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Ingrid (Ngoorlak) Cumming nee Collard is a Whadjuk Nyungar yorga (woman) and the Nyungar Cultural advisor at Curtin. Ingrid is widely recognised as a leader in research, community engagement and mentorship, including providing cultural advice and education for staff and students on campus in her role overseeing Curtin’s Indigenous Cultural Capability Framework (ICCF). She even presented a TedTalk, at TedXPerth in 2014.

Ingrid leads Curtin’s commitment to reconciliation and stresses the necessity for discussions, reflections and actions during and after Reconciliation Week to create lasting impact.

“Reconciliation Week brings awareness and time to reflect on some key dates in our history, bizarrely still widely unknown in our country. Things like the 1967 referendum, which finally included First Nations people in the census (we were not classified as plants and animals anymore in the eyes of the Australian Government), and Mabo Day (3rd of June) where Meriam Man from the Torres Strait, Eddie Koiki Mabo, disproved the myth made at first contact that no civilised society lived [in Australia] before European arrival in 1991.”

Image Credit: AIATSIS

Ingrid contextualises these dates to acknowledge our shared history and connect us all to what the calls for justice look like for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities now.

“This stuff is in our lived history and these two examples help us understand why things like lands rights, treaty, the Uluru statement, the apology and closing the gap were and are so important.”

Through the ICCF, Ingrid helps facilitate the development of Nowanup Bush Campus, where students and staff learn from and participate in Nyungar ways, on country. Students can enrol in the On-Country Learning, Exploring Australian Indigenous Knowledges, travelling to Nowanup and participating in a fieldwork unit for five days whilst learning from Indigenous Elders and Traditional Custodians about Nyungar ways of thinking, being, knowing and doing. Currently, the staff ICCF On-Country Immersion Trip is three days and represents one way in which Curtin’s Reconciliation Plan (RAP) promotes an understanding of Indigenous culture, language and heritage through facilitated learning.

Image Credit: Curtin University (Nowanup Bush Campus)

There is more than one ICCF for staff and students to participate in, offered by Curtin, including at Wadjemup (Rottnest Island).

“On our Curtin Cultural Immersion tours, we take staff and students to Rottnest [and] show them the earliest and largest deaths in custody site in Australia. We need to make sure that all these ‘words’ or deadly dialogue [are] resulting in actions to create the change we want to see for all Australians.”

For Reconciliation Week, Curtin is holding Wanju Curtin Mia tours that allow students and staff to participate in culturally immersive activities on campus.

Elisha Jacobs-Smith is a Whadjuk Nyungar man and Cultural Immersion Facilitator at Curtin. He operates the Wanju Curtin Mia – On country, on campus walking experience tours during Reconciliation Week at Curtin; Elisha shared his vision for Reconciliation with Grok.

“Reconciliation to me highlights the need for us to come together and connect to go forward into the future. We have a word in Nyungar called ‘dandjoo koorliny’ which means walking together; We’ve got to walk together, learn about our shared history, acknowledge the trauma that’s happened in the past so we can learn the good things, and then go together into the future.”

Image Credit: Curtin University

Ingrid highlights the importance of celebrating other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics to acknowledge the impact these leaders in their field have on the younger generation. And, similarly, the importance of First Nations youth in the space of Indigenous leadership.

“We need make sure we learn and empower all the amazing work of First Nations people from the past and present. Curtin examples include the work leaders and members of our Indigenous Leadership Group: Professor Stephen van Leeuwen, BHP/Curtin Indigenous Professor in Biodiversity & Environmental Science; Professor Sandra Eades, Dean and Head of Curtin Medical School; Dr Jonathan Bullen, Senior Lecturer at Curtin Medical School and Chair of the Indigenous Leadership Group; and Ms. Mandy Downing, Research Development Advisor in the Faculty of Humanities. There is also an urgency to listen to the young people and leaders, so we ensure we are supporting them, and incorporating their incredibly important voice in perspective on how we do business. Curtin does this via our student representative on the Indigenous Leadership Group, Kathleen Nelly, who is leading our First Nations student yarning circles to ensure their student experiences and voices are heard.”

Image Credit: National Indigenous Times

Reconciliation is more than a word; it takes action. It means Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people communicating and working together, learning our shared history and actively participating in and listening to Aboriginal ways of thinking, being, knowing and doing. It’s starting those conversations with your family and friends; even with that person in your family who might not want to listen and, therefore, you might take a different approach to engage them.

Only when we acknowledge Australia’s history of genocide of its First Nation’s people (in Tasmania), the dispossession, and disenfranchisement that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have endured post-colonisation, can we truly begin to heal as a nation. First Nations’ history is our history, it is shared, as we all live on boodjar (country) together.

Reconciliation is about researching Australia’s treatment of its Traditional Custodians, yarning with Elders and your community about their experiences, asking what you can do to get involved, and physically participating in change. It can be writing a letter to your local minister and asking how they are facilitating their RAP (and asking them to add a couple more targets). Or, completing the free Noongar Language and Culture MOOC online at Curtin. It can be as simple as turning on NITV, buying a copy of Koori Mail or jumping onto Reconciliation Australia to find out how you can put reconciliation into action.

“No matter what industry you work in, you will work with First Nations people. During a year [in] which we reflect on the importance of the ‘human factor’ being so critical in how we relate, work and do business, we have a long way to go to ensure that we are creating culturally safe and immersive spaces, programs, and outcomes for all Australians. The best way to ensure [that] you can be part of the change is to [participate in] the learnings, experiences and understandings during your training and studies—prior to your next journey in your career.”