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Students claim win in Koori Centre backdown

Support staff will remain at the Centre for two days per week after students negotiate with Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Michael Koziol reports

The Koori Centre will continue to house student support workers after the university backed down on Wednesday and agreed to changes demanded by protesters. The staff will now be based in the Centre for at least two days per week.

Students have been resisting the university’s dismantling of the Koori Centre since the process began at the end of last semester. Under the vision of Deputy Vice-Chancellor Shane Houston, support staff will be primarily located within the faculties rather than at the Centre itself.

A senior student with the Koori Centre, who wished to remain anonymous, said it would make an important difference to the welfare of Indigenous students.

“Having our support workers down there means that it’s a friendly, happy sort of space, instead of just a common room and computer room,” the student told Honi Soit.

“The Koori Centre is like a community, and if you take that proximity away, not only our contact but our community spirit is lost.”

The decision resulted from a meeting held between two protesters and Professor Houston following a protest march from Fisher to the Quadrangle on Wednesday. The students intend to keep pressing for more concessions from the university. “Hopefully we can talk him up to full time,” one told Honi.

Professor Houston yesterday released a media statement denying the university intends to close the Koori Centre.

“We are currently working to expand the range of services and opportunities available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to study at Sydney,” he said. He emphasised that the Koori Centre’s common room, library, and computer facilities would remain, but made no mention of plans to retain office space for staff.

Professor Houston was in Canberra yesterday and could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson could not confirm whether the agreement about support staff had taken place.

Students have a plan B if their demands are not met: taking it to the Vice-Chancellor’s office. A senior student told Honi that the Chancellor, Marie Bashir, had “expressed a lot of concern and gave us the contact into Michael Spence’s office”, which they are yet to use.