Reconciliation and Education Past-Present-Future Forum

Overview

With the introduction of the cross-curriculum priority in the Australian Curriculum and specific focus areas on teaching about Indigenous histories and cultures and Indigenous students, the urgency to support educators in their endeavours of building their knowledge and understanding about our shared histories and beyond has increased exponentially.

This forum reminds us that the past informs the present and shapes the future and so we ask, what are the possible futures for Indigenous education and reconciliation?

We will explore the many critical junctures of the past, present and possible futures for education systems in Australia. What are the challenges and successes that demand attention? What are the current and possible future directions for Indigenous education and reconciliation in Australia?

The forum is a place to address the historical, political, cultural and social contextual factors in which educational practice, policy and research take shape. 

We will interrogate whether current policy, pedagogies and praxis are answering the calls for transformative education and open up space to map out possible future directions. 

Program outline

Forum MC: Mx Sharon Davis

9:00 Welcome to Country
Ms Selina Walker, Ngunnawal woman

9:15 Co-host Forum Welcome
Ms Karen Mundine and Associate Professor Melitta Hogarth

9:30 The Past
– Aunty Geraldine Atkinson
– Aunty Professor Tracey Bunda
– Professor Leanne Holt
– Associate Professor Joe Sambono
Discussant: Associate Professor Melitta Hogarth

11:00 Morning tea

11:30 The Present
– Mr Max Lenoy
– Mr Cameron Power
– Mr Danny Pinchas
– Ms Rhonda Livingstone
– Ms Sally Cooper
Discussant:  Professor Larissa McLean Davies

1:00 Lunch

2:00 AEDT The Future

– Professor Marcia Langton AO
– Professor Tom Calma AO
– Ms Dyonne Anderson
– Ms Shannan Dodson
– Ms Hayley McQuire
Discussant:  Ms Karen Mundine, CEO Reconciliation Australia

3:30 Closing Address

4:00 Forum concludes

All times shown are in Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT).

The Past

Panel 

  • Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, President, Victorian Aboriginal Education Association 
  • Professor Leanne Holt, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, University of New South Wales 
  • Aunty Professor Tracey Bunda, Professor, Indigenous Education, The University of Queensland 
  • Associate Professor Joe Sambono, Queensland University of Technology

     

Discussant:  Associate Professor Melitta Hogarth, Associate Professor in Indigenous Education, Faculty of Education & Project Director of Ngarrngga University of Melbourne  

Proposition

“This is not a matter of race, this is a matter of education and opportunity.  This is why we ask for a better education and better opportunity for our people” – Uncle Jack Patten, 1938 Day of Mourning 

For decades, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have advocated for opportunities to participate equally and equitably in all areas of life, inclusive of education. 

The inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and knowledge systems within education and other institutions has been a call to action by Indigenous peoples for decades. 

Looking back at the critical junctures where Indigenous peoples took up the opportunities to drive change, we celebrate the tenacity and strength of our Old People to better understand the present.     

Provocation   

 “Reconciliation does not work to a strict timeline like other projects.  It succeeds or fails in the hearts and minds of all Australians.” Dr Aunty Evelyn Scott AO  

What are the critical junctures in education where we have succeeded and failed to ensure that Indigenous Knowledges, histories and cultures are central to our work as educators? What can we learn from these successes and shortcomings?  

The Present

Panel

  • Mr Max Lenoy, ACARA 
  • Danny Pinchas, AITSL  
  • Cameron Power, ESA 
  • Rhonda Livingstone, ACECQA  
  • Sally Cooper AERO


Discussant: 
Professor Larissa McLean Davies, University of Melbourne 

Proposition

“Our vision is for a world class education system that encourages and supports every student to be the very best they can be, no matter where they live or what kind of learning challenges they may face.”  Mparntwe Declaration, 2019  

The aspirational goal set by Education Ministers to support every student to be the very best they can be is enacted and translated through the very systems that we are all a part of. 

Maintaining focus on promoting reconciliation through education ensures that opportunities are afforded to all Australian students to learn about the achievements and contributions of Indigenous peoples to Australian society.

Looking at the present, we interrogate whether current policy, pedagogies and praxis are answering the calls for equality and equity in education for all. 

Provocation  

It is evident that many Australians are unaware of our cultures, our histories, or the racism imbued in the Australian Constitution. That so many Australian people believe there is no race or division on race in the current Australian Constitution speaks to the need for better education on Australian history and better civics education.

“We have faith that the upswelling of support through this Referendum has ignited a fire for many to walk with us on our journey towards justice. Our truths have been silenced for too long” An open letter to the Prime Minister, MPs and Senators from a group of First Nations leaders, community members and organisations who supported a Yes vote in the referendum. 22 October 2023. 

As Australian citizens, and as representatives of education stakeholders, what are our responsibilities and strategies to respond to this statement? 

The Future

Panel

  • Professor Marcia Langton AO, University of Melbourne  
  • Professor Tom Calma AO, University of Canberra  
  • Ms Dyonne Anderson, Stronger Smarter Institure
  • Ms Shannan Dodson, The Healing Foundation 
  • Ms Hayley McQuire, National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition 


Discussant:
 
Ms Karen Mundine, CEO Reconciliation Australia 

Proposition

“Imagine an Australia where all future Australian citizens have a deep understanding of the depth, wealth and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and knowledge systems” Ngarrngga, 2022 

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination is at the centre of Australian education systems, which actively engage the hearts and minds of future generations to contribute to the reconciliation process”  Narragunnawali, 2023. 

Education plays a critical role in building a reconciled Australia.  As we look to the future, we recast our focus on the past and present and how these learnings can inform and shape our aspirations and work moving forward. 

In this place and time, we open space to map out the possible future directions in education to build positive two-way relationships informed by the collective rights of Indigenous peoples supported by the nation’s institutions.    

Provocation

Equality and equity is one of the five dimensions of reconciliation in Australia, and a review to inform a better and fairer education system is currently in place. 

“A fairer education system as one which actively honours the rights and self-determination of First Nations students, families and communities towards improved school-based experiences and,   

 A better education system as one which is culturally responsive and actively recognises the business and benefits of reconciliation for all members of educational communities” Reconciliation Australia submission to the Review to inform a Better and Fairer Education System, 2023.

What is the one thing that you can do to effect change in education to shape a better and fairer education system? 

Speakers and presenters

Mx Sharon Davis

Sharon Davis (pronouns: they/them) is from both Bardi and Kija Peoples of the Kimberley, and is a respected education practitioner and researcher.

Karen Mundine

Ms Karen Mundine

Karen Mundine is from the Bundjalung Nation of northern NSW. As CEO of Reconciliation Australia, she brings more than 25 years’ experience leading community engagement, advocacy, communications and social marketing campaigns.

Associate Professor Melitta Hogarth

Melitta Hogarth is a Kamilaroi woman and the Project Director of Ngarrngga. She is the Associate Dean, Indigenous, and Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne

Aunty Geraldine Atkinson

Aunty Geraldine Atkinson is a Bangerang/Wiradjuri woman who has devoted her career to expanding the possibilities available to Koorie people through education.

Professor Leanne Holt

Professor Holt is a Worimi/Biripi woman from the mid-coast of New South Wales. She is the inaugural Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous at UNSW.

Aunty Professor Tracey Bunda

Professor Tracey Bunda is a Ngugi/Wakka Wakka woman and The University of Queensland Professor of Indigenous Education.

Associate Professor Joe Sambono

Joe Sambono is a Jingili man and curriculum specialist in embedding Australian First Nations histories and cultures throughout the Australian education sectors, primary to tertiary.

Mr Max Lenoy

Max Lenoy is Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal, and Warungnu from North Queensland.

Mr Cameron Power 

Cameron Power is General Manager of Corporate Services at Education Services Australia and a current board member at Are-Able who focus on creating opportunities for inclusiveness in communities.

Mr Danny Pinchas

Danny Pinchas is the General Manager, Teaching and School Leadership at AITSIL and has more than 15 years’ experience as a leader across the education sector.

Ms Rhonda Livingstone

Rhonda Livingstone is the National Education Leader and General Manager of the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA)’s Leadership, Quality and Regulatory Support Group

Ms Sally Cooper

Sally Cooper is the Principal Advisor First Nations at the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) and has committed her career to driving positive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, with a focus on health and education outcomes

Professor Larissa McLean Davies, MGSE

Larissa McLean Davies is Deputy Dean and Professor of Teacher Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne. Her research spans the fields of teacher education and professional learning, literacy and English education and literary studies.

Professor Marcia Langton AO 

Professor Marcia Langton AM is one of Australia’s most respected Indigenous academics. She has held the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne since 2008.

Photo of Reconciliation Australia Co-chair Professor Tom Calma.

Professor Tom Calma AO

Professor Tom Calma is an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group in the NT. He is the National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking and Chancellor of the University of Canberra.

Ms Hayley McQuire

Hayley McQuire is a Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman born and raised in Rockhampton, Central Queensland. Her work is centred on community, relationality and convening new collectives to rethink education.

Ms Dyonne Anderson

Dyonne Anderson is a proud Githabal woman. She is CEO of the Stronger Smarter Institute and has over 30 years’ experience with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training.

Ms Shannan Dodson

Shannan Dodson is a Yawuru woman whose family is from Broome in Western Australia. She has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs for almost 20 years and is  the CEO of The Healing Foundation.

Sharon Davis
Board Member

Sharon Davis (pronouns they/them) is from both Bardi and Kija Peoples of the Kimberley.

Previously the Director of Education at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Sharon has a deep professional and personal commitment to social justice, equity, inclusion, and respect for all.

Sharon holds a Bachelor in Education (K-7) specialising in Aboriginal education, graduating with a number of honours, including the Vice Chancellor’s Medal for the University of Notre Dame’s School of Education. In addition, Sharon graduated from the University of Oxford with a Master of Science in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition.

Sharon believes that enhancing educational experience for Aboriginal students, families and communities’ benefits all.

Karen Mundine
Karen Mundine
CEO

Karen Mundine is from the Bundjalung Nation of northern NSW. As the CEO at Reconciliation Australia, Ms Mundine brings to the role more than 25 years’ experience leading community engagement, public advocacy, communications and social marketing campaigns. An architect of the landmark Australian Reconciliation Barometer, Ms Mundine works with governments, the business sector and civil society to advocate for change.

Over the course of her career, she has been instrumental in some of Australia’s watershed national events including the Apology to the Stolen Generations, Centenary of Federation commemorations, Corroboree 2000 and the 1997 and 2021 Australian Reconciliation Conventions.

Ms Mundine holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and was the winner of the 2021 Indigenous Australian UTS Alumni Award. In 2023 she was declared the National Winner of the Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership.

She is a Company Director of Gondwana Choirs, Sydney Festival, the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC), and Australians for Constitutional Recognition, and is a Member of Chief Executive Women.

Previous roles include: membership of the Australian Government’s Referendum Engagement Group; Director, Mary Mackillop Foundation; Deputy Chief Executive and General Manager Communication and Engagement, Reconciliation Australia; Senior Consultant, CPR Communications; and senior public affairs and communications roles with federal government departments including Prime Minister and Cabinet, Communications IT & the Arts, Health and Ageing, and Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Associate Professor Melitta Hogarth

Melitta Hogarth is a Kamilaroi woman and the Project Director of Ngarrngga. She is the Associate Dean, Indigenous and Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne.

Associate Professor Melitta Hogarth is a Kamilaroi woman and the Project Director of Ngarrngga.

Prior to entering academia, Associate Professor Hogarth taught for almost 20 years in Queensland, particularly in secondary schools. Her PhD on the rights of Indigenous peoples in education won multiple awards, including the Ray Debus Award for Doctoral Research in Education. 

Romlie Mokak

Romlie Mokak is a Djugun man and a member of the Yawuru people In March 2024, Rom completes a 5 year term as the first Indigenous Commissioner at the Productivity Commission. Previously he was Chief Executive Officer of the Lowitja Institute and the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association. Earlier, Rom held policy and program management roles in the Australian and New South Wales governments. Responsibilities spanned a range of areas including substance use, eye health, ageing and disability. Rom is a patron of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services and a member of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Board. 

Professor Leanne Holt

Professor Holt is a Worimi/Biripi woman from the mid-coast of New South Wales. She is the inaugural Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous at UNSW.

Contributing to Indigenous higher education for over 25 years she was previously the inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy at Macquarie University and prior to this co-Director of the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle. Dr Holt has Chaired and been a member of a number of national and international Indigenous education committees.

She is currently Chairperson of Yadhu Maru and the Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health, as well as Board member of Barabarang Aboriginal Corporation. Dr Holt is additionally a member of expert panels including the Department of Education Equity in Higher Education Panel and the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education Advisory Board.

She is an expert panel member for the Tertiary Education and Quality Standards Authority (TEQSA) and has Chaired a number of panels reviewing Indigenous programs and services at universities nationally and internationally

Aunty Professor Tracey Bunda

Professor Tracey Bunda is a Ngugi/Wakka Wakka woman and The University of Queensland Professor of Indigenous Education.

She has an extensive three-decade career in the university sector as a leader of Indigenous Higher Education. Her research and scholarly interests address the value of storying as methodology, power inequities in white institutions and Indigenous women’s leadership.

Her most recent co-authored book with Louise Phillips is Storying Social Movement/s.

Associate Professor Joe Sambono

Joe is a Jingili man and curriculum specialist in embedding Australian First Nations histories and cultures throughout the Australian education sectors, primary to tertiary. 

Joe followed his passion and cultural connections to wildlife to start his career as a zoologist later merging his biology and cultural background with a career in education.

Joe has previously led national curriculum initiatives at the CSIRO and ACARA and is currently the Program Lead for Embedding Indigenous Australian Perspectives with the Queensland University of Technology.

Aunty Dr Matilda House-Williams

Max Lenoy is Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal, and Warungnu from North Queensland. 

He is the Curriculum Specialist, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Max is developing First Nations resources with communities, schools and institutions for the Australian Curriculum Version 9.0.

Mr Cameron Power

Cameron has held various executive roles across the not-for-profit sector and is currently General Manager of Corporate Services at Education Services Australia. Cameron is also a current board member at Are-Able who focus on creating opportunities for inclusiveness in communities. 

With a technology and financial background, Cameron has enabled organisations to develop mature processes, practices and strategies to life organisation’s capability. 

Cameron is a fellow of the CPA, holds a Master of Business Administration, and is a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. 

Mr Danny Pinchas

Danny Pinchas has more than 15 years’ experience as a leader across the education sector and joined Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) in 2013.

As General Manager, Teaching and School Leadership, Danny leads AITSL’s work across initial teacher education reform, quality teaching support, and school leadership development. Danny’s responsibilities involve driving and supporting the development and implementation of a range of policy initiatives and resources to empower teachers and school leaders.

Prior to joining AITSL, Danny held positions at the Victorian Department of Education and before that, spent several years in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, working in remote communities as a principal, teacher, and numeracy coach. 

Ms Rhonda Livingstone

Rhonda Livingstone is the National Education Leader and General Manager of the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA)’s Leadership, Quality and Regulatory Support Group.

Rhonda brings a wealth of experience to this role, having worked in preschools, long day care centres and as an assessor, developer and deliverer of programs and services for both government and non-government organisations

Ms Sally Cooper

I have committed my career to driving positive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, with a keen focus on enhancing health and education outcomes. I am currently the Principal Advisor First Nations at AERO (Australian Education Research Organisation),

I have a wealth of experience in stakeholder engagement, strategic analysis, and effective leadership. In previous roles as the National Director for Indigenous and Remote COVID-19 Governance at the Australian Government Department of Health, and as a Manager at NSW Dept of Education, I led teams in implementing innovative strategies that privileged First Nations voices.

My journey is marked by a steadfast commitment to creating culturally safe environments and fostering authentic collaboration with First Nations communities.

Professor Larissa McLean Davies, MGSE

Larissa McLean Davies is Deputy Dean and Professor of Teacher Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne.

A leading Australian academic, her research spans the fields of teacher education and professional learning, literacy and English education and literary studies. Her scholarship is concerned with issues of justice, anti-colonial and feminist practices and sustainability as this is manifest in teacher knowledge and curriculum enactment.

Larissa leads large teams that work closely with State and Territory Education Departments on these issues, to improve educational experiences for diverse learners.

Her long commitment to Australian writers and writing in education has resulted in invitations to speak at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, a partnership with the Stella Prize and the opportunity to Chair the Australian Literary Studies Gold Medal in 2023.

Shirley McPherson

Shirley McPherson is a Yamatji and Nyoongar woman from the Perth and Murchison regions of Western Australia. She has experience in program delivery and business development at the regional, national and international levels of government.

Shirley is a Chartered Accountant and has held senior positions in the private, government and university sectors. She is the National Business Development and Engagement Manager for AFL SportsReady.

Ms McPherson has been a consultant to the mining industry in negotiating land use agreements in Western Australia and held roles as Group Manager on Indigenous Strategy and Business with Leighton Contractors.

She was a member of the Australian Government delegation to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues.

Photo of Reconciliation Australia Co-chair Professor Tom Calma.
Professor Tom Calma AO
Co-Chair

Professor Tom Calma is an Aboriginal Elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja and Woolwonga tribal groups in the NT.

He is Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia (2011 to present), and lives on Ngunnawal country in Canberra.

He is currently the National Coordinator, Tackling Indigenous Smoking (2010-present), Professor of Practice (Indigenous Engagement) at the University of Sydney (2015-present) and Patron of the Poche Centres for Indigenous Health (2010 to present). 

He was a former Chancellor of the University of Canberra (2014-2023) and he previously served as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner (2004-2010) and the Race Discrimination Commissioner. (2004-2009).

He  has a special interest in Indigenous and non-Indigenous health, education, aged care, economic development and social justice.

Professor Tom Calma is the 2023 Senior Australian of the Year.

Ms Hayley McQuire

Hayley McQuire is a Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman born and raised in Rockhampton, Central Queensland. Her work is centred on community, relationality and convening new collectives to rethink education.

She is the co-founder and CEO of The National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition, Co-Chair of Learning Creates Australia and board director for a number of non-profit organisations.

She brings over 10 years of experience working across Indigenous policy and training, and has worked on education campaigns and initiatives with young people, coalitions and organisations from around the world. 

Liz Willis

General Manager Communications and Engagement

Liz has worked in a number organisations focussed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, culture and achievement including, National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

She also has experience working in government, corporate, and community organisations in related areas.

Liz has been with Reconciliation Australia since March 2020.

Ms Shannan Dodson

Shannan Dodson is a Yawuru woman whose family is from Broome in Western Australia. Shannan is the CEO of The Healing Foundation; a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that provides a platform to amplify the voices and lived experience of Stolen Generations survivors and their families.

She has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs for almost 20 years. Shannan was previously the Deputy CEO of NASCA and Co-Chair for the National NAIDOC Committee.

She has also worked on constitutional recognition for Indigenous peoples and Australian Marriage Equality campaigns. Shannan is passionate about First Nations’ rights and understanding mental health issues, particularly intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

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Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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