Indigenous spirit shines brightly
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and students joined Indigenous Elders and First Nations peoples from around the world last month for the eighth gathering of Healing Our Spirit Worldwide, an event celebrating Indigenous identities and traditional cultures.
Co-hosted by the University of Sydney and the Healing Foundation, Healing Our Spirit Wordwide was held at the International Conventional Centre, Sydney, and attended by First Nation Elders, traditional healers, young leaders and cultural custodians from countries like Canada, Hawaii, New Zealand, Norway and the United States, as well as trauma experts, academics, politicians and service providers.
The University supported 88 staff and 30 students to participate in the gathering’s inspiring four-day program. The program featured more than 200 national and international Indigenous speakers covering topics including traditional child rearing, cultural and language reconnection, mental health, and traditional medicine.
Among the line-up of speakers were three of Sydney’s own, all proud to participate and share with and meet other Indigenous peoples from around the world.
Professor Juanita Sherwood
A proud Wiradjuri woman, Professor Sherwood has been a driving force behind building cultural competence across Australia and was the founding Director of the University’s National Centre for Cultural Competence.
“First Nations communities from around the world face similar challenges resulting from hundreds of years of colonisation, and the solutions to those issues will come from our shared wisdom and experiences,” said Ms Sherwood, Associate Dean, Indigenous Strategy and Services, Faculty of Medicine and Health.
Ms Sherwood, co-chair of the organising committee for the gathering, added: “By sharing stories and highlighting successful education and healing opportunities, participants learnt from each other and created a different future For Our Grandchildren’s Grandchildren, the overarching theme of the 2018 gathering.”
Dr Lynette Riley
Dr Riley is a Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi woman from Dubbo and Moree and a Senior Lecturer at the Sydney School of Education and Social Work.
“This is one of those opportunities as an Indigenous person to fill my soul, with the learnings and teachings from other Indigenous people,” said Ms Riley. “I hope my contribution was able to assist in this process as well.”
Ms Riley presented her PhD research examining the conditions of academic success for Aboriginal students in schools at the gathering.
Professor Jakelin Troy
Professor Jakelin Troy is a Ngarigu woman from the Snowy Mountains and Director Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research. Ms Troy presented a plenary session on the survival, revival and continuity of the Australian languages.
“This gathering provided a rare opportunity to talk about the big issues affecting Indigenous people on a global scale,” she said. “I enjoyed exploring so many different languages and cultures in one place.”
“There is huge scope for global collaborations with Indigenous communities around the world – and for the expansion of our research networks both nationally and internationally,” Ms Troy added.
Sydney first university to co-host Healing Our Spirit Worldwide
“If we are to be a University which values cultural inclusion, then we need to see this in action through events such as this,” said Professor Sherwood.
“This event provided an opportunity for our community to gather, share, listen and learn from global First Nations communities, as well as strengthening the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community here at the University of Sydney.”
The gathering also provided a forum for the University to act as an ambassador for the power of education and research, and for laying foundations for future change.
“I hope there will be greater respect for the importance of all Australians having a balanced education informed by its First Peoples, and that we develop national networks for growing research projects,” Ms Sherwood said.