Aurora Indigenous Scholars Celebration 2019

On Thursday 17th of November, 150 people gathered at Gilbert + Tobin for the Aurora Indigenous Scholars Celebration.

The aim of the Celebration is to showcase Indigenous achievement in education, both in Australia and on the world stage, and to redefine what Indigenous success in education looks like.

Attendees included eighteen Indigenous students and graduates selected for the 2019 Aurora Study Tour. They come from a wide range of disciplines - architecture, engineering, health and social work to name a few! – and are part of a growing community of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and graduates.

The Celebration also featured reflections including from 2014 Study Tour Participant and 2015 Charlie Perkins Oxford Scholar, Jessyca Hutchens.

Jessyca shared her insight into her experience of the Study Tour and its broader impact:

             “The Aurora Study Tour in 2014…really made all the difference to my future experience studying overseas at Oxford. First of all, the trip immediately made me a part of a group of peers, of incredible Indigenous thinkers and researchers from many different disciples. At the same time, we were constantly being introduced to these other First Nations students and academics...

            When we talk about Indigenous education we often speak about the role of stereotyping and expectations, particularly low expectations...When I think about the incredible scholars – in this room and who have come before – it’s the fullness of their complexity as creative thinkers, as people, that rewrites the script by defying expectations in many different ways...

The Study Tour began at the University of California, Berkeley and onto Stanford. They will continue to New York University, Columbia and Harvard before they head to the UK to visit Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics. Unlike at Australian universities, there are no alternative entry programs for Indigenous Australians at these universities.

Our new logo is designed by Gamilaroi artist Emma Hicks. Emma completed a PhD at Sydney College of the Arts in 2018. In 2013, she was awarded the Dr.Charles Perkins AO Memorial Prize. She is currently the Coordinator for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Learning Programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Can you tell us a little about the logo design?

I started with Aurora’s key themes: connectedness, inspire, guide, achieve, and integrity.

And took this with inspiration from rock pools. Each rock pool in the design represents one of Aurora’s five Programs.

In nature, all the components of a rock pool have a place and play an important part in the working of the ecosystem. Additionally, the physical factors of a rock pool - the rock that surrounds it, the sea water in it and the air above it - are not fixed. Rock pools must be able to cope with a constantly changing environment

Each rock pool is connected to and has a relationship with the other as the water flows through it. Whilst each Program has a set role to play and its own set of imperatives, there is reciprocity and collaboration that exists between them – no individual program is seen as more important than the other.

What response do you want to evoke with the logo?

For me it speaks to connection – we are related to every aspect of our environment and there is a responsibility that comes with that.

Do you remember when you started painting/drawing/designing?

I still have a drawing I did when I was 2 years old at home. So, I guess started pretty early on and never stopped.

I used to draw on any surface that was readily available to me including the walls at home which used to get me in a lot of trouble!  I was also really fortunate to have a neighbour when I was growing up who was an artist so I used to go over and paint with her a lot which was a really special time.

You have spent a lot of time in education, both as a lecturer and now as Coordinator of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Learning Programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art. With this experience, what is it you think people need in order to thrive in education and beyond?

Remember to be kind to yourself. Listen to your gut feelings. Remember that knowledge production is an ongoing process – a way of inhabiting the world; and it is also a highly politicised process.

I never thought I would or even could go to University. I had a pretty rough time at high school. When I did go to university later in life, it was on my own terms and with a deeper understanding of self.

I am fortunate to have had the opportunities that I have had and I am truly grateful for the people I have connected with and for the conversations that I have shared along the way. The scholarships and awards I have received have helped create a path in education and employment that would otherwise not have been open to me.

University can be a pretty overwhelming place. It is really important to talk to people and to research and find out the resources and support networks that might be available to you at your university or school.