Boandik culture celebrated

Boandik culture celebrated

ANyina Ba Kalawa/yarning circle and Wirringka Student Services Mount Gambier Study Centre were launched at the University of South Australia (UniSA) Mount Gambier Campus.

A special opening was held on campus last week, with Aunty Penny performing a Welcome to Country and ‘Native Born’ by Archie Roach before Uncle Doug began a smoking ceremony.

The yarning circle, constructed by Gambier Earth Movers and Oxigen architects, celebrates the culture and tradition of the Boandik Peoples, the traditional custodians of Mount Gambier and surrounding areas.

Southern Ground provided native plants which surround the yarning circle, planted by TAFE SA horticultural students.

The study centre is a supportive and friendly environment for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students.

“Because our students, a lot of them drop out of school, so this here at UniSA is a big attraction to bring our Aboriginal students in,” Aunty Penny said.

“When I was growing up, I wish we had something like this; when I left school, I was lost, I wish I had mentors behind me.

“So, to see all this, it is beautiful for our young ones.”

UniSA regional manager Mount Gambier Ian McKay said the yarning circle was an important addition to the campus.

“We have worked closely with Boandik Elders, particularly Aunty Penny and Uncle Doug, in establishing a yarning circle on our Mount Gambier campus,” Mr McKay said.

“It is exciting to see this collaboration come to fruition with the opening of the Nyina Ba Kalawa/yarning circle.

“The yarning circle will become an important part of our campus as a place where both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students and staff can learn from one another, build respect, and share knowledge.

“We were delighted the launch of the Nyina Ba Kalawa/yarning circle was able to coincide with our Mount Gambier Graduation Day so that senior UniSA staff were able to attend and experience the wonderful sense of calm and place the yarning circle creates.”

Aunty Penny said the yarning circle was a safe space people could visit and expressed the importance of connecting cultures.

“A place like this, this is so inviting for our Indigenous students, because it is friendly and they know, they connect it straight away because of the old ways of sitting around the campfire and they know that this is where they belong,” Aunty Penny said.

“It is good for wellbeing for the health of our youth.”

Wirringka Student Services manager Leata Clarke said the yarning circle was a great opportunity for an outdoor learning space.

“From an Elders perspective, I think it was called for, acknowledging country and that connection to country and the opportunity to learn that cultural teaching,” Ms Clarke said.

“It is available to everybody, so it is to create that connection and reconciliation of anyone who wants to come and use this space.”

Ms Clarke said it was important to ensure Aboriginal people were looked after, embraced, and brought into the education system.

“It is critically important that we keep encouraging our mob to come in to the education system to better themselves and their communities and economically grow,” she said.

“It is the recruitment, retention, and completion that we need to focus on as a university, to ensure we have those safe spaces such as the Wirringka study centre, so students feel they can go and learn, and they are not going to be pointed out or picked on or judged.

“It is a safe environment from a cultural perspective as well, they can feel supported and want to come to university.”

Indigenous Student Success Program deputy chair Neville Rankine said students connecting with our Elders in a culturally safe environment was important.

“The connection fire, to smoke, to yarning circles is always important within our culture,” he said.

“It is a way we open up our communications with individuals so our Auntys and Uncles can pass on their stories to the young ones, so they become the next Elders, they become the ones that spread to word to the next generation.”

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