Stop mistreatment of Indigenous students at University of New England

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This petition is necessary to bring attention to the ongoing mistreatment of Indigenous students by the University of New England (UNE). This petition was mandated by a meeting of the local Aboriginal community in Armidale NSW on the 28th of November, at which attendees expressed absolute disgust and disbelief at the way in which Indigenous students are being mistreated.

Over the past year, there have been many incidents in which various Indigenous students have been mistreated by members of the Oorala Aboriginal Centre's management team (Indigenous & non-Indigenous staff members), including explicitly racist comments, overtly sexist behaviour, rampant bullying, intimidation, and biased treatment. These incidents have played a major role in fostering a highly toxic and culturally unsafe environment for Indigenous students studying at UNE. Indigenous students have been repeatedly denied access to decision-making processes which directly impact our future, such as UNE’s current Indigenous Governance Review. Oorala management have made decisions which have had a detrimental effect on their relationship with Indigenous students, including the removal of the Indigenous Student Association (ISA) from the Oorala Aboriginal Centre, and cutting the Targeted Tutorial Assistance program by 88% without consulting Indigenous students. UNE has also attempted to introduce burdensome and overbearing policies/rules which would, in effect, serve as a means for them to unfairly police Indigenous students’ identities.

Indigenous students have already utilized various formal channels to seek positive action from Oorala and UNE management, with the outcomes being completely unsatisfactory. These channels have included meetings and extensive correspondence with Oorala management, numerous complaints lodged to the UNE Student Grievance Unit, many communications with members of UNE management (i.e. Vice-Chancellor, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor), and eventually protest actions. In the face of overwheming evidence and widespread discontent among Indigenous students, UNE management’s apathetic and dismissive approach to the above issues demonstrates contempt for the future of Indigenous education at this university.

As current Indigenous students, our aim is to protect and continue the legacy of the Oorala Aboriginal Centre, established over three decades ago. We ask that the content of this petition be taken seriously and acted upon in a timely manner. This petition calls for the following:

1) An elected and representative ‘governance committee’ to be installed as the backbone of the Oorala Aboriginal Centre’s decision-making processes, ensuring the key stakeholders (Indigenous students, Indigenous staff, and the local Aboriginal community) are directly involved in shaping Oorala’s future, and ensuring Oorala management is accountable to these stakeholders;

2) Provide the opportunity for Indigenous students to be directly involved in UNE’s current Indigenous Governance Review (i.e. Indigenous student representatives to gain membership of the existing Indigenous Governance Review Working Party); and

3) The Vice-Chancellor of UNE and Director of Oorala to meet with Indigenous students and the local Aboriginal community to discuss and resolve the issues/concerns raised above.

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