I didn’t realize, until it was pointed out to me, that the Flinders University logo is problematic among the Aboriginal community. It’s the image of the sailing ship, of course, and all that symbol has come to mean in terms of colonisation and dispossession, echoing to today’s need for reconciliation and ‘closing the gap’.
But yesterday I discovered that the word Yunggorendi is more than the Aboriginal name for the ‘First Nations Centre for Higher Education and Research’. It is a Kaurna word for university. And it means, ‘to impart knowledge, to communicate, to inform’. From a Kaurna perspective, knowledge lies sleeping in the land. So I get the picture of education as creating awareness of the knowledge that is already there, waiting to be awoken – not so far removed from Flinders and ‘The Investigator’.
This is what Yunggorendi says about its values on the Flinders website:
The name Yunggorendi was given to the Centre by Kaurna people, traditional owners of the lands and waters on which the Bedford Park Campus of Flinders University is situated. The values by which Yunggorendi conducts our affairs are framed from our name and core purpose – ‘to impart knowledge, to communicate, to inform’ in and through higher education:
- Respect – for First Nations Peoples’ knowledge systems.
- Commitment – to ourselves and others to explore and define the depths of knowledge locally and globally, to enable us to re-enrich ourselves, to know who we are, to know where we came from and to claim our place in the future.
- Empowerment – of the descendants of Indigenous Australian people to claim and develop their cultural heritage and to broaden and enhance their knowledge base so as to be able to face with confidence and dignity the challenges of the future.
- Reciprocity – as a guiding principle of sovereignty, reconciliation and nation-building.
- Inclusiveness – of the aspirations of our students, staff and Communities for the purposes of positive transformation of Indigenous social, political and economic life and well-being.
- Collaboration – in culturally safe environments to serve the needs of Indigenous peoples, their Communities and the broader community.
- Interconnectedness – by recognising that our collective future involves connectedness, relatedness and synergies, where sharing and trust are critical to pathways by which knowledge and understanding within, between and across communities of interest can be fostered.
- Integrity – through transparency, commitment and high standards.
- Generosity of spirit – through a desire to share joy, knowledge and insights with others.
- Creativity – by drawing upon human and non-human spirit, emotion, intellect and physical capability to find solutions, seize upon opportunities and create gifts for the world.
These are values Oasis would also affirm.
In the ‘old Oasis’ the entrance foyer was designed to ‘say’ that everyone who entered was on Kaurna land – as is said in acknowledgements before public meetings. The facing blue wall represented sky, the side yellow walls represented sun and the burned-orange floor the red sands of the desert. All five paintings on the wall were Aboriginal.
Most people who entered were probably not aware of this symbolism, but we hoped Aboriginal people would get it, and feel at home.
But this intention was not just to pay respects to the original and continuing custodians of the land.
All religions are imports! So religious leaders themselves ought to acknowledge the secondary place of their religions with respect to the indigenous religions of the land. It is a matter of humility among religions, and justice and respect for others. We all stand on Aboriginal land and that should contextualize our own faiths!
The ‘new Oasis’ will need to give priority to Aboriginal culture and engender humility among its users.
And maybe the University might change its title from Flinders University to Flinders Yunggorendi, to reflect that priority.