UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture launches Indigenous Strategy

08 Sep 2021
UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture launches Indigenous Strategy

The new ADA Indigenous Strategy outlines a blueprint for Indigenous determination and empowerment in the faculty.

UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture (ADA) has developed a new Indigenous Strategy that embeds its commitment to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, students and programs to realise their full potential. Launched recently, it provides a blueprint for Indigenous determination and empowerment in the faculty.

The strategy was written in response to the UNSW Indigenous Strategy – launched by the Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous in 2018 – and is aligned directly with its three pillars: Culture and Country, Give Back, and Grow Our Own. It sets out strategic objectives across interrelated key areas of research, education, engagement and employment. This is to ensure that collaboratively developed policies are established to effect long-term change in the educational outcomes of First Nations students, and the intellectual and cultural integrity of Indigenous teaching and research. 

Dr BJ Newton, Wiradjuri woman and inaugural Associate Dean Indigenous at UNSW ADA, led the development of the strategy, working with First Nations ADA students and staff and supported by Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders across the University. 

Dr Newton said the strategy has been designed to ensure UNSW ADA is a place where First Nations staff and students can flourish, secure in knowing that their history is recognised and their diverse experiences are understood and valued.  

“Since its inception, ADA has recognised that a serious commitment needs to be made to facilitate a safe and supportive environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff. This document is the first step to embedding these perspectives, priorities and inclusion in the faculty,” Dr Newton said.

“The ADA Indigenous Strategy is an important step forward for the University, as ADA is leading the faculties with a clear alignment of the new faculty to the Indigenous Strategy,” said Cobble Cobble woman and Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, Professor Megan Davis. “It shows ADA’s commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, researchers, and students, and to improving the environment that we, as First Nations people, work and learn in.”

Leilani Tallulah Knight, Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi Queer artist and Bachelor of Fine Arts/Arts student, designed the artwork for the document and was also involved in forming the strategy with Winangala Gurrugurrubaa – the Indigenous Student Shadow Board for UNSW ADA.

Leilani said the work, entitled ‘U gonna listen now?’ speaks to her university experience and its influence on her identity as a Queer Indigenous artist. 

“This work draws on the collective knowledges and traditions passed throughout my family and the subsequent inter-generational traumas obtained through regressive government policies and harmful racial stereotypes,” she said. 

“At its heart, this piece truly reflects the resilience of Indigenous cultures and is a beacon to centre community and healing at the centre of institutional policies. As I have shared my pain with UNSW and encapsulated my tremulous journey within the institution’s domain, I seek truth telling and justice from those in power.”

Dean of UNSW ADA Professor Claire Annesley said the ADA Indigenous Strategy forms the foundation of a diverse new faculty and sets the direction for fulfilling its vision and mission. 

“This is an Indigenous-led strategy which has my full support,” Prof. Annesley said. “It commits UNSW ADA to become a place that is culturally safe and inclusive for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, staff and guests, that improves how we engage with First Nations communities and knowledges, and to listen and to learn about the people, place and cultures of the lands on which we study and work.” 

Dr Newton said the next stage will involve bringing the strategy to life within the faculty through a five-year implementation plan that will set out actions to meet the objectives and embed the Indigenous Strategy into UNSW ADA. The ultimate goal is to embed the ADA Indigenous Strategy into all faculty business. She hopes the strategy launch will inspire other faculties across the University to develop their own Indigenous strategy. 

“I hope this document sets the foundations for true Indigenous equity and inspires other faculties to do something similar and to heed the call to recognise the importance of having Indigenous leadership, expertise and support opportunities for students and staff to achieve what they want in the world.”

Download the ADA Indigenous Strategy here.