JCU unveils its Reconciliation Action Plan

ENGAGE: Jacinta Elston and Eliza Glasson are eager for students at JCU to get to know the Reconciliation Action Plan for further engagement with the indigenous communities.

James Cook University is tackling the lack of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge through implementing the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

By Sandra Haaland

ENGAGE: Jacinta Elston and Eliza Glasson are eager for students at JCU to get to know the Reconciliation Action Plan for further engagement with the indigenous communities.

ENGAGE: Jacinta Elston and Eliza Glasson are eager for students at JCU to get to know the Reconciliation Action Plan for further engagement with the indigenous communities.

Reconciliation Australia, a not-for-profit organisation launched the Reconciliation Action Plan in 2006.

The plan provides models for various organizations to draw up their own RAP, to identify opportunities and activities towards teaching culture, language and history to non-indigenous people.

Working together

Associate Dean for Indigenous Health at the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Science Jacinta Elston is an Aboriginal woman who is engaged in projects for Australian Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders including the RAP.

“This is about us positioning ourselves, the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders agenda within the university in a way that will take us forward,” Jacinta says.

“This represents the first change of indigenous structure since the late 90´s at JCU.”

Jacinta says there has been a huge change in the perceptions of indigenous culture over the past 20 years and the new Reconciliation Action Plan aims to update the universities policies.

“This university is very committed to the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders activity and agendas,” she says.

RAP also aims to strengthen relationships between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-indigenous people.

Project Officer for Cultural Competency at JCU, Eliza Glasson says the initiative will help people to learn about traditional indigenous culture.

“A lot of non-indigenous people have little knowledge about the culture and history, so we are creating opportunities for them. “ Eliza says.

Five platforms

The RAP strategy document has five platforms the first being recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culture and values.

The second platform is to make JCU the employer’s choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the third is about cultural competence of the staff and students.

The plan aims to give JCU students an understanding of indigenous perspectives, while supporting the staff and enhancing the curriculum.

Eliza hopes through encouraging the staff to engage indigenous culture, history and issues in their course future students will graduate with a better understanding.

“We want doctors, nurses, psychologists and people in general to have knowledge about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culture and history, so they can better engage with them in a way that creates understanding and respect,” Eliza says.

“The geologists do not understand that when he blows up a cliff that it might be a very significant place for the first Australians,” Eliza says.

Jacinta says the fourth platform is to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and get those who are out there in here.

The fifth platform is achieving parity.

“We want to recruit more indigenous students to our programs, and have the same percent of indigenous people living in northern Queensland to study and graduate at our university,” Jacinta says.

In April the work group for RAP will engage widely with students and staff to talk about the plan and ask for feedback on what has been drafted.

Opportunities for students

“We hope that students will take time to consider what the RAP is proposing, and what we can all do to improve our relationships, respect and opportunities with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, “ Eliza says.

“It is important to us to know that when our students graduate, our community perceives them as capable and confident about working within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” Jacinta says.

The Reconciliation Action Plan is being launched in this year’s NAIDOC-week 1-5 September.

[Picture of Jacinta and Eliza: ENGAGE: Jacinta Elston and Eliza Glasson are eager for students at JCU to get to know the Reconciliation Action Plan for further engagement with the indigenous communities.]