Wirriga – the Indigenous word for goanna – is the name of a new society launched for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with the University of Sydney Union to promote cross-cultural awareness.
“We want to focus a lot of our attention on helping the wider community,” said Kyol Blakeney, SRC Indigenous Officer and President of Wirriga. “We’ll be partnering with local charities and organisations in Redfern.”
The club is planning a black tie fundraising dinner to be held during Reconciliation Week in 2014 with Her Excellency, Professor Marie Bashir AC, Governor of New South Wales as the guest of honour.
SRC Indigenous Officer and Wirriga Vice-President, Chloe Wighton, said the society is also open to non-indigenous students.
“We plan to hold guest speaker events with prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, workshops, and we’re looking at having a Johnny Cake stall or a bush tucker stall on Eastern Avenue to help other students understand our 60,000 year old history,” she said.
Blakeney said the society will give Indigenous students greater autonomy over Indigenous activities on campus, with Wirriga set to take the reins on next year’s Indigenous Festival. He and Wighton rallied for a boycott of the 2013 event due to a lack of Indigenous student involvement.
“The idea that it’s an Indigenous festival, yet no Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people were on the committee to run it, is like us getting together down at the Koori Centre and saying ‘let’s put on an Italian festival’,” he said.
“A lot of the people that were invited were not really well known or respected in the wider Aboriginal community… next year you can be assured there won’t be any breach in protocol.”