliation Actions Plan (RAP).

Students joined in the Victorian NAIDOC march as part of the Indigenous Study Tour

Students joined in the Victorian NAIDOC march as part of the Indigenous Study Tour.

“The idea for the tour developed through a 20-year friendship I have with Assistant Professor Rob Innes from the University of Saskatchewan” says Dr Andrew Peters.

In 1999, Dr Peters was a Swinburne honours student and travelled to Canada for four months to research Indigenous tourism.

“That trip taught me so much about Indigenous Canadian culture and I found that when I returned much of that knowledge allowed me to better understand our own Indigenous culture and history,” says Dr Peters.

The trip was hugely significant for Dr Peters and gave him the opportunity to develop lasting friendships and networks, including that with Assistant Professor Innes.

Looking to the future

Media and Communication student Sarah McPherson was one of the six Swinburne students who took part in the Indigenous North American Study Tour in 2018 and says: “It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Being welcomed into a culture so completely different from my own, with open arms and open minds, to learn from and experience firsthand how Indigenous peoples lived both historically and in contemporary society was incredible.”

“The experience is such a unique and richly rewards experience for everyone” says Dr Peters, “Seeing culture and education blend so easily is very inspiring”.

“Next year we’re off the North Carolina, Pembroke which will be incredible. The Study Tour is open to Swinburne students that identify as Indigenous or who are completing Indigenous studies units so I really encourage people who are interested to give it a go. You won’t regret it”.