Walanga Muru’s Aboriginal Cultural Safety Training was launched last week, as part of NAIDOC Week Celebrations, at a enthusiastically-attended Learning and Teaching Exchange event.

The aim of Aboriginal Cultural Safety Training is to motivate and build a positive knowledge position for Macquarie University staff and students,

to develop a meaningful understanding and respect for Aboriginal cultural values, history, beliefs, practices, knowledges and philosophies.

The training aims to have a positive impact on MQ community members’ confidence in establishing appropriate and sustainable relationships that lead to a culturally safe learning and working environment.

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Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Strategy, Dr. Leanne Holt

Dr Leanne Holt, Macquarie’s inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy), a Worimi woman with further connections to Biripai country, opened the event by speaking about the implementation of Aboriginal Cultural Safety Training as a key deliverable of the Indigenous Strategy (released in 2016), and then introduced Tetei Bakic to deliver the Acknowledgement of Country.

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Tetei Bakic

Student Tetei Bakic delivered the Acknowledgement of Country. Tetei is a Meriam and Erub girl from Murray Island and Darnley Island in the Torres Strait and also a Bindal girl from the Townsville region in QLD. She is in 4th year studying a Bachelor of Arts-Psychology with a degree in Human Sciences, majoring in Community Services. Tetei’s Acknowledgement of Country provided testimony of the significance that both a Welcome to and Acknowledgement of Country have in today’s society.

Both a Welcome to and Acknowledgement of Country, is a modern-day interpretation of an ancient practice by which people seek and receive permission to enter or travel across the country of the local clan or nation that is beyond their own traditional boundaries.

Dr Leanne Holt then led the introduction, introducing Walanga Muru’s strategy and initiatives, including the recently launched Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Plan and the Reconciliation Plan.

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Phil Duncan, Aboriginal Cultural Training Coordinator

I, Phil Duncan, a Gomeroi man, am the Aboriginal Cultural Training Coordinator for the program. I gave an overview of how the program was developed and what participants can expect from the program. I shared my aims for the program, which is to open up meaningful dialogue about Aboriginal cultural values, history, beliefs, practices, knowledges and philosophies. This has already happened from the few pilot sessions I have run so far, and I asked some of my colleagues across the community who have attended the training to share their experiences and what this program means to the culture of Macquarie.

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Professor Mary Ryan

Professor Mary Ryan, Head of Educational Studies, spoke about the Department’s commitment to increase its capacity to ensure students are culturally prepared for life after studies and that they can take these lessons into the next stages of their professional journey. Professor Ryan also reinforced commitment to the Workforce Plan, highlighting that the Department has employed two Indigenous staff, with more opportunities to come. Professor Ryan confirmed that the Department is also well down the path of integrating Indigenous values, knowledge and perspectives across the curriculum.

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Kathryn Korbel

Kathryn Korbel, Lecturer in Biological Sciences, spoke about the impact the training has had across Biological Sciences. Biological Sciences has begun to include Indigenous values, knowledge and perspectives across the curriculum. From a personal perspective, Kathryn conveyed a very strong message about quality community engagement on country and the need to adhere to and respect cultural protocols. Kathryn seeks to receive a Welcome to Country that is totally inclusive of Indigenous values, knowledge and perspectives when she is on country carrying out research. Also paramount for Kathryn was ensuring that Indigenous people and community are referenced for their active participation in the on-country research initiatives. She also explores how the credible evidence from the research can be used to support these Indigenous communities.

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Mark Broomfield

Mark Broomfield, Director of Property, spoke about the profound impact the training had on some staff employed in Property. Mark informed the gathering that the Property staff were significantly moved by the content of the training and some have now embarked on their own journey to learn more about Indigenous people and society.

Mark spoke personally of how he and Phil’s relationship has transformed beyond that of being a professional relationship, where they now are very comfortable in calling one another Brother outside professional gatherings and events.

Mark also shared his professional experiences working in other Countries where the respect for cultural values, history, beliefs, practices, knowledges and philosophies has helped shape how Mark works and engages with Indigenous people and community.

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Jett Hobbs, Tetei Bakic

Jett Hobbs and Tetei Bakic, students, spoke next. Jett is a Ngnunnawal man from Queanbeyan country, Tetei is a Meriam and Erub girl from Murray Island and Darnley Island in the Torres Strait and a Bindal girl from the Townsville region in QLD. Both Jett and Tetei spoke passionately about being made to feel comfortable and included in classroom environments, and how delivering an Acknowledgement of Country can make a huge difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Creating culturally safe spaces where courageous conversations can be had by, for and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is hugely important for the health of the community.

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Liesa Clague

Dr Liesa Clague is a Lecturer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Education, and is a descendant of the Yaegl peoples of the North Coast NSW on her mother’s side, and Celtic Manx heritage from the Isle of Man on her father’s side. She spoke about the history of Cultural Safety has its origins in the field of nursing education.

The concept originated at a nursing leadership hui (a large social or ceremonial gathering) in 1989 after concerns were raised by Māori nursing students about the safety of Māori students in mono-cultural nursing schools, and of Māori intellectual property when taught by non-Māori people.

Liesa acknowledges her nursing profession and the health sector experiences of Cultural Safety work. Liesa reflected on the importance of the Aboriginal Cultural Safety Training being done in Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences with students that she teachers as a Macquarie University employee, by integrating her own cultural knowledge and perspectives. Liesa gave a strong message that we also essentially should “think outside the circle and be creative in developing training to reach a broad audience”.

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Min Ha Choo

Min Ha Choo, HR Manager – Client Relationships, firstly spoke about her personal journey – even though she was not born in Australia, she’s been here for 25 years and feels she could have sought a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Min shared how when she did the training, she mostly saw similarities, not differences – her cultural background is based on the same cultural values (respecting elders, the importance of family) that have guided her through her own life’s journey. Min spoke passionately about when she listened to various topics related to cultural teachings and ethics, they resonated deeply with her and she is committed to being an advocate for cultural safety.

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Dr. Leanne Holt

Dr Leanne Holt, who has over twenty years of higher education experience, is Deputy Chair, NATSIHEC and a member, Universities Australia DVC Corporate Committee and Department of Education Equity and Innovation Panel, spoke enthusiastically about the need for staff to actively participate in the Aboriginal Cultural Safety Training to build respect for Indigenous cultural values, knowledges, philosophies and perspectives. Dr Holt ended proceedings with a final note about Macquarie University realising its full potential and the significance of strategic partnerships across the campus that will assist in driving the Indigenous Strategy and encourage the positive changes necessary for a culturally safe environment where staff can feel comfortable to have “courageous conversations”.

It was wonderful to share this experience with our university colleagues and I look forward to meeting you at a training session.

To book a session, whether it be for your department, office, student group, club or society, simply email me at phil.duncan@mq.edu.au.

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Posted by Phil Duncan

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