UNIVERSITY of Southern Queensland’s contribution to the Fraser Coast Indigenous community and culture has been recognised in this year’s NAIDOC Week Awards announced yesterday (July 7) at the Flag Raising Ceremony in Hervey Bay.
USQ Fraser Coast won the Business/Organisation Award, which recognises a business or organisation whose values embrace cultural differences, promoting best practices that offer inclusion to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas congratulated USQ Fraser Coast on winning the prestigious award.
“Congratulations to all who contributed to making that award possible; it’s a great achievement,” Professor Thomas said.
USQ Fraser Coast Student Dimity Shillingsworth was also rewarded with the Female Young Leader Award, whichrecognises a young person who has excelled through leadership, culture, music, art, employment, education and/or training, environment and politics.
Campus Executive Manager Brett Langabeer said it was a real honour for USQ Fraser Coast to be recognised for its work with the local Indigenous community.
“Receiving that award on behalf of USQ yesterday was an honour and privilege,” Mr Langabeer said.
“The award reflects the relationship and engagement USQ has with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that it serves.
“We are particularly proud of our Indigenous students including Ms Shillingsworth who received her youth leadership award.
“USQ’s work in the Indigenous community speaks for itself, especially where the Vice Chancellor set up the USQ Elders and Valued Persons Advisory Board (EVPAB), and also the Buallum Jarl-Bah Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Committee (BATEC).
BATEC is an advisory group made up of Butchulla Elders, community members and USQ personnel that promotes education to local Indigenous people. It also encourages and supports participation and retention programs as well as aspiration pathways within the Indigenous community.
Mr Langabeer said a recent example of USQ working with community organisations and groups was the creation of a new position – Indigenous Community Engagement Officer – from July 1.
“That is testament to what USQ does in Hervey Bay and Maryborough,” he said.
“Our retention, participation and success rates for Indigenous students have increased significantly in recent years.
“We’re seeing more and more Indigenous students having great experiences and achieving success.
“Those students are role models in their own communities. They are seen to have the courage to start tertiary education. Through their own persistence they have achieved and now working in their chosen fields and benefiting from their education.
“I applaud the efforts of USQ’s engagement in Hervey Bay and Maryborough including Linda Wondunna-Foley’s work with the Indigenous community.”
USQ Fraser Coast has more than 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait students from Gympie to Bundaberg studying a range of disciplines from business and law to human services, education and nursing, and many more coming through USQ’s Pathways Programs.
Nine USQ Fraser Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students graduated last year and several more in May this year.