JCU Without an Indigenous Representative

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By Domanii Cameron

 

The Queensland State Government has failed to give James Cook University any reason as to why an Indigenous Representative was not appointed to the University’s Council.

 

It is the first time in almost 20 years that there has been an absence of indigenous representation on the Council.

 

JCU Council Secretary Michael Kern says it is a very disappointing matter.

 

“We were given no reason as to why someone wasn’t appointed,” Kern says.

 

“On this occasion, the government actually didn’t support our nominations, which is quite unusual.

 

“The two previous governments did support the recommendations.

 

“We have a pretty gold star process on how we choose [a candidate].

 

“It is very annoying.”

 

Mr Kern says, however,  JCU has no statutory obligations to have an indigenous representative in Council.

 

“The Council can still do its job.

“However it is just really important for us and the university to have an Indigenous person participating in decision making at the highest level.”

 

The Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Reference Group are working on developing a process that could help ensure that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander representative will be appointed in the future.

“So really now, the only avenue left for the university would be through its additional member and because of all the uncertainty that was going on in the lead up to the transitional hand over period, the Chancellor asked the Council to extend the appointment of the current additional member, Mr Ernie Landy through to the end of 2014,” Kern says.

“So potentially at the end of this process, and we now know who’s on the council.

“If there was no Indigenous representative and the Council thought that it was very important, they could well move to seek to appoint a new representative but it would require quite a deal of lobbying and support.

 

“I think we’re the second highest university with Indigenous enrolments.

 

“I think it’s a valid question to ask; why don’t we have a representative.”

 

Eddie Koiko Mabo Library at JCU. PHOTO CREDIT: Google Images

Eddie Koiko Mabo Library at JCU. PHOTO CREDIT: Google Images

 

JCU is the only university in the Western Hemisphere who has a main library named after an indigenous member of the community.

 

Former advisor to the Vice Chancellor on Indigenous matters and current Adjunct Professor at JCU Gracelyn Smallwood says she is disappointed that not many people are investigating into the matter more.

 

“I think it’s very sad that there’s not too many people kicking up about it actually,” Smallwood says.

 

“I am extremely disappointed especially where there is such a major disparity between educational outcomes, between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians which is why there’s such a big promotion in government and non-government institutions about closing the gap.”

 

Smallwood says she is displeased regarding the current political climate.

 

“I would strongly advise the Council to ask why there isn’t an Indigenous representative.”

JCU Chancellor John Grey says he wasn’t impressed by the decision either.

 

“I think its very disappointing that we don’t have an Indigenous representative at the moment and that was the decision by the government,” Grey says.

 

“I’m not impressed by that especially considering our dedication towards reconciliation.”