08 September 2023

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UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd, Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine, and Uncle Lewis Yarlupurka O’Brien AO at the launch of the UniSA 2023-2025 Stretch RAP

Creation of an Aboriginal Knowledges Centre is at the heart of the University of South Australia’s third Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). The RAP, a second ‘Stretch’ RAP for UniSA, includes a deeper focus on two-way engagement with Aboriginal communities and actions to foster Aboriginal participation in education.

UniSA strives to be a university of choice for Aboriginal Peoples, a vision reflected in its foundation Act. In 2014, it became the first university in South Australia to implement a RAP and remains the only one to have undertaken a Stretch RAP.

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd says the new RAP will broaden the University’s relationships with Aboriginal stakeholders and reach deeper into the South Australian community.

“In recent years we have welcomed the Purkarninthi in Residence, which has seen Elders with kinship ties across the State share their understandings with our university community,” Prof Lloyd says.

“We have launched our Aboriginal Research Strategy, which prioritises embedding Aboriginal knowledges across our thinking and research; and we have strengthened our commitment to increasing Aboriginal employment.

“The new RAP will see our vision for an Aboriginal Knowledges Centre come to life through new commitments to Aboriginal Peoples and education, and the development of a new space in our existing Lewis O’Brien building, Yarlupurka, at City West. The building will undergo an extensive adaptation to ensure a purpose-designed, shared space to grow our appreciation of Aboriginal knowledges and cultures and foster two-way engagement.”

The Aboriginal Knowledges Centre masterplan is expected to be completed by early 2024, with construction of the outdoor courtyard, including yarning circle, anticipated in late 2024 and planning for the internal works to continue through 2025 to 2026 (subject to approval).

Yarning circles will also be established at UniSA’s Whyalla and Mawson Lakes campuses in 2024, which follow the launch of the University’s first yarning circle (Nyina Ba Kalawa) at Mount Gambier earlier this year.

UniSA’s third RAP is led by Professor Irene Watson, Pro Vice Chancellor: Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy, in collaboration with Purkarninthi in Residence member Uncle David Rathman AM PSM, and UniSA Students and Research Registrar and Council member Vanessa Matthews.

Uncle David says physical spaces are integral to building a community where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples feel welcome to come together in the spirit of reciprocity.

“The installation of sculptures and yarning circles is important, as together, they represent culturally symbolic and significant commitments by the University,” Uncle David says.

“The sculptures and circles help to create culturally respectful and inclusive spaces that align with Aboriginal Peoples’ beliefs and structures, and can become retreats or points of unification for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.”

Matthews says the new Stretch RAP provides an opportunity for the UniSA community to deepen its understanding, and collectively celebrate, Aboriginal Peoples, knowledges and culture.

“The plan was co-created with our University community, and its delivery is everyone’s responsibility,” Matthews says.

“We will need to take a partnered approach if we’re to be successful in advancing reconciliation and achieving our aspirations.”

Other actions of the 2023-2025 Stretch RAP include a new annual oration during NAIDOC Week to showcase Aboriginal art and creation, establishing opportunities for student and staff exchanges with First Nations Peoples, developing a new Aboriginal Employee Value Proposition to support the University’s goal of 3% Aboriginal employment, and delivering a program for Aboriginal children to experience a two-way approach to STEM and other disciplines.

The Stretch RAP was launched today and can be viewed at https://unisa.edu.au/rap.

Media contact:  Megan Andrews  mobile:  +61 434 819 275  email:  megan.andrews@unisa.edu.au

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