March 31 for universities is a bit like June 31 for accountants. It is our stocktake day when our student numbers solidify for the year. At the University of Wollongong we are delighted to see our student numbers for both onshore and offshore programs coming back in healthy numbers. We cannot deny the challenges of the last few years and we are so glad to see our campuses coming back to life.
Amongst our many new students, we were delighted to welcome our first cohort of Vice-Chancellor Leadership Scholars, exceptional young people from our region. With the Vice-Chancellor's Leadership Scholarship, we seek to inspire a new generation of young, local, passionate leaders, and give them the knowledge, skills, and worldviews to be future leaders from and for the Illawarra. This includes students who attend high school in the Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, Shoalhaven, Eden-Monaro and Wingecarribee local government areas. The UOW Vice-Chancellor's Leadership Scholarship will challenge recipients to develop leadership potential alongside a network of like-minded students striving to create positive change in our communities.
Despite the challenges of the recent weather, we were delighted to see our students attend UOW's inaugural Campus Fest in large numbers throughout February and March, featuring headline music acts, food, stalls, clubs and societies, and a range of academic and social activities to welcome students to UOW. The pandemic has emphasised the importance of community and we know that many of our local towns have missed our students.
UOW will take over WIN Entertainment Centre for our prestigious graduation ceremonies in May.
We also know that the pandemic meant that many of our students missed the opportunity for an in-person graduation ceremony and as a result, UOW graduation will look a little different this year. For the first time ever, UOW will bring our 2019, 2020 and 2021 graduates into the heart of our city, as we take over the WIN Entertainment Centre for our prestigious graduation ceremonies in May. We couldn't be prouder to showcase our wonderful city to both our graduates and their families on this momentous occasion.
The other important development for UOW's 2022 graduation ceremonies is a greater focus on inclusivity for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families. Our traditional academic procession will now be led by a smoking ceremony and the sounds of the Yidaki (didgeridoo), followed by traditional Aboriginal dance and song and a Welcome to Country. Our academic procession will also wear the Aboriginal flag on their gowns, while a beautiful artwork titled 'Cultural Healing' donated by the Coomaditchie Aboriginal Corporation will be woven throughout the ceremony and represented on everything from our commemorative graduation booklets, through to the flags flying high outside of the WIN Entertainment Centre.
We recently launched our revised Reconciliation Action Plan at UOW, and we are committed to walking the reconciliation journey as partners with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues, students and community. We are committed to making change and having the tough conversations that lie ahead. The beauty and heritage of our region and icons, such as Mt Keira, emphasise the importance of taking care of our environment and learning the wisdom of our traditional owners.
As a University community committed to being a force for positive change, we have an important role in progressing national reconciliation through awareness, education, and action.
In recognition of this role, the University Council has made a significant commitment on behalf of our community by formally pledging UOW's support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and campaign.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart advocates for a voice for First Nations people to be enshrined into the Australian Constitution and for a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of truth-telling and healing. It is a call to all Australians to support the rights of First Nations people to have a say in the laws and policies that affect them and join in creating a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. At the heart of this campaign is the aim to make constitutional reform through a referendum.
By signing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, we are loudly saying to our country's leadership that UOW imagines a future where all Australians are united by our shared past, present, future and humanity - we want this future to be a reality.
We are very excited about the year ahead at UOW and thank the community for their continued support. We couldn't do it without you.
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