Peaceful Indigenous Student's Association Protest
At 11 am today, the Indigenous Student Association (ISA) at UNE held a peaceful protest after failed negotiations with the administration. The ISA reported “incidences of bullying, intimidation racism and abject failure by members of Oorala Aboriginal Centre management to properly support and consult with indigenous students.”
After various consultations with the Vice-Chancellor, the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, insufficient action had been taken to address the issues the ISA raised.
The ISA had proposed the following changes:
An indigenous governance committee to be installed as a core component of Oorala’s decision making and management processes
This committee should comprise of elected delegates from a variety of relevant demographics and stakeholders (e.g. Indigenous students, local Aboriginal community, Aboriginal academic staff and the Elder-In-Residence).
Indigenous students are to be directly involved in the creation and implementation of this governance committee. Decisions can no longer be made about us, without us.
After speaking to Dawn Lewis, President of the ISA, she told us that the meeting that occurred on monday was “as expected… They came back with no direct answers and were very vague. They didn’t actually address anything”
Bryce Wilson, former ISA president said that “They (The administration) were putting forward their own plans but were not including us in it. The university talks about how they want to partner with students - yet they are leaving us behind; they don’t want to work with us, they want to work for us. Let the adults deal with it, and the children can go back to their pen to play. We have come to the university to get a degree, not to stand here and fight for what should already be there. We need accountability.”
The peaceful protest began out the front of the Dixson library, with well over 30 people in attendance, and then went down to Booloominbah. Once arrived, the main door of Booloominbah was closed and locked in front of the protestors. No member of staff came out from the building to speak to the students. Balloons were left under the archway of the door, holding written demands from the students. Following this, the students then moved to the Oorala Aboriginal Centre to rally together and speak about the injustices faced by both staff and students - where the administration of Oorala also was not present at the protest.
Various members of the Indigenous community were present today, both young and old. All were appalled by the treatment of Indigenous students by both the university and Oorala.
When speaking to a former staff member of Oorala, she said that “When talking to the administration about our concerns, they didn’t listen. They didn’t care about what we had to say. This shouldn’t be a fight, this should be a conversation and a sit down to sort this out.”
“They’re banning aboriginal students from a place that we fought hard for, 31 years ago, that is for Aboriginal student support. These students are paying a lot of money to be treated like dirt.”
When asked for comment about the administration closing the door on the students, another woman said that - “it’s like a step a back in history. It’s saying to us, as black people, that we’re not welcome here… absolutely unwelcome. And we’re saying to you, how dare you shut the door on us - when in fact, this is a legitimate action that has been taken by the students. I don’t know if I can have a word to describe how dehumanizing this is. I never thought i’d see this again in my lifetime.”
When asked about how he felt about neither administrations coming and speaking to the students, Callum Clayton-Dixon, UNESA’s Indigenous representative, said that “I guess it just shows that they don’t want to engage with us in a genuine and meaningful way. They just want to make decisions behind closed doors and meet us at the end of the river - and talk to us then.”
The Vice-Chancellor will be getting back to us here at the Nucleus with a response to questions regarding today's protest.
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