Our RAP Journey

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Our RAP Journey

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The 2009–2011 Reconciliation Action Plan was the first for the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). The RAP was developed following discussions with the University of the Sunshine Coast Vice-Chancellor's Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC). This was followed by the 2012-2014 Reconciliation Action Plan in consultation with IAC. IAC membership comprises USC staff, students and community members. Indigenous Services and the Access and Diversity Unit have developed USC's third Reconciliation Action Plan 2017-2019, in consultation with IAC, the local Elders and their communities. See Appendices C and D.

The Reconciliation Action Plan 2017-2019 is an 'Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan'. An Innovate RAP is for organisations that have developed relationships with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and are ready to develop or implement programs for cultural learning, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and supplier diversity. An Innovate RAP will give the freedom to develop and test new and innovative approaches, and embed the RAP within the life of USC.

Key Achievements

RAP 2009–2011
  1. USC's Indigenous Employment and Career development Strategy was developed in 2010.
  2. Opening of the Ngabung Djamga Gallery in the Innovation Centre in 2011.
RAP 2012–14
  1. In lieu of task 2.2.3 (cultural competence survey of USC staff), an Indigenous Cultural Competency self-audit was conducted against the Universities Australia (UA), National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities (2011). Consultation around initiatives to progress the UA guidelines and recommendations was underway in 2013.
  2. A full-time Indigenous Services Officer (Engagement) has seen increased internal and external community engagement, and establishment of a university cultural events calendar.
  3. A growth in Faculty-initiated cultural activities, including organisation and hosting of the annual USC Indigenous Education Symposium, and establishment of an Indigenous Education Sub-committee by the Education Programs in the Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering.
  4. Targeted community liaison and marketing has achieved a significant annual increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student admissions over the past two years, with students also exceeding both state and national performance data for retention and success.
  5. Design and launch of the Buranga Centre at USC Sippy Downs
  6. An expansion of USC's art collection and public display of the John Mainwaring art collection in 2014.

As of 17 June 2016 there were 310 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across our campuses and study nodes. Of the total staff numbers (excluding casuals), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff total 10 (FTE).

 

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Number of Indigenous students (enrolments)

41

40

52

58

74

86

125

132

155

165

209

227

278

Proportion of Indigenous students (Access rate %)

0.99

1.14

1.42

1.19

1.50

1.63

2.1

1.9

2.1

2.0

2.6

2.2

3.1

USC retention ratio

1.08

1.14

0.89

0.93

0.96

0.92

0.93

0.98

0.96

0.94

1.05

0.99

n/a

QLD retention ratio

0.81

0.82

0.85

0.88

0.84

0.86

0.88

0.87

0.87

0.87

0.91

0.91

n/a

Aus retention ratio

0.78

0.78

0.81

0.82

0.79

0.83

0.85

0.86

0.85

0.87

0.89

0.89

n/a

USC success ratio

0.73

0.83

0.79

0.89

0.97

0.90

0.88

0.87

0.85

0.86

0.88

0.86

0.88

QLD success ratio

0.78

0.80

0.81

0.81

0.81

0.83

0.82

0.82

0.83

0.83

0.84

0.84

0.85

Aus success ratio

0.75

0.76

0.79

0.77

0.79

0.79

0.79

0.82

0.81

0.83

0.84

0.84

0.84

Data Source: Australian Government Department of Education and Training, Higher Education Statistics: Student Data – Full Year 2008 - 2015. www.education.gov.au/student-data

The Vice-Chancellor and President takes a direct leadership role in ensuring that the objectives of the Reconciliation Action Plan are integrated within all University plans. It is expected that all senior staff will assist in driving the University's Reconciliation agenda, engaging their staff and inspiring them to contribute to this key University goal, and that accountabilities are appropriately allocated to ensure the University translates its intentions into practice.

The Vice-Chancellor and President, the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students), Executive Deans of Faculty of Arts, Business and Law and Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, Director Human Resources, Director Student Services and Engagement, and Head Indigenous Services all take proactive positions as Champions of the USC Reconciliation Action Plan.

While there has been a growing engagement of staff, students and community members in key events, such as NAIDOC Week and Close the Gap Day, perhaps of greatest significance has been the University's commitment to embedding a range of initiatives in day-to-day practice. Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country protocols for all University events take place as a matter of course and there is increasing take-up by academic staff of Acknowledgement of the Traditional Custodians at the commencement of each Semester's lecture series.

USC recognises the power of education to transform people's lives as individuals and to have a positive impact on their community and is determined to continue to work with Elders and Community leaders to provide this opportunity to as many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as possible. Consistent with this goal, USC is proud to be increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees at various levels within the University. USC Graduates are now employed in roles within Human Resources, the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law and the Faculty of Science, Education and Engineering. The first Aboriginal Doctor of Philosophy graduate is now working as the Head of Indigenous Services and works to enhance the participation and graduation rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in higher education. This is a vital role in the day-to-day implementation of the RAP.

USC recognises that breathing life into a Reconciliation Action Plan is achieved through visible leadership and strong partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and other members of the University community and the wider community. USC also recognises that the responsibility for driving the reconciliation process must lie with the members of staff, and to this end, the Vice-Chancellor and President take responsibility to champion the new University of the Sunshine Coast Reconciliation Action Plan.

An initiative of the University, Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' knowledge and perspectives within the curriculum will ensure all graduates of USC develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples' depth of knowledge across the disciplines. There has also been an increasing recognition of the need to ensure that the University's Reconciliation Action Plan is aligned with other University strategic plans and relevant Committees and Working Parties to bring about integration between the goals and targets. Commensurate with this has been a realisation of the need to have accountabilities clearly articulated and progress regularly monitored.

Bel's story

I am proud of being an Aboriginal woman. I am from the Gamileroi Nation. I grew up in a small town named Boggabri, with a population of just 800 people. My local primary school had only 30 students enrolled. My decision to attend university was momentous for my family as I was the first person in my family to enrol in tertiary level study. This achievement was further emphasised by the fact that I was the first person in my family to finish secondary school. I felt immense gratification in both of these academic achievements but the lack of Indigenous representation during my primary and secondary school experience inspired me to become a strong mentor and advocate for Indigenous students. I complete my Education degree this year and i am currently the Program Manager for AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) USC.

I enrolled in the Bachelor of Education / Arts at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) in 2011. During the early stages of my university study I struggled with university and where my place was in the wider circle of the University community. It wasn't until I engaged with the Buranga Centre (Indigenous Services) that I started to feel a sense of ownership and could see the gaps that needed to be filled, to empower our young people. This represented the start of an amazing journey. I volunteered with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) originally, which provided me with an opportunity to engage with young people and promote the positive aspects of education. As mentioned above, I am now the USC Program Manager with AIME. This platform allows me to reach and guide hundreds of Indigenous students to believe in themselves and develop strength, resilience and pride in themselves.

This has enhanced my capacity to build relationships with students and their families as well as improved my ability to communicate with influence around issues relating to race. I hope to secure full-time employment in the Indigenous education field once I complete my double degree. I would also like to complete further study at USC to add to existing knowledge in the Indigenous education field. I am proud of my achievements and USC has assisted me in discovering my talents and passion. The cultural conversations that I have participated in whilst studying at USC have built my sense of belonging and promoted an environment where I feel comfortable in discussing reconciliation in various contexts. I owe a lot to the student advisors in Indigenous Services and am proud of the work and milestones we have been able to achieve with AIME and USC.

Bridgette's story

I am a proud Juru woman who completed a Bachelor of Social Sciences at the University of the Sunshine Coast. I started the degree in 2006 in an attempt to learn more about my Indigenous heritage. I came to university as a mature age student after working extensively in the customer service industry.

I explored my extensive family history whilst completing my studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast. I also encountered the many policies that have helped shape Australian identity and this gave me a greater appreciation of the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I learned a lot about myself in the process. I found my voice. As a result, I was inspired to create the Buranga Indigenous Student Committee (BISC) with one of my student colleagues and also became a student representative on the Vice-Chancellor's Indigenous Advisory Committee. The Buranga Centre offered a culturally safe space for me to explore my identity and potential. University was a huge journey for me and it culminated in me participating in the GO Program (a study overseas program) and was hosted by Grand Valley State University. This was an amazing experience and allowed me to further strengthen my sense of self.

Once I completed my USC degree, I held various positions in metropolitan universities in Brisbane as a Student Adviser, an ITAS Officer, a Learning Support Team Leader and as a Library Academic Skills Adviser. I am proud to again be part of the University of the Sunshine Coast. Working at the Indigenous Services Centre I feel I can give back to the community that I adore. I believe that the Buranga Centre (Indigenous Services) offers a great space for cultural conversation to take place and that true value occurs when people accept reconciliation as being part of their day-to-day work/study environment and display social consciousness in the cultural conversation.

Kelly's story

 I received quizzical looks in week one when my class realised that not only am I not an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander man but, in fact, I'm not even Australian. I explain, I have no right to speak for Aboriginal people or Torres Strait Islander people but as a representative of the people that have been privileged from the hidden histories and crossed cultures, I have an obligation to say sorry for the past and do something in the present that may enable a better future. Hence, we learn from different members of the community across the semester: Elders, Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi, Yolngu, Torres Strait Islanders, they bring their stories, knowledge and wisdom to this place in a respectful practice that develops practical ways of addressing reconciliation each semester.

I start each class with an Acknowledgement of the Country on which we learn and to pay my respects to the vast knowledge of the Traditional Custodians of the place – the Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi. Learning of the past and present brings forth how we might learn from the wisdom of Indigenous knowledges into the future. Flourishing for thousands of years – forever – a part of the land, in harmony with a diversity of cultures that appreciates the diversity of the environment is a message for all Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have shown me that a responsibility to the Land and others before one's self is a lesson in courage and truth. It has therefore been my privilege over the years to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to facilitate their stories and wisdom as part of the teaching and learning in our classes at USC.

I am and we all are students in our class, each and every one of us trying to understand our place in this journey of discovery that is emotional, intellectual, ethical and spiritual. If we are ever to truly reconcile the past then it is essential to understand the present for the brighter tomorrow that is ours.

Alister's Story

My ancestors have led me through the many challenges faced in life. They were there during my studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast, as was my immediate family. I retain a strong sense of identity via familial connections to Saibai Island. I also acknowledge my father's Scottish and English ancestry; one day I will visit those lands. Through my family I learnt much about reconciliation what the word means in a practical sense. Growing up I witnessed two very different worldviews; I have come to accept these worldviews and I purposely look for the best both worlds have to offer. I grew up in Brisbane and waited thirty years to arrive on Saibai soil. I was able to develop my proud sense of belonging and a strong sense of cultural identity through my extended family.

I chose to study at the University of the Sunshine Coast because USC respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values collaborating with community. Only as a united community do we overcome the ongoing debilitating effects of colonisation. Undervaluing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and culture within mainstream society motivated me to study education. During my degree, I benefited from talking with Elders at the Buranga centre as well as events held by Indigenous Services and the university at large. Time I spent with Elders made me realise that I was not alone in advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as it was their guidance and counsel which kept my vision on the straight and narrow.

I work with a strong belief in the principles of social justice. I believe society will ultimately be judged on the treatment of its marginalised few. My purpose is to challenge systemic low expectations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples via authentic dialogue with people from all walks of life including university staff, community leaders, and other community members. I also work to demystify and decolonise prevailing myths, attitudes and beliefs surrounding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being and doing. These are important conversations as we teach future generations how to lead full and meaningful lives as we stride toward a more just humanity. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being is a basic human right that cannot be compromised. Further, it is a foundational antecedent for any genuine reconciliatory efforts made on this land we all call home.

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