Reconciliation Week 2013

24 May 2013

Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), planting a hand in the Sea of Hands at last year's Reconciliation Week.
Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), planting a hand in the Sea of Hands at last year's Reconciliation Week.

Ever wondered what it's like to be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student at the University of Sydney? Want to have an open, honest discussion of racism in Australia? Interested in putting your own mark on one of Australia's largest public artworks or biggest national projects?

The University of Sydney is celebrating Reconciliation Week 2013 with a host of engaging, provocative and educational public events from Saturday 25 May until Monday 3 June. Attend free public talks on racism or constitutional recognition, take a guided tour of Indigenous artefacts at the Macleay Museum, or see what it's like to be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student in a video exhibition on Eastern Avenue as part of this year's program of events.

It's been a momentous year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement at the University of Sydney, with the introduction of its ground-breaking strategy, Wingara Mura - Bunga Barrabugu, which seeks to expand Aboriginal education, research and engagement to become part of the core activity of the University.

The University of Sydney also cemented its place as the leading elite university for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates. More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students graduated from the University of Sydney than any other Group of Eight university, with 77 students donning cap and gown in 2011 - almost 17 percent higher than the nearest competitor in higher education.

"The University of Sydney is immensely proud of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage," says Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services).

"People have been teaching and learning on what are now the grounds of the University for tens of thousands of years. Just as we are the University that produced the nation's first male Aboriginal graduate and that was the starting place for the ground-breaking Freedom Rides in 1965, we are passionate about moving ahead in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education with genuine changes to attitudes, policy and practice. "

Star of the hit ABC TV series Redfern Now, Aaron McGrath, will address more than 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from 18 schools, who will visit the University during Reconciliation Week for the fifth annual Indigenous Students Experience Day. A further 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in years 11 and 12 will attend the University's official flag raising ceremony and sharpen their study skills and HSC preparation.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence said he hoped the entire community would join the University to mark this important occasion.

"As one of Australia's leading universities, we are committed to leading by example in the national process of reconciliation. This year's Reconciliation Week will be an excellent opportunity for the University and our community to celebrate the steps we've made so far and think about ways of continuing our improvements," Dr Spence said.

The full program of events includes:

Flag-raising ceremony

See the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags raised on the University's iconic Clocktower flag pole in support of reconciliation in Australia. Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) will speak at the event. Enjoy a free barbecue lunch while being entertained by the Darlington Public School choir. The flag raising ceremony will be attended by numerous members of parliament from pacific nations including Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati and the Republic of Marshall Islands.

When: 12.30 to 2pm, Monday 27 May

Where: The Clocktower, the Quadrangle, University Avenue, Camperdown Campus

Bookings: Online registration requested at

The 'C' Word - the Challenge and Necessity of Changing our Constitution

The Australian Constitution has not been amended for more than 35 years. In fact, with only eight of 44 total referendums successful, changing our Constitution is a notoriously difficult task. With a referendum proposed in the near future, three leading experts will discuss the possibility of constitutional change. What are the chances of achieving a 'yes' vote? Are Australians ready to erase the racial discrimination in our founding document and include recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians? And what does it mean if we don't? In line with the national theme for Reconciliation Week 2013, 'Let's talk recognition', join Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and Indigenous rights advocate Dr Tom Calma AO, world-leading University of Sydney constitutional law expert Professor Anne Twomey, and international reconciliation expert from UNSW Associate Professor Sarah Maddison in a discussion of national identity, Constitutional change and the next steps for reconciliation in Australia. A NSW Reconciliation Council and Sydney Ideas co-presentation

When: 6 to 7.30pm, Tuesday 28 May

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus

Bookings: Free with online registration requested at

'I'm Not Racist but…' interactive forum

Hear four diverse speakers take the floor for 10-minute 'lightning talks' on the topic 'I'm Not Racist but…', followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A. Designed to encourage the audience to speak openly and think critically about racism, panellists include hip hop artist and producer Joelistics, communications consultant and eco style writer Yatu Widders Hunt, social and political commentator Geoff Lemon and solicitor and community activist Tasnim Saeid. The discussion will be moderated by Triple J presenter Alex Dyson, and will include a performance by soul singer, rapper and spoken word artist Radical Son. A NSW Reconciliation Council and Sydney Ideas co-presentation

When: 7 to 8.30pm, Saturday 25 May

Where: Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, corner of City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale

Cost: $15 (transaction fees apply) at the Seymour Centre

'People like us' exhibition

Hear the inspirational stories of 16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, staff and alumni from the University of Sydney. This immersive exhibition, located in a shipping container on bustling Eastern Avenue, invites its audience to see what university life is like for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from a range of backgrounds in disciplines as diverse as medicine, law, fine arts and business. Take a walk in someone else's shoes and explore 15 video profiles projected on to the walls of the shipping container.

When: 9am to 5pm, Monday 27 to Friday 31 May, and 10am to 2pm, Saturday 1 to Sunday 2 June

Where: Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus

Breaking through - unique perspectives on making an impact in your community

Three trailblazing Australians from three different walks of life feature in this free public talk, co-presented with the Australian of the Year Awards. NSW Young Australian of the Year and current University of Sydney Business School student Corey Payne joins Senior Australian of the Year Ron Allum and Australia's Local Hero Shane Phillips to share their thoughts and personal experiences on how to change world. For Payne, who established the Future Direction Network to provide support for young people to progress to tertiary education, a passion for building ambition and aspiration in young people from disadvantaged backgrounds inspires him to make a difference. Allum, a submarine designer, assembled a team of engineers and technicians to build the world's most innovative submarine, which was the first to carry a solo submariner 11 kilometres to the deepest point in the world's oceans. Phillips is making a difference as an advocate for Aboriginal Rights, and will discuss his community leadership in youth issues, juvenile justice and Aboriginal deaths in custody.

When: 4.30 to 5.30pm, Thursday 30 May
Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus
Bookings: Free with registration requested at

Macleay Museum guided tours

Indigenous Heritage Curator Matt Poll will lead exclusive tours of the University's Macleay Museum, showcasing the 'Peoples of the Rainforest' exhibition of Indigenous artefacts from Queensland and the the 'Outlines' exhibition of 19th century Indigenous art and artefacts from New South Wales and the Pacific region. The Macleay Museum will be open especially for Reconciliation Week on Saturday 1 June.

When: 2.30 and 3.30pm, Monday 27 May, and 10am until 2pm, Saturday 1 June (museum open 10am to 4pm)

Where: Macleay Museum, Gosper Lane, Camperdown Campus

Bookings: Online registrations essential at

Sea of Hands installation

The University's iconic Quadrangle will play home to one of Australia's largest public artworks and the focal point of Reconciliation Week in the city of Sydney. Put your hand up for reconciliation by signing your name on a plastic hand and planting it in a design on the lawns in front of the University's famous sandstone clock tower. The hands will be arranged in a symbolic design by a Sydney College of the Arts student.

When: 10am to 2pm daily, Monday 27 May to Monday 3 June

Where: Front lawns, University Avenue, Camperdown Campus

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