Indigenous cultural immersion enhances graduates

Friday 27 May 2016

students Narran LakeFish traps, smoking ceremonies and artefacts featured in a three-day cultural immersion excursion in north-western NSW for students at Charles Sturt University (CSU).

Five teacher education and two social work students, accompanied by three CSU academics, developed their understanding of Aboriginal people, their culture and history with the expert assistance of tour guide Mr Jason Wilson, a Youaloroi and Gamilaroi man.

The group visited Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Brewarrina, with overnight camping at the Narran Lakes Nature Reserve, as part of a CSU undergraduate Indigenous cultural immersion program.

Lecturer in the CSU School of Teacher Education in Dubbo Ms Maria Bennet said, "This was a rich and genuinely moving experience that provided a variety of opportunities to deepen understanding of the intimate connections that exist between people, land, flora and fauna.

"We saw first-hand the strength of connections and relationship structures that are at the heart of Aboriginal communities, and learned about some of the interrelationships that exist in communities. This contributes to the Indigenous cultural competence of our students and enhances their potential as global citizens."

Ms Bennet said this excursion arose in response to students who participated in the 2015 cultural workshops and requested more workshops and field trips to better develop their understanding of Aboriginal communities, their history, culture and ways of being and doing.

"This and similar cultural emersion experiences for our students are a manifestation of the University's commitment to promoting reconciliation through increased understanding of Aboriginal people," Ms Bennet said.

"Furthermore, we recognise that pre-service teachers in particular need opportunities to engage meaningfully with the culture, experiences, histories and contemporary issues of Indigenous communities."

guide Jason WilsonTeacher education student Mrs Janet Mansour said as a result of the excursion she realised there is so much more understanding to be had when actually standing on the country that the person is explaining about, and more informed questions can be asked.

"I now have a real understanding of the distance and difficulties that remote communities face," Ms Mansour said. "Sometimes Dubbo seems pretty far away, but really it is fairly central in the state.

"I also now understand that when developing relationships with Aboriginal families and children, time and honesty of intentions are essential because of the systematic destruction of Indigenous culture by people who look like me.

"The way I think about approaching Aboriginal children and families has changed. I think I will need to be far more reassuring of my intentions, and to warmly and engagingly show that I do care."

Mrs Mansour said she and the group were impressed by the way their gracious guide and hosts answered questions and explained the purpose and meaning of artefacts and the effects of broken language on Indigenous culture.

"Our tour guide Jason Wilson was excellent in sharing knowledge, and so patient and calming," Mrs Mansour said. "I loved not being in a hurry, and that every town we went to he was greeted so warmly. It was like travelling with a celebrity.

"The cultural centres and galleries at Lightning Ridge and Brewarrina provided insights, as did the fish traps and the ancient refrigeration technology," she said.

"Learning about the Hospital Creek massacre was very moving, and I recognise it is up to all of us to not forget but to remember, and to strive to be a peaceful and a caring, sharing nation, not a destructive one."


Media contact: Bruce Andrews, (02) 6338 6084

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews.

The 'Gamilaroi time-honoured sleep-out' cultural immersion program excursion was from Friday 20 to Sunday 22 May, and was made possible by generous funding by the CSU Dubbo Student Representative Committee.

 The top picture shows CSU students at Narran Lake. The picture below, taken by Mrs Janet Mansour, is of Indigenous tour guide Mr Jason Wilson at the camp.

CSU cultural emersion excursions are underpinned by, and support undergraduates to engage with, CSU's Reconciliation Statement (2007); the Universities Australia Framework (2011); CSU's University Strategy 2013-2015 (2012); and CSU's Graduate Outcome 5 (2012).