First Nations activists support arts students' occupation

August 21, 2016
Sydney protest on August 17 to save the SCA. Photo: Peter Boyle

First Nations activists Raymond Weatherall and Ken Canning have sent solidarity messages to the students occupying the Sydney Arts School (SCA) in protest at the University of Sydney's corporatisation plans.

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I am Ngarr Birriwa Galimaay, I am Gamilaraay, Goonal Goonal clan. Through my uncles I have started my cultural journey and have begun to learn how important art is for expression, story telling and empowering ourselves and future generations.

In being forcibly assimilated so much of cultural arts and forms of expression have been lost through the generations.

Our youth are modernising culture through various forms of art, not only to express themselves but also to form their own cultural understanding and connection within themselves.

This also enables others to share in our culture through better understanding so that it can be enjoyed by those who are not Indigenous to this country, without using our sacred dances and songs.

SCA is vital in allowing Aboriginal people to be able to have a form of reflection in which to express themselves and find their balance.

My son attends a graphic arts and visual design school, one of two in Australia and I want him to be able to do a degree in arts and have access to studios and learning specific to this area.

I support the need to keep SCA open where it currently stands, keep our studios available and to retain Degrees in the arts for future generations. This is very important.

We stand in solidarity.

Raymond Weatherall

I am a proud Murri from the Bidjara I am a proud Murri from the Bidjara People is south west Queensland and have lived here in Sydney since 1979.

I am the co-founder of Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS and worked as an academic and cultural advisor for more than two decades. The move to close the College of the Arts at Sydney University is deplorable and is not a sane decision-making process.

This proposed move from Callan Park to Camperdown campus will result in 60% of the staff being cut — a terrible imposition on the visual arts course.

The cuts at universities is being driven by profit-obsessed men from the business sector and has no bearing at all in equity of education. This appears to be the first step to eradicating all arts-based courses to drive students into courses that are more suited to the corporate world.

This has been the case since universities let businessmen grab control of tertiary education. If this is allowed to happen, what will be next? Are we going to have universities that will only teach business, law and science?

The madness has to stop.

All courses have to have an equitable level of funding: if one faculty is being forced out, where is the equity in allowing other faculities to be fully funded.

Vice Chancellors and federal governments have joined forces to ensure students end up paying a fortune for their eduation. The very least they can do as a learning facility is to let students study in the areas of their choice.

The funding cuts to courses is not the way to run any so-called educational institutions. If funding cuts are needed, maybe all those suits running the teriary educational institutions, including state and federal ministers of eduction, need to take a pay cut? That would be the only sensible course of action to save money.

Ken Canning/Burraga Gutya

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