University global experience pivots for home truths

University of Newcastle

A renowned scholarship program at the University of Newcastle will look very different this year, with students heading across New South Wales for a transformative cultural experience.

The Ma & Morley scholars together with members of the Gomeroi Dance Company

The 'Ma & Morley' Scholarship Program has been running since 2018 and aims to provide students with an eye‐opening, life changing opportunity to travel. Previously, this has been to China.

With COVID-19 conditions and travel advice in place, the usual experience has not been possible for the past three years. Now, the 2020 scholars are preparing for an invaluable cultural immersion of our own ancient history.

Almost 3,000 kilometres of country will be travelled from Newcastle to Broken Hill in an 11-day period, with a focus on Aboriginal connections to people, place and spirituality or purpose.

Wiradjuri man and University of Newcastle's Pro Vice Chancellor of Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, Nathan Towney, said the trip will be invaluable.

"This opportunity showcases the commitment we have to our Aboriginal communities and to learning and respecting our traditional culture," Mr Towney said.

"It closely aligns with all the values of the Ma & Morley program of equity and respect, and student's will be able to learn about the education and health priorities of the communities we visit, as well as the social and environmental challenges they face."

Part of the trip includes a breakfast hosted by Mr Towney's mother in his hometown of Wellington, with fellow University leadership member, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Mark Hoffman also jumping on board the bus.

14 students across multiple disciplines will be under the guidance of respected cultural educators throughout the trip.

Ngemba Elder, Uncle Paul Gordon, and Wiradjuri and Ngemba Aboriginal cultural educator, David Newham, will be supporting their learnings throughout the on-country experiences as the group travel and engage with local communities including Glen Innes, Moree, Walgett, Brewarrina, Menindee, Wilcannia, Broken Hill, Dubbo and Wellington.

Rod Coote, a Bachelor of Teaching (Humanities) (Hons) graduate said he is excited to hit the road.

"I'm really looking forward to getting out in the countryside again with the other scholars to see the sparseness and, how different our own backyard here in Newcastle is," Mr Coote said.

"Driving those open roads and also just to have really nice conversations when we're on the bus and to connect, with each other and the land - This is what I'm really excited about."

The journey also allows scholars to hear first-hand accounts of how policies and systemic racism have impacted Aboriginal peoples and families.

The itinerary includes a visit to Nanima Mission that was established in the early 1800's ‐ Australia's longest continually operating Aboriginal Reserve and the first inland Aboriginal mission, as well as the site of the Hospital Creek massacre.

Through dance, art, country, significant sites, and history – the trip is an invitation for an inward learning experience.

It will explore the history of governance, including the past and current management of the Murray‐Darling Basin, as well as experience ancient sites like the Brewarrina Fish Traps – One of the oldest human‐made structures in the world.

A major focus for the 'Ma & Morley' immersion is engaging with local community-led organisations, with a planned performance by 100% Aboriginal-owned and operated Gomeroi Dance Group, visits with local Aboriginal health bodies and NAIDOC Week activities with the Miyay Birray Youth Services.

The trip will begin with a smoking ceremony at the University of Newcastle's Wollotuka Institute on Monday.

/University Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) might be of the point-in-time nature, and edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News does not take institutional positions or sides, and all views, positions, and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s).View in full here.