In opening our first 2021 newsletter back in April, I reflected on the proud legacy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advocacy, impact, and participation at UNSW.
In 2021, UNSW continues to engage in this space in an innovative and substantive way. There have been several significant steps this year, including new additions to the built environment on campus and faculty-specific implementation plans for the UNSW Indigenous Strategy.
But our work continues. That is why our Indigenous Strategy takes a long term and holistic approach.
As I reflect on 2021 – a year that was put under the full weight of the pandemic once again – I am proud of every student, staff member, lecturer and researcher that make up the diverse First Nations community here at UNSW.
Whether it is our researchers taking on a broad range of topics. Or the many staff who help keep the engine of the University turning. As well as the large Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student body and our many graduates at UNSW, who have managed to navigate the COVID-19 landscape even as it impacted our communities.
It has been inspiring to see the determination, success, and engagement across the many areas of UNSW. This is no small feat, given another year of lockdowns and uncertainty due to COVID-19. This is particularly the case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with our communities facing a higher risk. One that persists into the new year.
2021 was also another significant time for the progress of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its reforms.
It was an honour to be a co-recipient for the Sydney Peace Prize this year for the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The prize represents the hard work and diligence of First Nations peoples and communities that participated in the dialogues and the ongoing push for constitutional change.
The UNSW Indigenous Law Centre’s (ILC) work in this area continues to lead and educate the nation on these reforms. The ILC celebrated 40 years of fighting for justice this year.
Equally inspiring has been broader the Australian public, who have stood up and pushed for the constitutional protection of a First Nations Voice to Parliament. This has been particularly important through the public consultations on the Co-design process. This support for constitutional recognition has permeated the Final report of Minister Wyatt’s “co-design” with one of its recommendations being about community expectation for a referendum to enshrine a voice.
I want to thank the UNSW community who enthusiastically participated in the Uluru Statement Week of Action and who continue to show support in many ways. It is vital this advocacy continues. And it demonstrates that UNSW commitment is not only words and gestures but action.
Last Friday (17 Dec), the Government delivered the final Co-design report. I encourage the UNSW community to read the report and to keep an eye out for analysis by the ILC.
The Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, with Nura Gili, also launched a new website this year. It has been terrific to see how many in the UNSW community have visited, engaged with, and shared its content. We look forward to growing and providing more content and resources in 2022.
Despite the challenges we faced again in 2021, I am once again left inspired and motivated. Seeing the faces of young students, who joined UNSW’s Indigenous Pre-programs this month, has brought me energy and optimism as we head into the new year.
I cannot wait to welcome many new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to UNSW in 2022.
I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable holiday period. See you on campus soon. Having said that, if the past two years have shown, things can be unpredictable and so please monitor closely the University notices about COVID-19 and campus access.
Professor Megan Davis
UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous
Director, Nura Gili
Balnaves Chair in Constitutional Law