USQ Fraser Coast staff, students and traditional indigenous owners the Butchulla people came together on May 29, 2013, to commemorate National Sorry Day and National Reconciliation Week.
Indigenous dancer Richard (Joe Joe) Gala opened the one-hour tribute with the Welcome to Country dance and whale song on didgeridoo. Campus Executive Manager Brett Langabeer also welcomed everyone and invited them to make pledges of reconciliation in the Sorry Day Pledge Book.
USQ Fraser Coast has long had a strong affinity with the Butchulla people. Its Hervey Bay campus sits on land where the traditional owners used to live and has commemorated the work of Elder Aunty Olga Miller as a historian and writer with a garden on the campus named after her.
In 2010 the university also honoured the work of local Elder Aunty Marie Wilkinson who was awarded a Fellow of the University which recognised her long association with the university work and particularly for her support and guidance to indigenous students studying at USQ Fraser Coast.
National Reconciliation Week, an initiative that University of Southern Queensland is supporting, is held each year between May 27 and June 3 – the anniversaries of the successful 1967 referendum which gave the Commonwealth Government the ability to make specific laws for Indigenous people and of the High Court Mabo decision.
It follows National Sorry Day (May 26) that has been held since 1998 and also serves to mark the anniversary of the apology to Australia’s Indigenous people by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008.
USQ Vice Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas said the two events were significant milestones on the road to reconciliation.
“We have come a long way but there is still a lot of work to do,” Professor Thomas said.
“Nation Reconciliation Week is an opportune time for us to come together to acknowledge our shared history and celebrate our cultures.
“It gives us a chance to express our commitment to working together to improve current conditions and close the gap of disadvantage.”
Members of the public are invited to sign the Sorry Day Pledge Books located at USQ Fraser Coast’s A Block and C Block receptions.Feature photo: Richard (Joe Joe) Gala entertains the audience with a whale song on didgeridoo. Photos: JOCELYN WATTS