Study unit represents new direction for Oorala Aboriginal Centre

Published 05 December 2011

flagpicA new unit of study at the University of New England will give students experience in working with Aboriginal people.

“Working with Aboriginal People”, designed and delivered by UNE’s Oorala Aboriginal Centre, sets a new direction for the Centre. Although designed specifically for students aiming to work with Aboriginal people, the unit will also be of interest to any student wishing to explore relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. It will be available in Trimesters 1 and 2 in 2012.

The unit will be coordinated by Rose Lovelock, a lecturer at the Oorala Centre, who has extensive experience in Indigenous services and community development. Ms Lovelock’s research interests include self-empowerment through cultural knowledge, Indigenous knowledge in higher education, and cross-cultural training. “I hope UNE students will see this unit as an opportunity to be part of the solution – to learn new and interesting ways of unpacking the age-old problem of race relations,” she said.

“Working with Aboriginal People” (unit code: OORA200) will examine the history of relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples to gain an understanding of the dispossession, resistance, adaptation and survival of Aboriginal peoples in Australia. Students will be challenged to examine and reflect on their own role as an “actor” within the dynamic of ethnic interchanges.

The unit provides a fundamental introduction to working with Aboriginal people – importantly, from an Aboriginal perspective. It will give students the opportunity to develop the cross-cultural awareness essential for working with Aboriginal people in a variety of professions, and in local and regional contexts. In this way it will assist UNE’s contribution to the national Closing the Gap initiative and its “social inclusion” agenda by providing students with relevant skills and understandings delivered from an Aboriginal perspective.

“Working with Aboriginal People” is designed to help non-Aboriginal students become more fully engaged with Australia’s historical and social realities by providing them with tools and skills to develop a way of thinking about  contemporary Australian society that is based on an understanding of the history of relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people,” said the Director of the Oorala Aboriginal Centre, Debra Bennell.

“Getting equity of opportunity for Aboriginal students is still important,” Ms Bennell said, “but educators’ key role is in ‘closing the gap’. Universities supply the professions with graduates, and thus create the system. We need to produce doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. who are equipped to go out and change the system.”