New centre to examine important reconciliation matters

By: Professor Andrew Gunstone   |   Executive Director, National Centre for Reconciliation Practice   |

Over the past six years, I have had the privilege to lead reconciliation and the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) at Swinburne University. Over this time, we have provided strong national academic and industry leadership in reconciliation.

Our 2017-19 RAP was the first university RAP to be recognised by Reconciliation Australia as an Elevate RAP. Our current 2020-23 RAP is also an Elevate RAP. We co-organised the inaugural National RAP Conference and co-signed, with 13 other Elevate RAP organisations, a declaration of support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Our 2020-23 RAP’s Vision is that Swinburne University will be a place where reconciliation is core to our culture, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are culturally safe, and where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges are embedded throughout the university.

Building on our strong history of leadership in reconciliation, I have recently established the National Centre for Reconciliation Practice. The National Centre is our 2020-23 RAP’s national transformational leadership commitment. It will advance national industry, community and academic understandings of reconciliation and will help lead national systemic change.

The National Centre explores the opportunities and challenges relating to the Australian national reconciliation journey, looking at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples' connections with reconciliation, through a rich program of engagement, outreach, education and research activities. 

It examines nationally significant reconciliation matters, such as: Reconciliation Australia’s Five Dimensions (historical acceptance, race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity and unity), cultural safety, Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous rights (self-determination and treaty), meanings of reconciliation, place, reconciliation movements, reparative justice and truth-telling.

The National Centre has the following four interrelated programs. Each are led by Swinburne Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics. The programs have been selected as they are critical elements for sustainable reconciliation and are key areas of our RAP. In addition, reconciliation technology will be a strong focus for the National Centre.

  • Cultural Safety, led by Wiradjuri scholar Dr Sadie Heckenberg, which focuses on the area of culturally safe engagements with Indigenous peoples.
  • ​Indigenous Knowledge, led by Woiwurrung/ Yorta Yorta/ Ngarai illum Wurrung man Dr Andrew Peters, which explores applications of Indigenous Knowledge in contemporary societies.
  • Indigenous Rights, led by Garrwa scholar Emma Gavin, which explores historical and contemporary Indigenous rights and resistance, nationally and internationally.
  • Reconciliation Movements, led by Wiradjuri scholar Dr Wendy Hermeston, centring on Australian and international reconciliation movements.

The National Centre is very fortunate to have an outstanding external Advisory Board.

  • Yorta Yorta man Ian Hamm (Chair)
  • Bidjara and Birri Gubba Juru woman Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA
  • Yorta Yorta woman Karen Milward
  • Narungga, Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri man Professor Lester Rigney AM
  • Peter Morris

Some of our current projects include:

  • Exploring the history of the past three decades of the wider Australian reconciliation movement, looking at where the movement has come from and why we are where we are today, to better understand the current reconciliation movement.
  • Analysing the national reconciliation movements in Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, and their impact on reconciliation, Indigenous rights, treaties, engagements and relationships.
  • In partnership with Reconciliation Australia, developing a range of national RAP and reconciliation impact measurement tools that will be made available to the RAP network.
  • In partnership with Reconciliation Australia, creating industry focussed online training modules on RAPs and reconciliation that will also be made available to the national RAP network.
  • In partnership with Reconciliation Victoria, examining attitudes and knowledges on a range of reconciliation matters among the Victorian reconciliation movement.
  • Creating a range of online modules on Indigenising higher education and vocational education that will be made available to tertiary institutions across Australia.
  • Working with the Ebony Institute on empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and changing communities.
  • Through the Swinburne Teachers and Regional and Remote Schools project, supporting pre-service teachers in regional and remote placements, focussing on building strong understandings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander standpoints and STEM education.

The National Centre is very interested in engaging with industry, communities, academia and governments to help lead national systemic change in reconciliation. Please contact me through if you would like more information or would like to engage with the National Centre.

The National Centre will be launched on 2nd June. Please register through this link. The launch will include a panel, to be moderated by myself, that will explore a range of key reconciliation matters, such as truth-telling, treaties and the Uluru Statement from the Heart:

  • Yorta Yorta man Ian Hamm, Chair of the National Centre Advisory Board
  • Bidjara and Birri-Gubba Juru woman, Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA, member of the National Centre Advisory Board
  • Swinburne’s Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous Engagement Professor John Evans
  • Reconciliation Australia’s Co-Chair, Melinda Cilento

May. 26, 2022

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