This is the text of Professor Attila Brungs' closing remarks at the Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony that were conducted on Monday 23 May 2022 to welcome students and staff onto Bidjigal land ahead of UNSW Sydney's Term 2 Orientation-Week (O-Week) activities.
On behalf of everyone here this morning, my thanks to Aunty Yvonne Simmons and Uncle Glen Timbery and their helpers, Uncle Craig and Glen for your wonderful, very moving welcome.
I also acknowledge the Bidjigal People and the La Perouse community upon whose ancestral lands our campus now stands.
I would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present, acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for this land.
And thank you all for being here to be part of a ceremony which reminds us of the deep connection the Aboriginal people have to country.
What an honour it is to be invited to walk upon their land.
It is unfortunate that Professor Megan Davis, our Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, cannot be with us today and she sends her apologies. I know she is very disappointed.
Even more so, I’m sure, after Australia’s new Prime Minister said in his victory speech on Saturday night that his government will commit to the Uluru Statement from The Heart in full.
Megan is, of course, a driving force behind the historic Uluru Statement and will welcome this new step – as we all do.
In fact, so much of how UNSW embraces and celebrates the cultural heritage of our campus, the cultural footprint of the Bidjigal people, and our commitment to supporting the next generation of First Nations leaders, is because of our Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous.
It was also Megan and her fabulous team who developed our university’s first Indigenous Strategy with its three pillars:
- Country and Culture – nurturing a sense of awareness and respect for the people on whose land we meet today.
- Give Back – the goal of giving to Indigenous communities, which aligns with UNSW’s core value of having a positive social impact.
- And Grow Your Own – while the first two pillars are about making a supportive environment, this third pillar is about creating a pathway and pipeline of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholars, academic and staff.
This is all part of a holistic approach to Indigenous engagement, education, research, and student and staff recruitment.
Its aim is to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to further embed an understanding of First Nations history throughout the entire UNSW community.
I welcome you all to UNSW.
You have been part of an incredibly special ceremony.
I hope as you walk around the campus that you think of the people who have called this land theirs for tens of thousands of years and who so generously invite us to walk alongside them.