I thank Professor Houston for engaging with the article “Uni Failing Indigenous Students”. I would first like to address a statement Houston made that I found disturbing, accusatory and cruel – “I thought they would support more of our mob getting to the University”. I absolutely DID NOT state that Indigenous peoples engaging with tertiary education is bad. I will always fight for Indigenous rights, especially where they are grossly underrepresented in University.
The support and dedication provided by that the Indigenous Student Support Staff at the University of Sydney is unparalleled. I believe this is the reason for increased student engagement with student support staff, not Wingara Mura. In terms of the recent hiring of additional support officers – This change is not a result of Wingara Mura. Students tirelessly fought and campaigned for it.
In a meeting with Deb Reid (Manager, Trust and Engagement ISS Department) at the beginning of semester, I was informed that there was no overarching plan that I would be able to access in the mean time. Professor Houston has repeatedly been telling Indigenous students over the past 2 years that the Koori Centre was not being replaced, and Deb Reid stated otherwise.
I do congratulate the University of Sydney ISS Department and Compass for the success of the Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu programme. It is an initiative that I am glad to see at the University of Sydney in lieu of the historical success of the University of New South Wales Indigenous Winter School. I hope that this programme continues for many years to come.
Let me make perfectly clear my intention for writing the article: to some, the dissolution of the Koori Centre might be old news but it is something that has severely impacted the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community on campus. It was my intention to bring this issue back into public discourse in order to tell the university that we haven’t forgotten what they have done to us and we still haven’t forgiven them.
I want to make it very clear that this article is not meant to interrogate anyone other than Professor Houston. The article sought to indicate the lack of transparency and communication between the ISS department and Indigenous students. All I ask is that Professor Houston and the ISS department tell students what is going on, what they are planning, and how we can be involved.
Vice President, University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council