9 Jul 2021

Being inclusive of First Nation staff and visitors at Central Clinical School

The CCS GEDI committee has created visual resources for NAIDOC's
"Heal Country!" theme. See more images under 'Initiatives' at their web page

by Jess Borger, Michelle Zajac and Alex Dimitropoulos,
CCS GEDI committee

This year’s NAIDOC week theme (4-11 July) “Healing Country” means sustaining the lives of Indigenous people in every aspect - spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally. Find out how you can be more welcoming and inclusive below.

NAIDOC 2021 invites our nation to embrace First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia's national heritage and equally respect the culture and values of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders as they do the cultures and values of all Australians. For generations First Nations Australians have been calling for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of their culture and heritage.

This year’s theme also seeks substantive institutional, structural, and collaborative reform – something generations of the Elders and communities of Australia have been advocating, marching and fighting for.

Despite long-standing calls to increase diversity on university campuses, Indigenous researchers remain poorly represented in academia, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Being a First Nations academic at times can be the series of firsts - first of a family to graduate from University, first to be employed within a specific workplace or department. There’s now a concerted effort to provide strategic support and increased opportunities for First Nations students to enter university and complete a degree. But it continues to be a challenge for First Nations academics and all professional staff to walk in two worlds. There are Western ways of learning, but First Nations cultural integrity has to be maintained and protected in a way that is achieved without becoming tokenistic and with utmost respect. Read more on Indigenous academic stories from across the globe in this recent Nature career feature.  

Demonstrating your support at CCS

To achieve these resolutions at the CCS, there are many ways we can demonstrate our support of First Nations staff and visitors within our school. 

The GEDI committee were privileged to receive generously donated images from Mr Brent McKee (senior animator), Mr Fred Leone (project manager) and Associate Professor John Bradley (Director) of the Wunungu Awara: Animating Indigenous Knowledges at the Monash Indigenous Studies Centre, who use 3D animation as tools to re-engage and revitalise interest in language continuation, by reconnecting language and its people, and to assist in the preservation of language. Language preservation by First Nations communities also reinforces Indigenous rights in protecting their cultural and intellectual property, through the preservation and archiving of history, knowledge, songs, and performance contained within their language.
The CCS GEDI committee have created Acknowledgment to Country screensavers, desktop images and zoom backgrounds from the Wunungu Awara images for CCS staff.
The NAIDOC organisation of 2021 has also kindly given the CCS GEDI committee permissions to convert the winning poster “Care for Country” by Maggie-Jean Douglas - a Gubbi Gubbi artist from SE QLD, was selected to be converted to an Acknowledgment to Country image for the Alfred Precinct.
We encourage you to select an image for prominent display at the entrance to Departments and CCS Office spaces to demonstrate support of First Nations staff and visitors.
These can be downloaded from the GEDI website, within our Initiatives section.

Other ways to demonstrate your support include:

  • Welcome to country at all meetings: Establish a protocol of commencing all meetings, seminars, workshops and events with a Welcome to Country or an Acknowledgement of Country. To understand which protocol to use when you are a visitor to an institute or University across Australia, and what to say, go here: https://www.indigenous.gov.au/contact-us/welcome_acknowledgement-country For CCS events, all of the Alfred Precinct is located within the lands of the Kulin people. “We acknowledge the Boon Wurrung and the Wurundjeri clans of the Kulin Nation who are the custodians of the land and waters, and pay our respects to Elders past and present.”
  • Acknowledgement to Country in your email signature: “We acknowledge and pay respects to the Elders and Traditional Owners of the land on which our four Australian campuses stand. Information for Indigenous Australians”
  • Understand inclusive language and behaviours: Demonstrate your respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by understanding inclusive language and behaviours. It is important to recognise that, in some parts of the country, the term ‘Indigenous’ can be considered offensive. That is, it has scientific connotations which have been used historically to describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as part of the ‘flora/fauna’ rather than the human population of Australia, and can be seen as a homogenising label for what are, in reality, highly diverse identities. There are a number of resources online that provide guidelines to correct usage when referring to First Australians. This is one we found: https://www.narragunnawali.org.au/about/terminology-guide.

Find out more

If you want to know more about what organisations, in particular Monash University, are doing to support reconciliation of the nation, Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) provide a framework for organisations across sectors to realise the vision for reconciliation. There are five interdependent dimensions to realising this vision: race relations, equality and equity, unity, institutional integrity and historical acceptance. Please visit the Monash University RAP here: https://www.monash.edu/indigenous-australians/about-us/strategy-governance

Also visit the William Cooper Institute, a hub for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research, learning and engagement to promote First Nations leadership and advancement across Monash University.

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