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More than a word – University of Southern Queensland academics take action on reconciliation

The theme of National Reconciliation Week 2021 is ‘More than a word: Reconciliation takes action’ and it’s a sentiment University of Southern Queensland academics have embraced.

Dr Raelene Ward, an Aboriginal Kunja woman, and Associate Professor Celmara Pocock, have successfully facilitated collaborations between very different faculties in the name of equality, opportunity and highlighting the voices of First Nations People.

A senior nursing lecturer and expert in Indigenous suicide and social and emotional wellbeing, Dr Ward said a strong emphasis on developing working relationships with non-Indigenous researchers and in partnership with First Nations People, has ensured that research is meaningful and has impact from the perspective of First Nations People and community. 

An example of this collaboration exists between the School of Nursing and Midwifery and the Centre for Heritage and Culture with the development a new position, First Nations Engagement Officer, to lead and inform the UniSQ-led Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub regarding First Nations perspectives on drought. 

“This position illustrates action in a meaningful way that directly supports our First Nations People’s expectations,” Dr Ward said.

“It provides a platform to amplify First Nations voices as part of a research program that is critical to the future of Australia’s ability to be prepared for, and resilient to, the impact of drought – it is a great acknowledgement of the importance of Indigenous perspectives.

“Through taking a collaborative approach to what was already underway through our university Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), it’s allowed for meaningful conversations around the significance of including Indigenous perspectives at all levels of research and the workplace.

“Like all RAPs there is incremental work that must continue to be done but I am proud of the work we are doing here at UniSQ.”

The Director of UniSQ’s Centre for Heritage and Culture Associate Professor Celmara Pocock said the theme of National Reconciliation Week speaks to what a lot of research participants in her and Dr Ward’s projects have been reporting.

“It’s said often – the time for talking is done and it’s time for action,” Associate Professor Pocock said.

“In a research sense, action means giving back to the community in a meaningful way, and following ethical guidelines to ensure that Indigenous perspectives and values are included in a relevant and appropriate way. This should extend to all areas of academia and research – not just to those individuals or disciplines who traditionally work or research Indigenous issues.

“At UniSQ, we’re promoting those values in the work we’re doing every day and there’s a commitment to continuing to build respectful relationships that support the First Nations staff, academics and senior researchers. It’s up to all of us to act to ensure this continues.”

National Reconciliation Week 2021 begins today (May 27) and runs until June 3. 

#MoreThanAWord #NRW2021

dr raelene ward standing by hospital bed
University of Southern Queensland Senior Lecturer Dr Raelene Ward.