The University of Wollongong has launched a "meaningful" blueprint that places Indigenous knowledges and identity at the heart of its academic and cultural fabric.
The inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan was launched today to mark and celebrate NAIDOC Week.
Building greater connections with the Indigenous community and improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is the aim of the plan spearheaded by Professor Paul Chandler, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Inclusion and Outreach).
Prof Chandler was adamant the RAP was meaningful.
"From the outset, the inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan was always going to be unique, innovative, and set the tone for other RAPs across the nation. We had no constraints placed on it," he said.
This year's NAIDOW Week theme is "Voice. Treaty. Truth.", which acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have always strived for an enhanced role in decision making in Australia's democracy.
"We as Aboriginal people were empowered to ask questions, interview stakeholders, consult communities, research, share stories, and speak extensively with Elders and Knowledge Holders," Prof Chandler said.
"The themes, hopes and challenges arising from the university tended to align with the feedback we received from the communities we engaged. People wanted a RAP that went beyond pure tokenism and window dressing to a framework that displayed a real commitment to genuine reconciliation."
Professor Chandler, the first Aboriginal person to be named Dean (of UOW's then Faculty of Education) at any university in Australia, said he was proud to lead the plan and help bring Indigenous knowledges further into the higher education system.
People wanted a RAP that went beyond pure tokenism and window dressing to a framework that displayed a real commitment to genuine reconciliation.Professor Paul Chandler
"Before any title or award was bestowed on me through any Australian and international university, I was and remain to this day a proud Bidjigal man, a saltwater person from eastern Sydney," he said.
"I am one of the very few people lucky enough to have survived and thrived in two worlds, my traditional Aboriginal world and my university world."
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings said he was thrilled to help launch the plan, which aims to inspire institutional, systemic and cultural change through a process of learning, exchange and growth.
He said the RAP "challenges us to broaden our understanding of reconciliation and what that means for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, staff and communities".
"The plan will establish UOW as an organisation where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, cultures and values are respected and are reflected in our teachings and the attributes of all graduates," Prof Wellings said.
"We will create new opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, staff, communities and businesses to connect, participate and grow through genuine and productive relationships with UOW."
For the past two years, UOW has been working to integrate Aboriginal knowledges into the academic curriculum through the Jindaola program.
Jindaola builds relationships to allow Aboriginal stories, experiences, ways, and perspectives to be embedded within UOW curriculum.