Aboriginal students to protest to ‘Save the Koori Centre at Sydney University’

Students from the Koori Centre released the statement below on October 29.

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Join us in saving the Koori Centre.

The Koori Centre puts their collective view.

The Koori Centre is a space in the University of Sydney on the ground floor of the Old Teachers' College that allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to gather in a community environment to study together.

It is also a place where we can be around people that share our understanding for our culture and understand where we come from. To put it bluntly, the students in the Koori Centre are people that can relate to each other. They’ve all been through the same experiences as each other and create a massive support for each other that cannot easily be found elsewhere in the mainstream education system.

Ray Jackson, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, who attended the previous meeting called to discuss the issues, stated that he was shocked and saddened by the planned closure of the Sydney University Koori Centre by Professor Shane Houston.

Shane was appointed to his university position in April 2011 and in his statement made at that time he said: "I want to bring the passion, energy and determination that were part of Aboriginal people's lives throughout this history [of the University] to the task of graduating further generations of Aboriginal and Australian leaders, and to finding answers to the many challenges facing Aboriginal people today. I want to build a fair and more compassionate Australia."

Jackson continued: “As an Aboriginal man himself one wonders what has changed the thinking of Shane from one of great and high ideals to a low assimilationist attitude to the Koori Centre. Our great social pioneer for the rights of Aborigines, Charlie Perkins and those on the 1965 Freedom Rides will be absolutely disgusted by the University's closure plans. Especially for a University that bred so many social giants since the days of 1965. So many Aboriginal firsts and now they clumsily seek to shut down the Koori Centre. The students I had the pleasure to meet at the meeting still need the passion, energy and determination assistance that Shane proudly boasted of eighteen months ago.

“What has so radically changed? Certainly Australia still has a long way to go to reach Shane's 2011 statement.”

Recently Professor Shane Houston, along with the Vice Chancellor, has begun to threaten the existence of the Koori Centre by slowly removing some of the support we have as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. During this year two of our main support staff have been removed from the Koori Centre itself and placed on the other side of the university. This has taken away the availability of them to us and destroyed a substantial means of communication between us.

It makes it very difficult to get the support we need from them when they are no longer in full contact with us. The support officers have also not been able to attain access to the Koori Centre common room. This is ridiculous.

This university prides itself on its support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and boasts about being one of the first Universities to accept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students but it cannot give us decent support. It makes a massive deal about how much it “contributes” to closing the gap but cannot give us decent support.

On the entrances to the University there are signs along the paths stating that the university proudly acknowledges that it is built on Cadigal country but it cannot give us decent support. The university grants a space for international students in the Wentworth Building but cannot give the traditional custodians decent support. It grants a space for the Islam religion to practice its traditions but is cannot give us decent support.

We have no problems that these actions are done for the equal rights of all students but we seriously question the move to have double standards apply to us.

Help us make it happen

Meet 1pm Wednesday, October 31 outside Fisher Library at Sydney University to march to the Koorie Centre, then to the University Administration to deliver them petitions demanding they stop attacking the Koorie Centre.

[Call Kyol 0429 678 695 for more information.]

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