Professor Megan Davis, the first UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, leads the development and implementation of the Indigenous Strategy for UNSW. The Pro Vice-Chancellor’s Indigenous Office reports to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, reflecting the commitment of the University to nurture academic excellence in Indigenous staff and students. The consistent message UNSW promotes to Indigenous students and staff is that cultural identity is something to cherish and of which to be proud.
While education enables the advancement of justice and the wellbeing of Indigenous communities, the privilege of being educated carries an obligation to “give back”. The concept of “giving back” is emphasised throughout the Indigenous Strategy and means UNSW graduates will leave with a civic responsibility to give back, where they can, to Indigenous communities.
The Indigenous Strategy was launched in October 2017, representing a powerful vision for the future of our university. The Strategy was influenced by Professor Davis’ work on the Referendum Council and the themes from the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
According to Professor Davis, Australia has gone down the path of attempting reconciliation initiatives, such as Reconciliation Action Plans, without first addressing the vital step of truth telling. The truth must penetrate society to the extent that it helps to bring about fundamental changes in the way that people live their daily lives and relate to one another.
As a university, we have a responsibility to ensure accurate truth telling is part of our education legacy. Truth telling is the underlying basis to the main three themes of the Indigenous Strategy which are: Give Back; Grow our Own; and Culture and Country.
These specific themes focus on the need for greater numbers of Indigenous scholars, critical thinkers and strong leaders and solutions-focused research that will enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to create unique lifestyles for themselves, their families and their communities.
The Pro Vice-Chancellor’s Office is working with the wider University, Nura Gili Centre for Indigenous Programs, Indigenous communities and UNSW alumni to contribute to important nation-building activities that are embedded in truth and reconciliation.