Dean's Letter: In this together

A special letter from our Dean for National Reconciliation Week.

Dear Students,

Last Wednesday was the launch of National Reconciliation Week, also recognised and celebrated at the University. Since 1993, this annual event is a time to reflect on Australia’s history and strive for a more just and equitable relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

This year the theme is In this Together – and it feels particularly pertinent given the circumstances we’re all in. In times like these, we look for leaders. Some of the standout examples of political leadership during the pandemic have come from Indigenous communities, who have continued calling for protection of vulnerable community members and to preserve the knowledge of their elders.

Dr Michelle Evans is one of our leadership experts in the Faculty. She’s been working on a project interviewing Indigenous politicians to find out how they navigate political life. In a recent article with Michelle Deshong, she spoke with three trail-blazing Indigenous women politicians.

Indigenous Australians were only granted citizenship in 1967, despite living on the continent for at least 65,000 years. It took a further 47 years for the first Indigenous woman, Nova Peris, to be elected to federal parliament. The women Dr Evans spoke with told her of the different pathways they took to political office. They spoke of the intensified racism they face. And they spoke of the joy of achieving a win for their constituents.

Olympic gold-medallist Nova Peris, a descendant of Yawuru, Kiga and Murran/Iwatja tribal nations, was elected to the Australian senate in 2013. She describes politics as a game – a game that is sometimes brutal:

“The way I deal with this is to constantly have this hat on – my job here is to make a difference. As long as that’s my job and decisions are made, policy decisions are made, funding cuts are announced, they have a huge impact on people’s life, I will come out and say that it is a lousy decision.”

Reconciliation is something I feel very strongly about. The deep commitment of these trailblazing female politicians to stand up for what they believe in and to represent their people, is truly inspiring. Please do read Michelle’s article.

The University is running a number of events for National Reconciliation Week – and I encourage you to get involved. There are still many ways you can find out more and participate in galleries, film screenings and even play lists until tomorrow. You can find out about these events, and more generally about Reconciliation. You can also find other ways of recognising the week through Reconciliation Australia.

Life is starting to become a little more normal in Australia. As of June, we’re allowed a few more freedoms – like sitting in cafes or travelling within Victoria. While the lifting of restrictions is a positive and shows how far we have come, we still need to be careful and responsible when we’re out of our homes. Please keep up to date with the latest from the Victorian government.

The weeks leading up to exam and final assignments can be a stressful time. I hope you are making good progress and revision with both. Make sure you take regular breaks and rest your mind as well as your body and consider using the stay positive resources of the University.

Stay safe, stay well,


Paul Kofman