Words || Chris Miller and Neenah Gray
At our campus the Indigenous Students Association (‘ISA’) forms the hub of Indigenous activism. When Grapeshot first brainstormed article ideas regarding the Indigenous experience in Australia, we fell into the trap of assuming that the best use of space in the Magazine was to unpack current political issues we assumed were relevant.
However, through developing a relationship with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander SRC representative and the Indigenous Student Association we have realised this approach felt disconnected from the actual will and experiences of Indigenous students on campus. We sat down with Chris Miller of the ISA and and Neenah Gray, SRC Representative for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students, to discuss what Indigenous activism and community looks like on Macquarie’s campus.
MQ Indigenous Student Association
The Macquarie Indigenous Students Association is a cultural student group formed primarily to create awareness and build the profile of the Indigenous student community on campus. Historically the ISA executive positions have been exclusively open to Indigenous students, but this year we have decided make it a point of focus that our membership is open to all current MQ students as we have found that our past policy on executive membership was divisive and went against our mission and aims.
Our aim is to foster relationships built upon acceptance, understanding and sharing of knowledge between Indigenous and non Indigenous students on campus. We understand that for many non Indigenous people there are often preconceived ideas around what Indigenous people are or how we should act. We are trying to build some awareness in response to this and hope we can create relationships across campus that are based on reciprocity, respect and understanding. We are Indigenous focused and privilege Indigenous voices but we are trying to do so in a way that non Indigenous people are still welcome to be allies and support our community.
Our mission is to further empower Indigenous people and culture on campus through a process of reconciliation and cultural exchange. Our role on campus is to continue supporting the growth and the profile of our Indigenous community at a student level through sharing and exchange. If you are interested in sharing with us, keep an eye out for our Yarn up event series.
We have already run a tonne of events on campus this semester ranging from fundraisers that have supported our community to fun social events such as Koori-oke (karaoke but deadlier). Our Yarn up series is new this year that privileges Indigenous voices and stories in the telling of our experiences around a particular theme. Our first Yarn up event was largely focused around identity as an introduction and was a huge success! We hope that our events continue to provide opportunities for people to learn and share in a safe space.
We are hoping to collaborate more with other societies in future on campus and really celebrate the strength and diversity of culture on campus at Macquarie. We hope that these relationships will sustain long into the future. We are looking to build a legacy of strong Indigenous leadership for future generations of Indigenous students and we are hopeful that this culture we are fostering of reciprocity, respect and understanding is here long into the future.
In the past we have been a more heavily political group on campus. This year we have decided to be less politically focused. We believe that even within our own broader communities there are a range of political beliefs and that we as Indigenous people are by very definition political bodies. We have an incredible SRC representative that has been elected for the next two years and will be relaying our communities concerns and political discussions to her as our communities political voice.
Neenah – Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander SRC Representative 2019-2021
For the next two years I will serve as the SRC representative of the Indigenous student community on campus. My aim in this role is to raise awareness of Indigenous culture on campus and to celebrate the great work that is already happening within our communities. I want to maintain a strong relationship between Walanga Muru, MQ ISA and the broader Macquarie University. I seek to set high expectations for how the broader university interacts with our communities and in doing so attempt to dismantle the tension that exists from past wrongs through education. Through this process I seek to create a more positive environment for Indigenous education at Macquarie University.
Walanga Muru – Indigenous Student engagement services.
‘Walanga Muru’ comes from the language of the local Darug nation, meaning ‘follow your path’. Walanga Muru is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student engagement unit at Macquarie University. We provide many services that assist in the overall academic achievement and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students on campus. Some of these services include cadetships, tutoring services, cultural advice, social events and programs. Walanga Muru is also responsible for implementing strategy on campus through programs such as the Manawari cultural safety training which is based upon the tenets of respect, reciprocity and relationships.
Walanga Muru has been a hub for the ongoing development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academic excellence and a safe space for Indigenous people on campus.
Walanga Muru has provided ongoing support to the Indigenous Student Association throughout our history on campus and we often partner on events and continue to support each other.
We at the MQ ISA hope to continue our ongoing relationship with Walanga Muru and are very thankful for all of the opportunities we have been provided through this relationship.