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Helping students learn to shape future of cultural engagement with Aboriginal Australians

Published:09 April 2019

TOP: Darumbal Elder Nhaya Nicky Hatfield prepares for her online interactive forum in the peaceful setting of the Yarning Circle on CQUni Rockhampton North campus. BELOW: Pictured with CQUni academics L-R Professor Bill Blayney, Dr Celeste Lawson, Dr Mary Frances O’Dowd, Dr Angelina Ambrosetti and Dr Mike Danaher.

How do CQUniversity students learn to shape a new future of cultural engagement with Aboriginal Australians?

The School of Education and the Arts enthusiastically supported inviting Darumbal Elder Nhaya Nicky Hatfield to engage in an interactive online forum with students from the fields of Arts, Education and Social Work. These students live all over Australia.

Nhaya Nicky engaged and yarned with students and developed their awareness of a Darumbal cultural perspective to foster more effective 'culturally just' workplace practices.

"What was taking place was a lecture, a dialogue, a yarning where deeply-considered and positioned in-country cultural advice was shared," says senior lecturer in Arts Dr Mary Frances O'Dowd.

"This enabled CQUni students as future professionals, and as everyday citizens, to be more effective and respectful when working with Aboriginal Australian people in their nations.

"It is so important to recognise that each Aboriginal nation in Australia has its own protocols of respect that people need to know."

Nhaya Nicky has been teaching her traditional Darumbal culture and language in schools on her Darumbal country for over a decade.

"I believe all Australian people, no matter what race, colour or age, should be taught about Aboriginal culture," she says.

"Ignorance and racism go hand in hand so educating all who live here about the First People of this country helps gets rid of that ignorance.

"It builds relationships that will continue into the future to make Australia a better nation for all people to live in."

Dr O’Dowd said many students were still deeply saddened that they were not told the true history of colonisation and suffered a nationalistic history where First Nations Australians were largely ignored.

"Some students ring in tears asking, 'Why didn’t I know about this? All I was taught was a lie about noble pioneers'.

"To understand the history, students are taken to a more thoughtful place, to reflect ethically, to a place of being open and mature and realise there is bad and good in all histories.

"To own the bad takes courage and a desire for an ethical future. Nhaya Nicky takes us forward into a new space of learning.

"We are deeply grateful for Darumbal Elder Nhaya Nicky Hatfield coming in to educate the students towards a better relationship of deeper respect and awareness of the need for restorative justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."

Dr O'Dowd says the School of Education and the Arts is fully behind challenging institutional racism and enabling students to be more capable.

"This lecture/ yarning activity reflects the commitment of CQUniversity and School of Education and the Arts to furthering efforts of cultural engagement and respect," she says.

The initiative by Nhaya Nicky Hatfield was supported by Dean Bill Blayney, Associate Professor Angelina Ambrosetti, Associate Professor Celeste Lawson, Dr Mike Danaher and Dr O’Dowd.